Talkspace Review: As Effective as In-Person Therapy?

Talkspace Review: As Effective as In-Person Therapy?


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Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to online therapy.

Talkspace is the most popular online therapy platform, and offers a range of options from individual therapy to couples therapy and psychiatric care. The site claims to have over 1 million users.

But is online therapy really as effective as therapy in person? Is Talkspace clinically proven to work? Why was the brand recently sued? And how do real users rate and describe their experience using Talkspace?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the clinical trials on Talksapce to determine if the platform is actually proven to be effective for reducing depression and anxiety.

We'll also review studies on online versus in-person therapy to determine if one is more effective, feature real, unsponsored customer reviews and document the class-action lawsuit recently levied against Talkspace.

Is Talkspace Clinically Proven to Work?

The effectiveness of Talkspace has been tested in multiple clinical trials published in peer-reviewed medical journals, which is the gold standard of research.

A clinical trial published in the BMC Psychiatry journal tested the effectiveness of Talkspace for improving mental health. The researchers examined the results from over 10,000 Talkspace users, tracking how their anxiety and depression changed over the course of 12 weeks of therapy.

The study authors found that Talkspace was effective for improving both anxiety and depression, with around 30% of patients experiencing complete remission of their symptoms, and around 37% experiencing improvement from baseline.

It’s worth noting that one of the five authors of the study is a Talkspace employee, and another received consulting fees from Talkspace, so there is some level of bias. However we still think the study was well-designed and the research is valuable given such a large set of participants.

A 2018 clinical trial examined the effects of Talkspace on employee productivity, finding that use of the platform reduced days missed from work by 50% and increased productivity by 36%.

This suggests that employees who feel that their mental health is risking their job security may benefit from Talkspace, and also suggests that employers should consider offering Talkspace or other online therapy platforms as a benefit to their employees.

Another Talkspace study reported on aggregate user data and found that anxiety was higher during the pandemic than before, which is a valuable insight that can help public health officials.

Based on the available research, we consider Talkspace to be likely effective for both anxiety and depression, and we commend the brand for funding legitimate clinical trials proving their platform works.

But how do real users rate and describe their experience using Talkspace? We'll review in the next section.

Real, Unsponsored Talkspace User Reviews

A YouTube creator named "HelloHannahCho" shared her experience using Talkspace:

Another YouTube creator named Andrew Coleman Smith claims to have had a life-changing positive experience using the platform:

Talkspace Sued Over Allegedly Misleading Patients

In March of 2023, Talkspace was sued in a class-action lawsuit according to ClassAction.org.

The plaintiffs allege that Talkspace "falsely [promises] that they'll be personally 'matched' with a therapist within 48 hours," but that there are too few therapists on the platform to meet demand.

The lawsuit also alleges that Talkspace automatically enrolls new customers into a subscription plan "without their permission" and even before they have their first session with a therapist.

While we find these allegations concerning, since this lawsuit was just filed and no ruling or settlement has been made, we consider this too early to consider Talkspace at fault. If a ruling is made against the company, we may consider recommending that patients avoid the platform in the future.

Talkspace vs. In-Person Therapy

Before signing up for Talkspace, most patients are curious about whether online therapy generally is as effective as in-person therapy, since it's a relatively recent technological development. Thankfully, this topic has been studied.

A 2016 clinical trial compared the effectiveness and patient response of Talkspace to in-person therapy. The study authors reported that 80% of patients found Talkspace to be as effective or more effective than traditional therapy, and 98% found it to be more convenient.

comprehensive review of in-person psychotherapy versus videoconference psychotherapy was recently published in the Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy journal. The study authors of this review analyzed over 100 clinical trials on the topic, and concluded that “therapy is no less efficacious when delivered via videoconferencing than in-person.”

One fascinating finding from the above-linked review is that video therapy was actually significantly more effective for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is used to treat affective disorders such as phobias or avoidance. This is potentially because CBT involves re-training the mental response to stressful stimuli, and undergoing this process in a relaxed setting at home seems to yield better outcomes.

Most Americans do still prefer in-person therapy according to research, but we would imagine this preference will continually decrease over time as digital platforms like Talkspace improve and more patients become aware of the relative efficacy between the two therapy options.

We can conclude from the above research that Talkspace is likely to be as effective as visiting a therapist in-person, and likely to be cheaper and more convenient.

Patients who feel that in-person therapy is a better option for them should absolutely seek in-person therapy, because a comfortable setting is the most important thing.

What Does Talkspace Cost?

Talkspace features different pricing plans based on type of therapy. Text-based therapy is the cheapest, starting at $69 weekly.

Videotherapy starts at $99 per week and includes four 45-minute sessions per week.

Text and video therapy starts at $129 per week.

These are the out-of-pocket costs, but Talkspace may be covered by medical insurance as mentioned on their site. They claim that 40 million Americans now have insurance which would be covered.

We strongly recommend that patients considering Talkspace contact their insurance provider or check this resource page on Talkspace's site to search your employer and insurer and check whether coverage is afforded.

The out-of-pocket cost of Talkspace is cheaper than the out-of-pocket cost of many in-person therapy providers, so the platform may still be a good option for those without health insurance.

Talkspace vs. BetterHelp

Betterhelp is another popular online therapy platform, so patients are often curious about which is a better option.

We believe that the individual therapist is more important than the platform. If you find a therapist you like working with on either platform, we'd recommend choosing that platform.

BetterHelp wins on cost, with a max price of $90 per week that's cheaper than the starting price for videocalls on Talkspace.

Talkspace wins on research backing, as we could only find one clinical trial proving BetterHelp to be effective, and that trial only examined depression while one of the trials on Talkspace cited in this article examined both depression and anxiety.

BetterHelp has recently been the subject of several class-action lawsuits and received a proposal from the FTC to settle for over $7 million because the brand allegedly sold customer data.

For patients who can afford both, we consider Talkspace a slightly better option given its clinical backing and given the data-related controversies surrounding BetterHelp. For patients on a budget or those without health insurance, BetterHelp may be the better option of the two.

Pros and Cons of Talkspace

Here are the pros and cons of Talkspace in our opinion:

Pros:

  • Clinically shown to be effective for depression
  • Clinically shown to be effective for anxiety
  • Online therapy as effective as in-person therapy
  • Online therapy more convenient than in-person therapy
  • No side effects or health risks

Cons:

  • Sued over allegedly misleading patients
  • May not be covered by insurance

Our Mental Wellness Recommendation

We recommend a platform called Brightside to patients on a mental health journey. It's an online therapy and medication platform that connects patients with licensed therapists and doctors from the comfort of their home.

medical review published in the Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy journal found that online therapy was equally effective to in-person therapy for treating depression, anxiety and PTSD. Therapy may be a good first option for patients who want to avoid the side effects of medication.

Brightside also can connect patients with licensed psychiatrists that can prescribe medication. Some patients choose only therapy, some choose only medication, and some choose both. The brand reports that 86% of members feel significantly better within 12 weeks of treatment.

Patients with and without health insurance can use Brightside. For many patients with health insurance, treatment is entirely covered by insurance.

The cost for medication without health insurance is capped at $95/month and the cost for therapy without health insurance is capped at $299/month.

Interested patients can check out Brightside at this link to the brand's website.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Talkspace has the most impressive clinical backing of any online therapy platform that we've reviewed on Illuminate Health. The app is clinically shown to reduce depression, reduce anxiety and even improve the work productivity of employees with depression or anxiety.

Online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy on average, according to a recent meta-study, and may be significantly cheaper and more convenient.

Online therapy is clinically shown to be more effective for phobia-based disorders that require CBT for treatment, because this type of "exposure" therapy may be more comfortably explored in the safety of one's home.

Talkspace was recently sued over allegations of misleading consumers about the availability of therapists and auto-billing them, but there has yet to be a ruling or settlement of the lawsuit so we will wait and withhold judgment for now.

We consider Talkspace to be a slightly better option than BetterHelp if cost isn't considered, because it has more clinical backing and the legal issues faced by BetterHelp are more concerning in our opinion. However, BetterHelp is significantly cheaper and may be a better option for consumers on a budget.