BetterHelp vs Medicare

Is BetterHelp in Australia actually any good?

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Written by Talked Team

02 Nov, 2023

I'm sure you've heard the BetterHelp adverts on your favourite podcast, they are spending BIG to capture the mental health market in the states, but they are now also advertising here in Australia and selling us that it's the best option to get online therapy - but is this true? And more importantly, does it even translate to an Australian audience.

We've taken a deep dive in what BetterHelp is really like for an Australian seeking online therapy and reviewed our experience from start to finish.

Find out whether it's worth giving BetterHelp a try or is it just a waste of money.

Online therapy - is it the solution?

This is the core selling point of BetterHelp, and of course it would be, because they only offer online therapy.

Online therapy can be incredibly effective for most people, and in fact, recent clinical research shows it's efficacy rate is on-par with face-to-face therapy, but for those in the high risk category and with more serve mental health issues (such as autism or psychosis) it can not be a replacement for in-person sessions.

The signup process

To get started you need to go through a rather long questionnaire, which they then use to match you with your therapist. This matching process takes 48 hours and you have very little control over who you are matched with other than answering a few questions about therapist preferences.

Early on in this process it's apparent that this service is not really designed for an Australian audience with stats and questions being focused to an American demographic.

Payment - how much will it actually cost you?

The payment structure for BetterHelp is a subscription service, which is billed every month, regardless if you have actually had any therapy.

You'll be charged a whooping $440 per month by BetterHelp! That's over $5,200 for a single year of therapy.

What you get for this is access to their mobile app that allows you to send a message to your therapist at any time and schedule a 30-45 minute video call once a week.

Is the cost covered by my Australian health insurance or Medicare?

Nope. There are no Medicare rebates and no insurance coverage for this service in Australia at all.

You'll need to pay completely out of pocket.

The cost of BetterHelp compared to the Medicare

Let's do some basic math to see how the cost of BetterHelp compares to the Medicare rebated psychology sessions that are available for all Australians.

From our data we can see that on average, people see their therapist fortnightly. If it's more than this they can run out of things to talk about.

So for this example let's assume you are wanting to see a psychologist fortnightly for a year, which would be 26 sessions in total. The average cost of a psychologist in Australia is around $160 per session. Medicare will provide a rebate of ~$93 per session, which means the out of pocket cost is $76 per session.

So, 10 Medicare rebated therapy sessions with a qualified Australian psychologist will cost you just $670.

The additional 16 sessions at the full cost will then set you back an additional $2,560 ($160 * 16 sessions).

Meaning you can see an Australian qualified psychologist fortnightly for a year for $3,230 saving you $2000 when compared to a BetterHelp subscription!

You may also decide to see a bulk-billing psychologist or an Australian counsellor, which would help reduce the costs even further.

BetterHelp therapists vs Australian therapists

BetterHelp state that they have 34,000 therapists, but one thing they don't mentioned anywhere during the sign up process is that they are all American therapists and they don't actually work with Australian psychologists or counsellors.

You'll be matched with an American therapist and have to deal with the differences in timezones and culture.

Australia has a very high standard for psychologists, in fact, it can take up to 7 years of training to become qualified. We also have tight regulations enforced by AHPRA that dictate their responsibilities and code of ethics for things like duty of care and note taking.

AHPRA have no authority over the American therapists on BetterHelp, so you have no visibility or reassurance on their quality and standards. You also have no recourse (outside of BetterHelp) if you have a bad experience.

Getting matched with a therapist

Once you've paid your money you'll then be matched with a therapist that they choose. You are thrown in a chat room to start your introductions.

One of the annoyances of BetterHelp is that you can't browse therapists and choose yourself. You can opt to switch therapist but then you are assigned one blindly again.

Ensuring your therapist has the right experience and qualifications to help you is paramount, but you also need to ensure that you gel well together, which is much more of a personal thing that can only be found out by talking and meeting with them. Unfortunately with BetterHelp you can't have any control over this.

Privacy - where is my data stored?

BetterHelp has been in hot water recently around their dodgy practices when it comes to customers privacy and data. On top of this, your data is stored outside of Australia in BetterHelp data centres and not subjected to the Australian Privacy Principles.

If confidentiality and privacy is a concern to you then this is something to consider when deciding to use BetterHelp or not.

Subscription model vs individual sessions

BetterHelp ties you into a monthly subscription that you have to pay upfront even if you don't use their service during that month. The credits they provide you do not roll over and are reset at the start of each new billing cycle.

When it comes to therapy, the truth is, that not everyone needs weekly or even on-going therapy. This is really to be determined by your therapist who can guide you on the best cadence and duration.

Subscription services are also not covered by Medicare or private health insurances, where as individual sessions are.

The subscription model provides you access to book weekly sessions, but these are often just 30 minutes, where a standard therapy session in Australia is 50 minutes in length.

What's a better Australian alternative?

At Talked we believe everyone should have access to therapy, that's why we encourage you to book free sessions with any of our therapists so you can determine which one is right for you before you spend a dollar or claim a rebate.

Our therapy platform has been built specifically for Australians and brings you all the same functionality as BetterHelp, but also enables you to claim rebates from Medicare and private health insurers.

You can get started today by choosing your therapist or getting matched with one.

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