Talkspace Review 2020: Does Text Therapy Actually Work?

Talkspace Review 2020: Does Text Therapy Actually Work?

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Like most people, there are days when I just feel like running away… hiding from life for just a little while.

And then there are days when I just feel like staying in bed all day and hiding beneath the covers, like it’s an invisibility cloak or something.

Most common, though, is when I get so worked up or frustrated with my kids (or husband) that I need to go for a run or kickboxing before I explode… fully expecting said husband, who’s been at work all day, to welcome me back home with a glass of wine afterwards.

If you’re shaking your head “no” like you can’t relate… I call your bluff.

Married, not married. Kids, no kids. It doesn’t matter.

Every single human being will encounter feelings of stress or anxiety on occasion.

Maybe even slight depression.

It’s inevitable.

And, sadly, some people have those feelings more than others.

Inadequacy. Insecurity. Sadness. Fear. Frustration. Nervousness.

The emotional scale is vast… and while it can bring happiness, it can also bring despair.

So how do you handle your feelings?

Do you find a  physical outlet to relieve stress? Or a friend to hit the bar with? Do you shut down? Do you talk to a family member or friend? 

If you said, talk… that’s wonderful. Everybody needs an ear to bend and a shoulder to lean on here and there. It’s human nature.

But what if your friend tires of listening to your problems? They may never say it, but they have a life of their own and personal issues they may be dealing with. And respecting that will preserve the relationship.

So what do you do?

Well, some people swear by therapy.

In fact, more and more Americans are open to the idea, believing that mental health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of.  And hundreds of thousands of companies all across the globe are now including behavioral and mental health in their employee insurance benefits.

Seeking help doesn’t mean you are weak. On the contrary, it means you are stronger than you know. Brave. It no longer carries the stigma it once did. 

No matter how big or small the problem may seem, talking about it is the first step to healing.

Licensed therapists can be wonderful outlets. They are unbiased, while also appearing empathetic.

It is also their job to listen to you… so they will never tire of it.

The downside? Therapy can be costly. I’ve come across some charging as high as $225 per hour.

What?

Sure, you may be able to find one for as low as $75-$100 per hour, but that still can add up… especially if you feel the need to go more than once a month.

And that is where talkspace comes in.

My publisher asked me to check it out… and so I did.  And now I can give you my unbiased talkspace review.

What is Talkspace?

Talkspace is a 100% online-driven platform and app where people can text, video and audio message with a licensed therapist… 5 days a week, 24 hours per day.

There is no reason to leave your home, as all sessions are done completely online or via your smartphone whenever it is convenient for you.

All of the Talkspace therapists are licensed and experienced professionals who go through a rigorous vetting and credentialing process. And as with any therapist you’d see in an office, each of the thousands of Talkspace therapists are licensed to practice in certain states… so you’ll be matched with one in your area.

How Do I Get Started with Talkspace?

Well, the first step is making the decision to give online therapy a try. 

Talkspace offers three different monthly plans, which can be cancelled anytime within the 30-day period.  The site cycles through promo codes for a discount on the first month, some of which can be quite significant… to help put your mind and wallet at ease.

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Ready to Begin

There are no free trials with Talkspace.

Why you ask?   The answer is quite simple.

Just as therapists working in an office don’t give away free sessions, neither do the Talkspace professionals. You are paying a person for their time. Plain and simple.

Online, in-person… it’s all the same.

So, once you decide to pull the trigger, you are expected to hit one of the bright green “Get matched now!” buttons. This will pull up the first of a series of question pages, designed to match you with the best therapist possible.

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Get Matched

The two important questions at the start of the query are designed to make sure Talkspace is right for you.

  1. Are you over 13 years of age?
  2. Are you in a life threatening situation?

Talkspace only works with clients over the age of 13, so you will be sent away if you answer no to this question.

The Talkspace chatbot will also refer you to a place where you can get immediate help if you answer “yes” to Question #2.

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Immediate Help

If neither of these scenarios apply to you, the rest of the questions are rather simple and the process takes 15-20 minutes… depending on if you are browsing through all of the “question and answer” tabs on the bottom of the screen.

Think of it as a “choose your own adventure book”.

For instance, there are nine possible answers for the question, “What led you to seek help today?”.

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What lead you to seek help today?

Depending on your answer, the appropriate next screen will come up.

And so on and so forth for the duration of the matching assessment. 

Questions will help determine your preferences for a therapist, such as:

  • (male, female, transgender male, transgender female, gender queer, gender variant, gender other, non binary)
  • Your age
  • Your U.S. state of residence vs. U.S territory or International
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At multiple points throughout the assessment, chatbot will give you the option of selecting, “I want to learn more about how Talkspace works.”.

This is your opportunity to click back to tabs that cover things like cost, cancellation policy, switching therapists, etc…

Once all of the questions have been answered, Talkspace uses a unique Matching Algorithm to find the best therapist for you. 

Therapist Matching

You are given three therapists to choose from based on your personalized assessment. By simply clicking on their profile, you are able to read through their bios and pick the one you feel best suits you.

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Therapist Matching

The therapist bios include:

  • Years of counseling experience
  • Number of months or years on Talkspace
  • Their specialities and primary areas of focus
  • Their availability

The availability tab is important, as I noticed some therapists don’t work weekends. Or their peak hours may conflict with what is most convenient for you.

Remember, this is likely a side job for some of these therapists… so their availability corresponds with their schedules. Finding one that fits yours is key, so that the responses will be timely enough to make an impact.

If you like what you see, simply select a therapist and you’re ready to get started with the introductions (or intake process, as they call it). 

You will be asked to identify your goals for therapy, which is helpful to whomever you are matched with.

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Goals

After all, they don’t know you at all at this point.

Should you opt not to go with any of the initial therapist matches, you will be given a  new set of matches and are unable to go back to the first set. 

You also have the option of engaging in a live chat with a Matching Therapist, who can ask and answer more detailed questions. 

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Matching Therapist

Sort of like adding “filters” to a search.

For instance, if you want someone with 20+ years of experience, you can let the live agent know. And she will filter your next batch of results accordingly.

How Does an Online Therapy Session Work?

First… the fine print.

Once you’ve paid for your first month, you will be sent an email welcoming you to Talkspace. You will then be required to select your privacy preferences,  which basically asks if you want to keep your message history private or share it.

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Talkspace Privacy Preference
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Privacy References for Messages

Next, you will be sent a message from your assigned therapist, asking for your informed consent to begin treatment and also your emergency contact information.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Before getting started with Talkspace, I would highly suggest downloading the free app via Google Play or the App Store for iPhones and iPad.

Initially, I was hesitant to do this based on a couple of mediocre reviews of the app; however, for purposes of more convenient communication with my therapist… I decided to do so.

The alternative is checking your email to see if you’ve received a message… and then having to log in to the desktop or web version of the program. This makes things much less convenient, in my opinion, which defeats the purpose of Talkspace.

It’s about having access to personalized therapy any time… any place.

Watching your kid’s baseball game? No problem! You can still send a quick note to your therapist without missing a single pitch.

It’s that easy.

Initially, once you’ve been assigned to a therapist and done the legalese dance, you have the option of making first contact or waiting to hear from him or her.

The typical response time is generally 4-6 hours during the morning and afternoon time. Late night messages (4pm EST – 7am EST)  are usually answered by 10am EST the next morning.

If you want to get a better idea of when your therapist will respond, you can hit the “Reply-by” button in your personalized therapy room for a more accurate time frame. This is based on your therapists “working time” availability and time zone.

There is also a button  your can select that lets your therapist know you’re ready for a response, and they will sometimes try to garnish one sooner.

Each “session’’ will read much like any other text message… only most of them will end with a question for you to think about and answer. This is how the conversation is kept going.

Your replies can be as lengthy as you like. There is no limit.  So feel free to ramble on.

If you prefer a bit more personalization… Talkspace offers audio messaging options, as well as picture and video messages. All are included in your monthly fee.

The hiccup is you must install the app to use these added features.  

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Talkspace App Features

30-minute live chat sessions are also available with certain monthly package. Some packages include one live session, others up to 4 sessions per month. You may also purchase live chats a la carte for $49 per session, regardless of your plan. 

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Live Sessions

As with traditional counseling, the Talkspace process takes time in order to be truly effective.

Your personalized “therapy room” is where your communications are tracked.

There, you will also find an outline of the counseling process… stages, if you will.

They are:

  1. Pre-Treatment (5-7 days)
  2. First Steps (3 weeks)
  3. Making Progress (3 weeks)
  4. Exploring Further (3 weeks)
  5. Revisiting (3 weeks)
  6. Moving Forward (3 weeks)
  7. Broadening Scope (3 weeks)
  8. Continuing On
  9. Closure (1 week)

Don’t worry, I’ll be nice and do that math for you…

Talkspace recommends a 20-week commitment, on average, for therapy to be effective.

That is roughly 5 months.

Again, that is on average.

Some people will move through stages quicker than others… it really all depends on what issues they are looking to tackle.

For example, if it’s a simple insomnia issue… getting to the root of your sleeplessness and coming up with a strategy to deal with it may only take a month or so. 

However, if you have severe anxiety… that may stem from multiple sources and require a lengthier treatment plan.

While you are welcome to stop therapy at any time, it is typically considered detrimental to do so before a pre-established goal is in sight.

In addition to one-on-one counseling, the Talkspace blog offers some great information and resources. This is free to anyone, even non-members.

Is Talkspace Secure?

Talkspace goes to great lengths to ensure that you and your data are always kept safe and confidential. Their technology is fully HIPAA compliant and client safety is the #1 priority.

All of your chat data is encrypted on the servers, and all communication between their software and the servers is encrypted.

The Talkspace app requires you to enter your password and allows you to create a unique passcode for extra security.

The iOS app uses Touch ID and Face ID on enabled devices.

Full disclosure: even after closing your account, all chat logs are stored in Talkspace’s secure server for a set period of time, as dictated by law.  This is not unlike accountants having to keep all tax returns they prepare on file for a minimum of three years, as mandated by Federal law.

For more on the Talkspace privacy policy, click here.

How Much does it Talkspace Cost? Do they accept insurance?

So, here’s the reality of it… therapy isn’t cheap, but Talkspace is cheaper than in-person counseling.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

An in-office therapy session typically runs between 45 mins to 1 hour… and cost on average $90 per session (let’s call it 1 hour).  If you were to meet one day per week, that is $450 per month.

Keep in mind, this is a National average. If you live in a major city, such as New York or Los Angeles, therapists can charge upwards of $225 per session. 

That being said, I’ll stick with the $90 average and still make my point about online therapy with Talkspace.

Your sessions with a Talkspace therapist will probably take you about 5-10 minutes each, occurring between 2-4 times per day. That averages to one 30-minute session per day.

Talkspace offers 3 plans:

  • Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus

$65/week for text, video & audio messaging. Your therapist responds to messages daily, 5 days/week.  (Billed as $260 monthly)

  • Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium

$79/week for text, video & audio messaging + 1 Live Session/month. Your therapist responds to messages daily, 5 days/week. (Billed as $316 monthly)

  • LiveTalk Therapy Ultimate:

$99/week for text, video & audio messaging + 4 Live Sessions/month. Your therapist responds to messages daily, 5 days/week. (Billed as $396 monthly)

Even the most expensive monthly plan ($396 per month) puts Talkspace at $54 less than the national average.

Not to mention, you have contact with your therapist 5 days per week. Guaranteed.

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Pricing

Now, I like to play devil's advocate as much as anybody, so I will run the hourly cost numbers.

If you are averaging 30 minutes per day on Talkspace, but your office therapist spends 60 minutes per day with you… that is (say it with me) double the amount of time. You are getting half as much time with Talkspace. 

But wait!

You have access to your Talkspace therapist 5 days per week. Remember?

So you will likely spend an average 150 minutes (or 2 ½ hours) per week with your Talkspace therapist… as opposed to 60 minutes (or 1 hour) per week with the office therapist.

Thus, you are actually receiving more counseling per week for less money.

If you are on the least expensive plan ($260 per month), you are paying roughly $26 per hour for 10 hours of counseling per month on Talkspace.

10 hours with a traditional therapist would cost $900 per month, according to the National average.

However you slice it, Talkspace is the least expensive option if you are considering therapy.

Talkspace also offers a Couples Therapy plan for as low as $71 per week. 

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Couples Therapy Plan

As far as insurance coverage goes, Talkspace partners with a number of U.S. health plans to provide online therapy to employees through employee assistance programs (EAP) and behavioral health benefits.

For more information regarding eligibility, they suggest contacting your insurance provider. You can also check the list of partners here.

If Talkspace is not covered by your insurance, it may be helpful to know that some Talkspace customers use a credit card for their subscription and then submit the bill to their Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

Refund/Cancellation Policy

Generally refunds for unused time are not granted because the therapists charge for time that is scheduled to be used, much like other medical professionals. However, customer service reviews refunds on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the therapists. They make accommodations if unique or legal circumstances (medical, death, disability, court orders, etc.) dictate the reason for the refund request. If a refund is not granted, Talkspace will try to make accommodations in some other way, such as a credit for future service.

They also remind users that they may switch therapists at anytime.

As for the cancellation policy, there is none… however, there is auto renew. 

You are initially charged on the first day you join Talkspace and your plan will renew exactly one month from your first day, or your last renewal. All plans renew automatically unless you decide to cancel via your “My Account” settings beforehand.

So if you no longer want to continue using Talkspace, make sure to cancel before your current 30-day plan expires so that you will not be charged for the next month. You will still have the remaining time you’ve already paid for.

For instance, if you joined Talkspace on February 3rd and cancelled your subscription on March 13th… you’d still have access to your therapist until April 3rd.

Keep in mind, Talkspace doesn’t want to see you go. No business does.

So they will offer you incentives to stay upon cancelling service, such as:

  1. Switching to a maintenance plan for $49 per month, allowing 1 day per week access to your therapist
  2. Freezing your subscription for 30 days
  3. A $100 discount towards your next monthly payment
  4. Changing therapists
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Cancellation

My Personal Experience with Talkspace

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, my publisher asked me to give Talkspace a try for one month.

Now that I understand the process, I’m not sure that one month is really enough time to resolve anything. And, quite frankly, probably not a fair assessment of the therapist who is just getting to know you.

That being said… I can walk away because I tackled the assignment more from a functionality standpoint, than an actual therapeutic one.

As in, I am reviewing the concept of Talkspace and performance of the app… more than its quality of therapists.

Make sense?

Good.

Moving on…

Being the mother of four elementary and preschool aged children, I didn’t have any problems finding stuff to talk about.

Sleep problems… occasional anxiety… frustrations… self-esteem issues.

Heck, I could even play the “mommy issues” or “gay relative” cards.

That’s right. I’ve got material… don’t we all?

But I digress.

After I chatted live with Clinical Quality Manager, Leslie, I was matched with a therapist that met my advanced criteria. Namely, someone with more than 10 years experience.

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Clinical Quality Manager

FYI, I will not be using her real name for privacy purposes.

Instead, I shall refer to her as Jane. 

Plain Jane.

As promised, Jane reached out to me via text within 24 hours… technically (I happened to sign up on a Saturday and she doesn’t work weekends).

Nevertheless, bright and early Monday morning, I got a text welcoming me to Talkspace and asking me to run through the legal stuff.

That took all of one minute.

From there, I made the first move. I introduced myself and told her a bit about what I was looking to get out of our sessions.

Namely, I asked for help with the occasional insomnia and anxiety.

Earlier this year, I spent about three months waking up around 2:30am every morning like clockwork… unable to fall back asleep sometimes until 5am.

This sucks when your little ones are tugging on your pajamas to wake up at 6:15am.

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t shut my brain off.

Thinking about things. Well, everything.

The kids. My husband. Finances. Bullies. My health. Death.

Bleak, I know.

But I’m 44 now – so maybe it’s a mid-life thing.

Anyhow, as I became more physically active during the day… increasing my runs, taking up kickboxing, hiking… I noticed I was able to fall asleep a bit quicker.

I still woke up at 2:30am, but was able to go back down by 4am.

Then 3:35am.

Then, 3am.

Then… one day, I started sleeping through the night again.

Oh, the joy!

Not much unlike that of a new mother’s bliss when her newborn finally stops waking every few hours.

The thing is, even after it passed (or at least appeared to have done so), I was still curious to know what caused the thoughts I was having.

So, I asked Jane.

If I’m being honest,  Jane and I spent the first 5 days of our relationship going back and forth rather awkwardly.  Kind of like a couple just getting to know one another.

Only instead of talking to your new boyfriend (or girlfriend) for hours each day, Jane and I had about 15-30 minutes.

Every “conversation” felt somewhat one-sided, as if I was talking to myself… which sort of makes sense because nobody was there.

Just me and my phone.

There was no head nod from another person, acknowledging what I was saying. Or at least that they were listening.

Frankly, the online therapist relationship is one built on blind faith… hoping they are actually taking the time to read back through our chat logs and really “hear” what I am saying.

When Jane replied, I did feel as if she was trying to get to know me so she could better understand what I needed from her.

So in the beginning, her texts read more like vague open-ended questions for me to answer… more than actual advice.

She even threw in the occasional platitute for good measure.

But then…

As if in the blink of an eye, her texts started to become more specific.

Targeted.

Pointed.

She was asking me questions about the root of my issues. Encouraging me to explore feelings and delve into my background.  My childhood.

“Mommy issues”.

The parents always come up, don’t they?

All kidding aside, I dare say that Jane became a real therapist.

I actually started to look forward to her texts. Seeing what she thought about my latest discourse.

I began to picture sitting down in front of Jane… wishing the sessions were a bit longer.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for immediate gratification.

My point is this… I had become somewhat curious, anxious even, to hear what Jane thinks.

Am I crazy?  Or just super well-adjusted, able to acknowledge my own shortcomings?  

Maybe I should go back to school for a degree in counseling?

Look, Jane was doing her job.

Very well.

She baited me.

And I was on a hook… a  $260 hook that I didn’t want to spit out.

But I have to.

I can’t afford this.

I don’t even know that I need this.

But I like this.

Although, I do have one small complaint… well, more of a critique, really.

The text only component is fine.

I mean, we do it constantly with family and friends.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a phone conversation with my mom lasting more than minutes.

We text daily… but talk? Now that’s just weird.

C’mon. Tell me you have never seen someone calling and ignore it… only to text them back “sorry, what’s up?” a few minutes later?

The Talkspace text therapy model is fine.

Groundbreaking, even.

However…

I think that having the option of real time text exchanges (be it 15, 20 or  30 minute blocks) with your therapist, instead of having to wait hours for a response, would go a long way in establishing a connection with one another.

Logistically this may not be possible, I know. You’d have to schedule appointment times to pull this off… which makes it less convenient for both you and the therapist.

Talkspace is designed to allow you to text as often as you’d like, whenever you feel the need… and the therapist will review all of your messages and get back to you a few hours later.

I get it.

But, I like the back and forth banter. The quickness of it.  It’s kind of my jam.

So, if they could offer a premium package or designate a pool of therapists for scheduled appointment times… I think it would take Talkspace to the next level.

You’re welcome, Talkspace.

They do offer the live chats, as I mentioned.  Which is great. 30 minutes one-on-one with your therapist, as often as you’d like ($49 per session, unless you have a premium package).

Although, not everybody is into video chat.

Texting appeals to almost everyone.

Just food for thought.

At the end of the day, I was still getting to know my therapist when this article posted… I had about 2 ½ weeks left on my subscription. 

That being said, I think Talkspace is onto something.

Something potentially worth spending the money on if you’re in need of a little pick-me-up.

I have no real complaints.

The app worked fine. I had no issues.

I enjoyed seeing the alerts pop up when I had a new text waiting from Jane.

And I really liked that I could just vent whenever I felt the need to and she’d get back to me… eventually.

Final Thoughts on Talkspace

Let’s be honest, we could all benefit from a bit of therapy every now and again. And if we’re lucky, that’s all it is… help every now and again for relatively harmless problems.

Should that be your case, I definitely think Talkspace is a great place to find that help.

Yes, it’s not cheap.

But it is less expensive than traditional in-office therapy.

Even if you opt for the most expensive package.

The Live Talk Therapy Ultimate gives you roughly 15-30 minutes per day in text therapy, plus one 30-minute live session every week… still for less money than you’d spend going downtown to chat with Jennifer Melfi.

Catch my Soprano’s reference?

Personally, I can’t justify the cost.

We have four kids in gymnastics, soccer, taekwondo, ice skating, golf.

My husband and I limit our luxuries at their expense.

Welcome to parenthood!

In fact, I run because it’s free.


And I have friends who will listen to me when I need to vent… which is also free.

Still, if you have the money and want to give Talkspace a whirl… I say “go for it”. 

100%.

Disclaimer: for those suffering from debilitating mental, emotional or behavioral issues… I’m not sure that Talkspace is for you.

I think that the amount of attention you would need, in order to really see an improvement in your life, likely can’t be gained with the base package Talkspace therapy offers.

The Ultimate Package may work, speaking to someone “directly” one day per week, but most people with higher level problems won’t be satisfied with that.  And additional sessions add up.

So it’s really about preference.

If you’re happy paying extra to video chat because you don’t want to leave the house… spend the money.

The therapist pool seems legit, from what I can tell.

Jane was great.

Is great.

I’ll miss her.

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.

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Talkspace Review 2020: Does Text Therapy Actually Work?