For the majority of my life, I saw therapy as a “good for them, not for me” kind of thing. I had a happy childhood, enjoyed a fulfilling career, and reveled in my circle of close friends and later the butterfly stages of establishing a life with my husband.
Then, several things happened in short order: I had a baby. Then another. I developed two sudden and terrifying chronic health issues. I moved from the city, my home of ten years, to a suburb where I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself. Then, as the last straw, my family and I were physically threatened in a traumatic encounter that left me so triggered I would instinctively duck to cover my children when I saw my own reflection in the window. That resulted in me packing up my whole house and moving back to the city in a week. In the midst of this final episode, racked by stress, my clothes hanging off my body after rapidly losing weight and sleep, I texted my friends: “When this is over, I’m getting therapy.”
“It can be challenging for anyone to believe that spending time and money on something intangible will produce a healthier life.”
And yet, I didn’t. According to BetterHelp, the online therapy platform featuring 30,000 licensed and experienced therapists, there are three reasons people put off therapy: inconvenience, stigma and stress, and therapist fit. “It can be challenging for anyone to believe that spending time and money on something intangible will produce a healthier life,” says Haesue Jo, LMFT, Head of Clinical Operations at BetterHelp. “Let’s say one gets through the hurdles of scheduling, transportation, and parking—one must still consider the stigma attached to reaching out for support (only crazy people need a shrink, right?), and the daunting task of finding a therapist that understands us without judgment.”
I ticked every box—but BetterHelp is on a mission to remove the boxes entirely. “It is convenient, since all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and a solid internet connection,” says Jo. “BetterHelp provides a discreet option to ensure that you are the one in charge of your own narrative. With one of the largest online networks of licensed therapists in the world, finding the right match is straightforward.”
So when I had the opportunity to try the platform myself, it basically felt like a sign from the universe. I immediately raised my hand, or rather, fingers to keyboard—and I hope my experience helps more people raise theirs, too (to that end, BetterHelp is offering 20 percent off your first month). As someone who works and pretty much lives online, the platform instantly felt intuitive and simple. First, you enter your basic details before completing a questionnaire about your specific situation and goals. From there, you’re able to answer—open-ended and without word limit (a boon in my case, as I word-vomited up 1,700 words in about 15 minutes)—a simple question: What brings you here?
I was matched to a therapist within two days. My therapist is uniquely suited to my specific issues: trauma (in my case recent and specific), women’s health (my health issues stem from pregnancy, and give me semi-regular panic attacks), and stress (spending four years straight pregnant and/or breastfeeding, trying to prioritize a marriage, maintaining a career—you, and the millions of people who have lived some variation of this before me, get the picture).
I scheduled my first online therapy session on a Wednesday morning at 9:45 a.m., when I’m back from preschool dropoff and before my typical first meetings of the day. At 30-45 minutes, BetterHelp has nailed the sweet spot between “too brief to get into anything meaningful” and “so long I will definitely show up on my next Zoom looking like I just bawled through the ending of Titanic.” You can choose a video or phone call (both happen through the platform) and message your therapist any time, with responses often within 24 hours.
As an online therapy newbie, I felt a little bit like a wobbly colt in the first 10 minutes, faltering through a synopsis of the Russian-literature-length manifesto I had churned out in my initial questionnaire. But we soon got into a groove. My therapist expressed empathy and understanding with my struggles around the mental load I carry as a working mother. She offered a perspective I hadn’t heard directly from anyone or considered myself about the multiple stories that were going on in my head. Overall, I felt seen.
My therapist offered a perspective I hadn’t heard directly from anyone or considered myself. Overall, I felt seen.
Since the first session, we’ve gone deeper. I’ve realized this is an investment I need to make in myself—albeit a much more affordable one than many other therapy options at $60 to $90 per week. “Since you can pay directly through your preferred digital payment method, you don’t need to go through an extensive insurance panel, and the weekly cost is about the same as many co-pays,” says Jo. “Just like we go to the dentist for regular cleanings (to try to avoid root canals and extensive work!), the doctor for regular checks (to try to prevent serious illness), and even take our car in for regular maintenance, seeing a therapist before there’s a breakdown on the highway is just good maintenance for our overall wellness.”
I had definitely missed my tune-up, but I’m now making up for lost time. Now, as my therapist and I are nearing the end of a session, I often have the urge to keep talking—and feel like she has the urge to keep listening, too. In three years of working remotely, that’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like I was not actually looking at a screen, but sharing the same space with another. So, what brings me here? Just this, I guess.
Ready to give online therapy a try yourself? Get 20 percent off your first month of BetterHelp.