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Talkspace Review: My Experience Using Text Therapy

If you're looking for an alternative to traditional talk therapy, you have probably come upon text therapy. I decided to try out Talkspace, a text therapy app, and have reviewed here. And no, this is in no way a sponsored post!

Talkspace Review + $30 off your first month

Whether you’re going through an acute crisis or working to manage your mental health in a long term way, therapy is a great tool. Unfortunately, there are a TON of barriers to making in-person therapy happen: from the exorbitant cost of therapy in the States (even if you find a therapist with a sliding fee scale), to the high probability that the therapist you end up seeing isn’t a great match – it’s not easy to make it happen.

And I’ve been there. And it sucks, because you want to seek treatment but it’s freakin hard.

So recently I decided to try out Talkspace, text-based therapy in which you have an “asynchronous” text chat with a licensed therapist. You may have seen it advertised around social media – I think they run ads on Pinterest and Facebook – but maybe you have felt like texting could never substitute for the real thing.

Text therapy

I had those doubts too – but also curiosities about how it works so I decided to try it out.

I myself searched for Talkspace reviews before signing up but didn’t find much out there: Gaby shed light on her Talkspace conversations in this Bustle article, and Erin walked us through her Talkspace experience in this Business Insider post. Otherwise, most of the stuff that came up in searches was from Talkspace itself and I was, as you probably are now, looking for something a little more…neutral.

So I decided to write up a Talkspace review myself. I hope this review will help others assess if Talkspace is the right therapy medium for them. I also want to bring this service to the attention of travelers and digital nomads, who might find it difficult to maintain a relationship with a therapist in-person as they are constantly on the move. So here we go!

My Experience Using Talkspace

Things started off really well once I was matched with my therapist. I think it’s a natural reaction to feel super motivated and responsive when you start seeking therapy – whether it’s in person or not – because you feel good about doing something good for yourself. And you want the “problem” fixed ASAP.

Talkspace screenshot
When you first start, a consultation therapist welcomes you and is there to screen you and match you to a therapist.

So I was psyched, and I was typing away at my life history, relationships, friendships, everything. My therapist, who we will call Rachel, always responded by repeating what I had said then asking more questions. I was into it.

I would write to her whenever I wanted – maybe 2-3 times a day – and she responded about twice a day, with usually two days off on or near the weekend. We even had a complimentary 10-minute video chat at the beginning to “meet” each other, and that was really cool. But I started to feel like we were going in circles, with me saying something and her just asking more questions.

After about two and a half weeks of texting, I was feeling frustrated by all the questions and really wanted something more actionable from her.

Texting

I expressed this to Rachel, as she had urged me from the start (“tell me how you feel things are going so this can be beneficial to you”), and she did exactly what I asked and offered actionable strategies. We did some trauma/catharsis work, personality tests and analysis, and ongoing gratitude activities.

I’m so pleased she responded to my request and I will continue to check in with her and let her know what I need. By two months in, I could say I really felt like she had helped me. Five months in, I look back and see how instrumental my Talkspace therapist was in helping get through a period of depression.

Pros and Cons of Using Talkspace

Pros:
  • Anonymity – Talkspace offers the option of being completely anonymous. You make a username and can choose whether or not you want your therapist to know your real name. This feature can be great for someone who might be afraid to seek counseling due to stigma, embarrassment, or “dishonor”.
  • Media sharing – You can send videos, audio, and photos in the chatroom, which I think is really cool. I’ve put faces to all the names I’ve discussed with my therapist, and she has sent me videos to describe how to do affirmations, for example. You can also access the conversation easily from either your phone or computer.

Pros and cons of Talkspace

  • Convenience – So this is the big draw of Talkspace: you can access therapy any time, anywhere. No worrying about scheduling a 50 minute appointment to your day, getting there, etc.
  • Never waste an appointment – Sometimes in traditional counseling sessions, you’ll find you actually have nothing to say and have trouble filling the 50 minute session. Other times you are overflowing with words and feel like the 50 minute session isn’t enough. With text therapy, there are no time constraints and you can talk as much or as little as you want for the same monthly fee.
  • Time to think – Because it’s asynchronous, you actually have time to think through your response before and while writing it out. I personally find the extra time to think and craft my response useful, whereas in talk therapy you don’t have time to think, you just have to respond in real time.
  • Can request a new therapist easily – If you just feel like you and your therapist aren’t jiving, you can request a new one through the app. I love this feature because this is a major barrier for me when going to in-person talk therapy; it’s just so hard to find someone who is a great fit for you, and it takes a lot of effort and can be awkward to switch therapists if it’s not working out.

Text therapy while walking

  • Cost – You can pay as little as $128 a month, and thats for 24/7 access to your therapist (although your therapist will likely take off at least one day a week, as any normal person should). At $32 a week, this is often cheaper than in-person sessions which usually run $80-$300 a session.
Cons:
  • It’s slow – Because you and your therapist are not necessarily logged on at the same time, a conversation that could take five minutes might be extended over days at a time. Not “getting answers” right away can be sort of frustrating and make you feel like you’re not progressing as you want to. This is a major disadvantage of the service for me because, given the issues I’m struggling with, I really want to be able to feel that I’m making progress.
  • Lack of in-person relationship – I saw this quote somewhere about text therapy and I definitely get the sentiment: text therapy is “just one more brick in the digital wall we are building between each other”. There is something to be said for physically being in the room with someone and nurturing a therapeutic relationship with them in real life.

Talkspace review versus talk therapy

  • Loss of non-verbals – It could potentially be hard to judge what someone is saying without non-verbal cues. I haven’t encountered any misunderstandings of this type during my time on Talkspace but I see how it could potentially be a problem.
  • Lack of efficacy – I can’t tell you if Talkspace text therapy “works” or doesn’t. I didn’t dig super deep but I only found one scientific journal article out there testing its efficacy, and I think it was funded by Talkspace itself. If anyone is aware of more studies, let me know.

Who Talkspace Is Great for

Writers. If you excel at expressing yourself through the written word, you will find this easier than talk therapy. If you aren’t into writing (or texting) at all, this might be hard for you.

Travelers. Man if you’re someone who moves around a lot, this is a great therapy option for you. I love that I can keep the same therapist no matter where in the world I move or travel to.

Talkspace desktop screenshot

People with mild depression and/or anxiety. Those with mild mood disorders can definitely benefit from this type of therapy. If you’re suffering something more severe and/or requiring prescription medication as a part of treatment, this is probably not the best service for you (see next section below).

Who It Is Not Great for

People with more severe mental health illness. If you are struggling with something like psychosis, borderline personality disorder, addiction, etc. this isn’t the best type of treatment for you. If you are currently feeling or have been known to feel suicidal, you should seek help elsewhere.

(As they say on their site, if you are in a life-threatening situation, do NOT use this site. Call the 24-hr National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255. Your call will be routed to the crisis center near you. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.)

Depression
Source

I found it interesting that Talkspace never screened me for suicide ideation at any time during my experience. It looks like I’m not the only one; another Talkspace reviewer echoes the same concern: “During my Talkspace experience, however, nobody ever directly asked me whether I had thought about suicide. I was also never asked for a medical history. I was not suicidal—but I couldn’t help thinking that if I were, and didn’t feel like talking about it, it might not have come up.”

I would like to see them add this type of screening to their service.

FAQs

Is my information really anonymous and confidential/private?

The only information you are required to provide when you sign up is your username, email, and billing information. You don’t have to share your real name or any other identifying information to your therapist unless you choose to.

As for security, all of your chat data is encrypted on their servers, and all communication between their software and their servers is encrypted. Their technology is HIPAA compliant as well.

What about in a potentially life-threatening situation?

There have been some articles floating around challenging Talkspace’s the ethics of anonymity in potentially life-threatening situations. Talkspace puts the responsibility of handling a client’s threat or intention of suicide or homicide on the therapists.

This means that if your therapist has reason to believe you are a danger to yourself or someone else, he or she might do ongoing risk assessments and/or ask you for your address and direct contact information to use in case of emergency. The Talkspace therapists are licensed clinicians and have a lot of training in suicide assessment.

That being said, the onus may be on you as the client to bring up the topic with your therapist since suicide screening is not standard procedure for Talkspace (again, something I would really like to see them change).

What if I don’t like my therapist?

You will see an option in your Talkspace app menu to change therapists. Simply click that and you can change therapists. I’ve been told by Support that you can even keep your chat from your first therapist in the window instead of typing out everything again.

It’s easy and not awkward (like it might be in-person) to switch therapists if you don’t feel like you’re clicking with the therapist you originally matched with.

What if I don’t like it or don’t feel like the service is helping me?

There is no contract – you can cancel the service at any time. You’re billed for Talkspace on a monthly basis, so if you cancel before your next billing date, you still get to use the rest of the month that you’ve already paid for. Your plan is just changed to not auto renew itself for next month.

What if my therapist takes a vacation and can’t be reached?

Your therapist will tell you when he or she is taking a vacation. You can actually pause the service during this time by contacting Support so you don’t get billed for it.

In Conclusion

I think text therapy has a lot of potential. I was initially dissatisfied because I wasn’t sure my therapist’s style was what I needed. But I expressed my concerns to her as they came up and she shifted to more actionable work with me. I love that communicating this type of thing with her via text wasn’t awkward at all and that she really listened and reacted to what I was asking for. The Talkspace service has been truly beneficial for me but it took a few months to get to this place.

Canoeing

I say, sometimes it’s right to keep doing your research and reading up on it. And sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and take action.

Ready to give Talkspace a go? Get $30 off

If you want to try out Talkspace, you can sign up here and get $30 off your first month of service (just use the promo code mishvo30).

When you click the link, you will be sent through to a quick therapist matching questionnaire. Then you can sign up and get started talking with your therapist.

By the way, no, this Talkspace review was not sponsored by them, and I did not receive a free or discounted service for writing this review.

I wrote this post because I saw a need for more reviews of the service when I myself was looking for reviews before signing up.

Either way, don’t give up on seeking support. The right fit is out there somewhere!


Related:

How to Get Unstuck

Tools to Manage Your Mental Health While Traveling

The Computer Will See You Now from The Atlantic

Textual Healing: Are Apps the Future of Therapy? from The Verge

Talkspace Reviews: User Testimonials from Around the Web from Talkspace

I’m an affiliate of Talkspace (although I wrote this post LONG before I was) which means I get a small commission if you sign up through my link. I only affiliate myself and my blog with products and services I use myself and LOVE and think you’ll love too. See my Disclosure Policy for more.

In this Talkspace review, I discuss my experience on the app, the pros and cons, and who text therapy would be best suited for.
This honest review of the Talkspace app will help you know if text therapy or online therapy is right for you.

43 comments

  1. OMG. This is a brilliant post. I had never heard of this and learned so much from your thoughts. ithink you are right. Anyone in crises this is definitely not for. But there are lots of people it could work for! Thanks for the review.

    • mishvo says:

      Thank you, Heather. I agree – I think it can definitely help certain people. I would love to hear from them more actually.

  2. Liz says:

    Great review! I think we’re going to see more and more of these types of services. I think it’ll work for things like seeing a doctor about a rash or other ailment. For therapy though, I think you need the in-person interaction.

    • mishvo says:

      Man I WISH they had this for regular GP issues like a rash. That would be fantastic. I definitely see where you’re coming from on needing in-person interaction for mental health treatment. I don’t think I would completely “write off” text therapy (pun intended;) because “effectiveness” seems so dependent on each individual, on who you’re matched with, the issues you’re facing… I will say, the slow pace of therapy in this medium does frustrate me personally and for that reason alone I might prefer in-person therapy. But I’m not sure yet. I’ve had issues with in-person therapy too.

      • Judith says:

        They do have this for regular physicians for things like a cold, or allergy. Its even covered by my insurance blue cross and blue shield of tennessee. Its really great.

  3. Sky says:

    This is so, so interesting. I had no idea this even existed. I’m traveling the world so this might actually be an option worth considering for me as I haven’t been able to have regular therapy sessions in a long while.

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Sky, I’m so glad to hear that. I definitely think this service could benefit someone who is constantly on the move. Good luck!

  4. blair villanueva says:

    Oh this is cool, and I like the anonymity part. This seems like a Wizpert, were you can talk to experts for free. I will check this too!

  5. Tae says:

    Such a well-rounded review. I can definitely see all of your points and why it’s both convenient but not as progressive as an in-person session at the same time. I’ve never heard about Talkspace until now and will have to refer friends to it who are hesitant about going to therapy.

  6. Paola says:

    This is a fantastic service! I never heard about it but now I’m getting curious and I’ll go and look at their website. Thanks for getting me know.

  7. Vaisakhi says:

    Still not sure how confidential your information of sessions can be since it is all online but surely saves the pain to confronting someone in person and baring it all to a face. Worth a try for when one needs therapy 🙂

    • mishvo says:

      Yeah I think confidentiality is a huge concern – they have a long section on their site addressing it. I’m not super worried about it, as I’m already a blogger and basically bare all online anyways :/

  8. Laveena Sengar says:

    I think it is really great. Therapy is very helpful Indeed. I haven’t heard if this service but it is definitely something interesting. Will look up for more information.

  9. Charlie says:

    I am profoundly deaf and have had a very hard time understanding therapists. I started to try out TalkSpace but was right in the middle of one of my harder times and dropped it – to their credit, twice they have tried to pick me up again. I don’t really know what to do. I am so tired of telling my stories over and over again I am beginning to feel like a one-person traveling show.

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Charlie, thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear that seeking treatment has been frustrating for you and I know what you mean about feeling like you’re repeating yourself over and over. Trying to treat mental health issues can be such a battle, but we have to stick with it. If you speak sign language, I wonder if you could look up counselors in your area who sign? If you live in the US or Canada, you can go to this website – https://therapists.psychologytoday.com – and narrow your search results by therapists who speak ASL under “Language”. You could also give Talkspace another try. I know it took me at least two months to get used to the pacing and feel like it was really benefiting me. Either way, I hope you come back and let me know how it’s going.

  10. Reader says:

    The twitter and Facebook icons that constantly hover over and obscure part of the article text are super-annoying.
    Nice blog but I probably won’t be back

  11. Just say no to Talkspace says:

    Actually it is not anonymous. I had a terrible experience using Talkspace. Blogs like yours say it is anonymous when it actually is not.

    I had very low quality, low skilled therapist. Never listened correctly (or actually read, never read correctly). Mis-quoted me a lot. I was being open and honest under the idea that is was anonymous and I got burned by a bad therapist.

    Buyer beware. Unless you are just talking about how someone gave you a bad look at the grocery store avoid Talkspace for any real.

    • mishvo says:

      I believe if you say something that leads the therapist to think you are a danger to yourself or someone else, they have a duty to do whatever they can to stop the situation from escalating. This is the duty of any therapist, in-person or online.

      Are you saying that the therapist had access to your personal information without you providing it? Also, what do you mean about “getting burned”?

      As for the skill level of your therapist, I’m truly sorry to hear that. That must have been disappointing. One of the things I appreciate about Talkspace is that you can switch therapists easily and without awkwardness. I also give my therapist feedback when I need something from her that she isn’t giving and I find this is really helpful to get the most out of the service.

      Either way, don’t give up seeking support for whatever you’re going through. The right fit is out there, you just have to keep trying.

      • Just say no to Talkspace says:

        I just want others to understand that it is ABSOLUTELY not anonymous. If I had understood that completely I may have been more thorough in setting the therapist straight. I figured it was something that would be smoothed out. What is came down to is she mis-understood what I was I was saying and took action (and I am NOT talking about suicide here). She tricked me into getting my contact information by saying she “cared”. And she only did this after I gave a poor performance review.

        Honestly, what has happened has happened. I can’t change the past but I can let people know that it is not anonymous and they should be very careful.

        • mishvo says:

          Just to clarify, it was anonymous until your therapist “tricked you into getting your contact information”? I don’t see how it wasn’t anonymous, as it was your choice to provide the information or not.

          I recommend you contact Talkspace and share your feedback with them.

  12. E-counseling says:

    This was a great post. I’m not sure why some people are down on Talkspace. Online help isn’t for everyone. Especially when dealing with a mental illness, there is no ‘quick fix’ and I think that’s what many people believe Talkspace can do (since it’s online and everything that has to do with internet is generally instantaneous – heck, look at Amazon Prime). But as you said, it’s great for people with ‘mild/moderate anxiety.’ And, I’d take it further by saying it’s great for people with ‘mild to moderate’ anything (stress, depression, anxiety, relationship trouble, self-esteem issues, etc.).

    • mishvo says:

      Yes, like any therapy, it takes time to build a relationship with your therapist and reap the benefits of therapy. There is no “magic pill” – not even actual medication, as it doesn’t treat the cause, only the symptoms. Thank you for your comment and compliment!

    • Just say no to Talkspace says:

      If you are not sure, then you simply do not understand some people may have a bad experience with TalkSpace despite your opinion. It is not that is isn’t for everyone, it is just a fact that this type of thing has a downfall and people should be aware. Please do not attempt to play down another person’s experience with Talkspace. This is a review post and a review is what is needed, not just GOOD reviews.

  13. HM says:

    Hi Michelle,
    Appreciate this review! I found your perspective helpful, and a confirmation for me that this kind of service seems like a good fit for some things and not others, which helps me in evaluating whether I should use it. I agree that it seems a good match for people mild issues, for people with experiences/personalities that make it easy for them to recognize what they need and self-advocate for it within the therapeutic relationship, and for people who like or are good at clearly communicating their wants/needs/feelings/experiences in writing. And also for travelers!
    I also understand that you first wrote the review without any affiliation with TalkSpace, and since then have become an affiliate because you liked their service, like many of us do with services we appreciate.
    Would you mind sharing a little more about that relationship? Is it just like any company’s referral link/rebate program for you, or are you in closer contact with the company than that? Like, if the article was really critical, would they remove your referral link, or is the link yours for as long as you want to use it to give referrals?
    Also, could you share what date you wrote your review? I was looking for studies on efficacy too, and wondered if your search was recent or not.
    Lastly, if the review was written a while ago, have you edited it over time? I’d love to see where your experiences or thoughts may have changed as you had more time with the service, or even after getting more info from others or from the company as a result of this post.
    Thanks again for writing!

    • mishvo says:

      Hello! These are great questions – I respect your critical spirit 🙂

      Re: Affiliates

      Being an affiliate is essentially like any company’s referral program as you’ve said except instead of getting a discount on the product or service, I get a commission (which is actually lower in dollar amount than the discount I would get for signups if I were a regular referrer!). Becoming an affiliate was my idea and my choice and I can take out my affiliate links at any time I want. I believe in the value of the service and truly want to spread the word about online therapy, especially for digital nomads.

      That said, I am not a Talkspace employee in any way. I am not bound into saying only good things about them and am 100% honest and open about what I don’t like about the service (for example, I feel it’s morally irresponsible to not systematically screen for suicide history or ideation in a vulnerable population and I’ve expressed this in this post, in a video review I did with another blogger, and directly to the Talkspace team). It’s important to me not to “sell out” on my blog – my reader’s trust is more important to me than money and I never want to take advantage of that. If something were to change and I stopped loving the service, I would edit my post to reflect that.

      Re: Efficacy

      I originally posted this in October 2016 and haven’t updated the parts about efficacy since. I looked into it again recently actually to try to update it and just haven’t been satisfied with what I find enough to write about it (I was gonna make a whole separate post but never went through with it). Talkspace has collected a bunch of studies here that you can check out: https://www.talkspace.com/online-therapy/faqs/#q3 and they also sent me this one when I asked about updates on efficacy: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/tmj.2016.0114 — but of course the problem here is that they wouldn’t post or share links from studies that didn’t show good results for text therapy, right? So there’s probably more to be discovered here.

      Re: Edits over time

      As I said, I wrote the original version of this review in October 2016, just one month into using Talkspace. In my first two months of using the service, I would say I had a lot of doubts and moments when I considered switching therapists or quitting altogether because I felt like it wasn’t “working” for me. Something clicked after the two month mark (it helped that I was giving my therapist feedback about what I needed from her) and I did start reaping the benefits of therapy. I go through this post every once in a while to update it to make sure it reflects how I feel about the service while still showing the chronology of my initial discontent and how I handled that with my therapist. Really the only major change I’ve made to the post has been to add the FAQ section as I saw news reports about their privacy policies (and this ties into my concerns about them not screening for suicide).

      I hope this helps answer your questions! Let me know if you have any more or want to chat further about the service. Happy to help in any way I can.

      Cheers,
      Michelle

  14. Michael says:

    My experience with Talkspace was, in a word: transformative.

    Like you, I had a bit of a rocky start. I wasn’t really familiar with how the system worked, and I think they still have a bit to do in terms of teaching their users to ask the therapist for what they want instead of sitting back and waiting for everything to just work out.

    There really is no way that I could have therapy without Talkspace. I don’t really have a good excuse, like being really ill or really far away from a therapist office. It’s just busy and overwhelming, and inevitably I need help the most when I’m least capable of getting up and finding somebody and making it to an appointment.

    It’s been about 6 months now. In that time, the app has gone through a major update. And the company really seems to be finding its ‘sea legs’. I now come across their blog posts and mentioned of them in a lot of news articles. It’s really cool to have discovered them before they really figured it all out.

    One thing I’m really wondering about. How did you get so comfortable as to tell people in your life that you’re using Talkspace. Except for a very few places online, I haven’t really told anyboyd. The app is buried in a folder on my phone, and I really keep it private. When do you know it’s time to ‘make the leap’?

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Michael,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I’m so glad to hear Talkspace has been helpful for you! I completely agree with what you’ve said in terms of the company going through a rebrand this year, finding their sea legs, and still having some work to do in terms of taking more responsibility for the user outcomes on their platform.

      In terms of being more open about mental health, I think this is an ongoing struggle for me as well. I was open with my partner from the start about trying out Talkspace but there are still people in my life I don’t talk about this stuff with (even though it’s on my blog, we don’t talk about it in person if that makes sense). Maybe making the distinction between who you trust with this intimate detail of your life and who you don’t is the first step to that leap. Start by bringing it up with the people who you know will support you.

      Overall, I feel like we have seen a reduction in the stigma attached to mental illness, at least in Western culture, in the past few years. There’s certainly still work to be done but I do think we’re making progress.

      Let me know how it all goes – happy to answer any other questions or discuss anything else that comes up!

      Cheers,
      Michelle

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