Talkspace Review + $80 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.
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.
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.
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
- Anonymity – Talkspace used to offer complete anonymity but has since changed their model a bit. Now they ask for emergency contact information. I’m personally thrilled to see them adding this to the service.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 illnesses. 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.)
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.
Is my information really anonymous and confidential/private?
As I said before, the service used to have the option to remain completely anonymous. But now they collect emergency contact information when you start out with your therapist, and I think this is a great addition to the service, even if it means you may not be 100% anonymous.
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.
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.
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 $80 off
If you want to try out Talkspace, you can sign up here and get $80 off your first month of service (just use the promo code FALL80).
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!
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
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