Ayana Online Therapy Review

Inclusive Therapy That Fails To Live Up to Its Promises

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Ayana Therapy Review

Ayana Therapy

Ayana Therapy’s stated mission is to “welcome you into a community where your culture and experience matter,” and its vision statement is “for the unseen to be seen and heal." Unfortunately, though, the company does not live up to the values it claims to hold, so we cannot recommend it. If newcomers to therapy were to have the experience I had, it would be the opposite of “being seen” and healing.

VERYWELL MIND's 2021 ONLINE THERAPY AWARDS
  • Best for BIPOC
  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Connects diverse, culturally sensitive therapists with diverse patients

  • Provides teletherapy, which is helpful for patients with time, transportation, or mobility issues

  • Cost-effective when purchasing a Gift Card bundle

  • Data is kept secure and private

Cons
  • Sign-up and matching process appears to be out of service

  • Extremely poor communication at all levels

  • Some therapy seekers could not sign up for therapy, even after they paid, and did not receive a refund

  • Pricing is not clearly stated on the website

  • Cannot view therapist bios on the site before signing up

  • Incredibly slow sign-up and matching process

  • No customer service

Key Facts
Price
$140/single sessions or $290/monthly subscription
Is Insurance Accepted?
No. Offers bills to submit to your insurer
Type Of Therapy
N/A
Communication Options
Messaging, Video Chat
HIPAA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
Yes
Why Trust Us
55
Companies reviewed
5,775
Total users surveyed
350
Data points analyzed
We surveyed 105 users from each online therapy company and asked the companies to complete questionnaires. Then, we tested the services ourselves, conducted comprehensive data collection research, and evaluated our results with the help of three licensed therapists.

Therapy is only as good as the providers who offer it—a poor match can derail anyone's treatment. This is an especially common experience for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ people who face additional barriers to mental health care, such as cost, discrimination, and cultural stigma. Plus, 86% of U.S. psychologists are white. With this lack of representation in the field, even well-intentioned therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors can commit microaggressions and require their clients to spend valuable time educating them. 

Ayana Therapy has a lot to say about its values. It promises to address longstanding issues with marginalized communities seeking mental health support. As CEO and founder Eric Coly states on the site, “if finding a reflection of yourself in your counselor is what you demand in order to find a safe space, you should be entitled to it.” So, based on its stated mission, one would expect the Ayana experience to be warm and inviting to newcomers, show respect for their financial and time limitations, and act as an advocate for the mental health community, so as to relieve any hesitation or doubt among therapy seekers.

If only Ayana worked like that. The experience of attempting to get therapy was stressful and frustrating, while the company increasingly appeared to be flaky at best and corrupt at worst— exactly what you don’t want out of a therapy provider. Despite close to a month of attempts to get matched to a therapist, first via their website and then, when that failed, via multiple communications from myself and our team to top management, I was never successful in getting matched. And while the CEO Eric Coly himself did eventually respond with a pledge to make things right, we received no follow-through. It also fared poorly in our user survey of 105 Ayana therapy users. 

What Is Ayana Therapy?

Ayana Therapy is an online therapy company that was founded in 2019 by Eric Coly, who identified a need for culturally sensitive therapists who understood the experiences of marginalized, intersectional communities. As a Black man from Senegal suffering from depression, he found connecting to the right therapist a challenge and noticed his peers had the same problem. As a result, he resolved to make therapy more accessible to diverse therapy seekers through his platform. 

Ayana is a referral network, which means therapists retain their own policies and procedures. However, they all provide affordable teletherapy (text, call, and video call) to therapy seekers from diverse communities. Theoretically, Ayana matches therapy seekers to clinicians who will best serve their needs, identities, and background using a detailed questionnaire. The matching process is driven by an algorithm.

Ayana has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Bustle, and Insider, among others, and appears to be widely regarded in a positive light in the media—but if you look at user reviews, you’ll find a different story, with many unable to sign up for therapy sessions even after they’ve paid. 

What Services Does Ayana Therapy Offer?

Ayana Therapy’s website does not show any information about providers and types of therapy, making it difficult to confirm exactly what types of therapy its providers offer. However, when we contacted the company in 2021, it told us that it only offers individual therapy for adults 18 and older. It does not offer couples therapy, therapy for kids or teens, group therapy, medication management, or psychiatry. 

How Much Does Ayana Therapy Cost?

Pricing is also not communicated clearly by Ayana Therapy. The only pricing information on the site is under the “Gift Card” section, where you can buy packages or individual sessions. A four-session package is $290, while one session is $140.

These costs are on par with average rates across the country, which range from $65 to $250 per session. A bundle breaks down to $73 per session, which keeps Ayana Therapy on the lower range of fees. However, $140 for an individual session is pricey for a network that’s geared towards marginalized communities who may be lower-income.

After you’ve chosen between the bundles, you must select whether you want to buy a gift card for others or yourself. This is strange because gift cards are traditionally purchased for other people. This could lead therapy-seekers to pre-purchase sessions without getting pertinent therapist information or receiving the matching service simply because they haven’t had follow-through on the sign-up process.

After making your selection and providing contact info, you’re taken to a payment screen and asked to input your credit card information. There’s no further information regarding the therapy you’ll be receiving or how long you will need to wait to schedule it.

Still, 50% of the users we surveyed rated the company as affordable or very affordable. Forty percent rated it as somewhat affordable.

Does Ayana Therapy Accept Insurance?

No, Ayana Therapy does not accept insurance or submit claims to any health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Does Ayana Offer a Discount Code or Free Trial?


There is no mention of a discount code or free trial on the Ayana website. 

Navigating Ayana’s Website 

Ayana’s website is easy to understand and navigate, but it's missing critical information. On the homepage, two large, bright-orange buttons take visitors to the sign-up page and the “Request a Demo” page, which is intended for organizations. 

Ayana Therapy Homepage

Scrolling down on the homepage, you'll find a brief description of the company's stated mission statement; that "finding the right provider is a right, not a privilege," and a link to read their story.

Finding a provider

Below that, you'll see the steps in Ayana’s matching process. 

How Ayana Therapy Works

Finally, you'll find a section of the company's "promise to you," grainy pictures of the CEO and top-tier management, and links to media placements.

Ayana's promises

In the footer of the website, you'll find links to the company's social media profiles on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The company doesn't have very large followings on any of these platforms, with less a thousand on Instagram, and a little over a thousand on both Facebook and Twitter. It only has 29 subscribers on YouTube, but it also hasn't posted a video in over a year. It hasn't posted on the other platforms, as of November 2022, since Earth Day.

What’s missing from the website entirely is a clear breakdown of plans and pricing. Even after navigating to the sign-up page, there is no mention of price. Visitors are told to fill out a brief contact form and that they will be emailed afterward. As noted above, the only pricing visible on the site is under the Gift Card section. 

Additionally, there is no information about the types of therapy provided, nor are there therapist bios to look at. The only place where you can get any real answers about its services is in its FAQs page, which only includes 12 questions.

Ayana FAQ page

However, none of these answers give very specific details about who your therapists might be, or how much you'll pay. When answering the question of how long it will take to match with a therapist, it says "The matching process depends on the availability of providers in your area. In general, we match you with a provider within two business days." But I can say from personal experience, it definitely takes much longer than that—if the company ever even matches you at all.

Signing Up for Therapy at Ayana

Regrettably, Ayana’s sign-up process did not result in my being matched to a therapist. I made two attempts to sign up via the website, and my editors at Verywell and I made several attempts to get me matched by talking with top-level management, including founder and CEO Eric Coly, outing ourselves as reporters writing a review. While we initially received responses, we received no follow-up.

On August 19, 2022, I made my first attempt to sign up for therapy. When I first navigated to the site, I noted that it was having technical issues.

Ayana Online Therapy

Ayana Online Therapy

I went to Ayana’s sign-up page, which asks for your full name, region, phone number, and email.  

Ayana Online Therapy Sign Up Form

Ayana Online Therapy

After filling out the form, a confirmation popped up on the screen stating that I would receive an email regarding next steps.

Ayana Online Therapy Confirmation of Sign Up

Ayana Online Therapy

I never received an email, so the following week, I reached out via chat. I figured that the technical issues might have affected the ability to reply. However, I didn’t receive a response on Ayana’s chat platform either, which is unfortunate, given that the site clearly states that visitors could reach support that way.

On August 23, I tried signing up again. I filled out the same form, and the same confirmation popped up. Once again, I did not receive an email follow-up. There is no customer service number listed on Ayana either, so talking to a live person required my reaching out to management directly.

On September 1, I messaged the clinical director, Merilla Scott, PhD, on LinkedIn. She responded promptly and helpfully only a few hours later.

Ayana Online Therapy Response

Ayana Online Therapy

On August 31, our team reached out directly to Eric Coly and Merilla Scott over email, letting them know I was attempting to get matched. Coly responded on September 6, with a vague statement about restructuring internally. He then offered a month of free therapy.

However, I never received instructions or details about the sign-up process. I followed up, asking about how I could get started with therapy, and I never got a reply. Our Mental Health Editor, Hannah Owens, also followed up a final time asking, again, what the next steps were. We never heard back. 

As frustrating as the experience was, it was likely even more frustrating for other therapy seekers who paid for therapy they never received. There are multiple Google reviews from upset customers who state that they’ve been scammed outright.

There’s more: Not only are patients unhappy with Ayana—so are therapists. Two left reviews stating that they have not been compensated for their services. While these are not reviews we can verify independently since they are on Google, they point to a trend that aligns with our own experience trying to contact and sign up for the company—suggesting that Ayana has a real issue with onboarding new patients. 

It’s possible that all its therapists have full caseloads, which would explain why 74% of user survey respondents rated the company’s helpfulness in connecting to a therapist as good to excellent. But without disclosing that information to potential new therapy seekers, we are left simply frustrated—especially since we can still pay for gift cards. 

Of the users we surveyed, only 15% rated the company as excellent, which is far lower than the average percentage (24%) that said the same across all 55 companies we surveyed. 

Privacy Policies

Ayana’s technology is HIPAA compliant, and it encrypts servers and communication between software and servers. It does not record video sessions nor sell information for marketing purposes. The website states that all information shared with your provider is confidential and that since it doesn’t work with insurance companies, Ayana doesn’t need to report any of your information. 

You can remain anonymous when using Ayana, though individual providers will request specific information required by law and its licensing board.

Ayana vs. Its Competitors

As an alternative to Ayana, Inclusive Therapists is a good directory for diverse therapy seekers to find culturally sensitive care from providers they align with. While it functions as a directory rather than an online service, many of its practitioners offer teletherapy, and therapy seekers will have the additional option of seeking out in-person therapy. It also provides a matching service that seems to work well. Therapists set their own rates, but many offer sliding scale fees that users are able to afford. It also runs a BIPOC therapy fund to support therapy seekers with financial needs.

Aguirre Therapy is another inclusive online therapy organization that serves over 31 states via teletherapy. It is culturally affirming, anti-oppressive, sex-positive, trauma-informed, kink-friendly, and non-monogamy friendly, among other things. It was rated positively by 72% of users surveyed, with 77% rating therapist qualities positively and 74% rating the experience of finding a therapist positively. It offers group and relationship therapy, two services that Ayana doesn’t appear to do. 

Aguirre is a good alternative to Ayana, though fees tend to be a little steep, at around $125 to $200 per session, a $200 to $250 initial assessment fee, and no insurance options. However, some therapists do offer a sliding scale.

Final Verdict

Due to the issues with matching, transparency, and communication, we no longer recommend Ayana for therapy seekers. While we previously picked it as the best choice for marginalized communities, we’ve seen a drastic change in its level of authenticity and accountability. 

It’s not possible to know exactly what’s happening with Ayana or what has caused this shift. However, our subject matter expert Amy Marschall weighed in: “It sounds like your experience, which based on those reviews is not unique to this situation, is showing that they aren't currently able to meet the needs of their clients,” she told me.

She continued, “I would wonder what is going on on an administrative level as a result. Why aren't they getting back to clients? When they reached out, they seemed to want to make it right by offering a free month, but then never followed through.” She adds that “I would definitely be concerned about their ability to meet demand and would not refer clients to them based on this information.”

Whatever the cause, Ayana staff have not communicated publicly about any issues that might be causing service or payment delays. This is particularly upsetting because the company has positioned itself as advocates for marginalized people and pledged to overcome cost barriers. Yet its actions have the opposite effect, potentially wasting therapy seekers' money by not following through with matching in a timely manner or at all.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

By Brittany Elyse Vargas
Brittany Elyse Vargas has been exploring topics around psychology, mental health, mind-body medicine, and psychospiritual development for the past twenty years. She’s written professionally for over ten years as a journalist, copywriter, and ghostwriter. Brittany is committed to rigorous reporting and to tackling topics on the cutting edge of the wellness, healing, and the mindfulness movements.

Edited by
Simone Scully
simone-scully-verywell

Simone is the health editorial director for performance marketing at Verywell. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering mental health, chronic conditions, medicine, and science.

Learn about our editorial process
and
Hannah Owens
Hannah Owens

Hannah Owens is the Mental Health/General Health Editor for performance marketing at Verywell. She is a licensed social worker with clinical experience in community mental health.

Learn about our editorial process