Ayana Therapy Review

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4

Ayana Therapy

Ayana Therapy

Ayana Therapy

Bottom Line

Ayana Therapy stands out among the 33 companies we reviewed because of its dedication to matching people from marginalized communities with therapists who share similar backgrounds, values, and identities.

Pros
  • Offers both subscription and pay-per-session options

  • Staff of licensed therapists receive cultural competency training

  • Serves all 50 states

  • Emphasis on making mental health services more accessible to marginalized people

  • Informative, easy-to-navigate website

  • Sessions can be conducted over chat, phone, and video

  • Price of individual sessions discounted if you have a subscription

Cons
  • No medication management services

  • Does not accept health insurance

  • No free trials or consultations offered

  • Does not offer couples or group therapy

  • Single sessions may be too expensive for many

  • Prices not clearly explained on website

4

Ayana Therapy

Ayana Therapy

Ayana Therapy

Founded in 2019, Ayana Therapy is relatively new to the online therapy scene but its mission sets it apart from some of the larger companies that have been dominating the field: to connect marginalized people in all 50 states with affordable culturally competent therapists. “If finding a reflection of yourself in your counselor is what you demand in order to find a safe space,” the site’s About Us page notes, “you should be entitled to it.”

Therapy is only as good as the providers who offer it—a poor match can derail anyone’s treatment. However, this is an especially common experience for the Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ people who face additional barriers to mental health care, such as cost, discrimination, and cultural stigma.

For instance, the American Psychiatric Association found in 2015 that that 86% of U.S. psychologists were white. There’s not much data on how many mental health professionals are LGBTQIA, but in 2018, only 0.7% of respondents to the Association of American Medical Colleges’s annual Matriculating Student Questionnaire reported being transgender and/or nonbinary. It’s even harder to tell how many professionals belong to both groups.

Due to 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. Eric Coly, a former investment banker with severe depression, had previously found himself in this situation when seeking a therapist who could understand his experiences as a Black man. When a friend started having the same difficulty finding a therapist, Coly decided to take action and he launched Ayana Therapy a year later.

Ayana Therapy prioritizes matching clients with licensed therapists who share their experiences and identities across the categories of race, ethnicity, gender identity, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. To make services more accessible and affordable regardless of your budget, it offers a variety of flexible, convenient (and if desired, anonymous) online communication options and it offers both pay-per-session and subscription payment options. 

To fairly and thoroughly review Ayana Therapy against its competitors, we surveyed 100 current users from 33 different online therapy platforms in order to gain insight into their experiences. We also sent a questionnaire directly to each company to get more detailed information about their offerings. 

These surveys and questionnaires allowed us to directly compare offerings, quality of service, and client satisfaction across companies. Here’s how Ayana Therapy stacks up against its online therapy competition. 

First Impressions and Sign-up Process

The first thing you’ll see on Ayana Therapy’s site is a banner that advertises a cost of $60 per session and directs users to the “Find Your Therapist” page. This is the only place where pricing is mentioned on the homepage (more on that below.)

Exiting the prompt, you’re greeted by a clean and easy-to-navigate homepage with prominent buttons directing users to begin the sign-up process or request a demo for their businesses or organizations. Below are brief descriptions of Ayana Therapy’s mission, sign-up process, and dedication to serving marginalized people with competence, convenience, and privacy. Photos of the six members of the company’s senior leadership appear next, and the final section links to press coverage. There is also a “Chat With Us” box where you can ask the team questions.

Ayana Therapy Homepage

Ayana Therapy Homepage

The navigation bar at the top of the page makes it easy to get around the site—with two exceptions: First, Ayana has an excellent blog that lets you browse posts by topics like mental illness, minority mental health, and professional development. But this may not be apparent to every prospective user because the only link to the blog is in a drop-down menu that appears when your cursor hovers over “Media.”

Second, the drop-down menu under “For Therapists” links to a job application and FAQs for therapists, but users must scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the link to the user FAQs. While both FAQs include several informative but brief answers, they’re overall fairly sparse and omit some key information. For instance, if you click the magnifying glass and search for “insurance,” you’ll get only one result: an FAQ that explains how its therapists must carry malpractice liability insurance.

Seventy-eight percent of the users surveyed reported that they either had a very good or excellent experience signing up for Ayana. 

To sign up, fill out the contact information form on the “Find Your Therapist” page. A member of the team will then email you more details and a link to the intake questionnaire that will help Ayana’s algorithm match you with a therapist.

It is worth noting that as of September 2021, the signup form references that the cost per session of $60 is offered in support of May’s Mental Health Month. This gives the impression that the site hasn’t been updated in a while—which could scare away potential clients, especially since this pricing appears to no longer apply (more details on that below, in our cost section).

Once you’ve completed this questionnaire, Ayana Therapy tells us that you should hear from your therapist within 48 hours—and 75% of the users we surveyed said that was true.

However:

  • Fifteen percent said they heard back within one week.
  • Ten percent said it took up to two weeks or longer.

Cost 

Of the users we polled, 75% said the prices were very good or excellent.  But we must note that our data isn’t representative of the entire BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. Our respondents were:

  • 59% men, 41% women, and 0% nonbinary (or other)
  • 82% heterosexual, 14% bisexual or pansexual, 2% lesbian, 2% gay, and 1% queer
  • 77% white, 15% Black, 10% Latinx, 1% Asian, and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native
  • 37% Christian, 22% Catholic, 21% Muslim, 4% Protestant, 4% Mormon, 3% Jewish, and 1–2% each Buddhist, Hindu, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness, and atheist. 
  • 84% had annual household incomes of $50,000 or more; 10% reported $200,000 or more

In contrast, the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law found in 2019 that 53% of its Black LGBTQIA+ survey respondents had a yearly household income of under $40,000, while 48.4% of transgender Latinx people were below the poverty line. Young LGBTQIA+ people aged 18 to 24 had a poverty rate of 30.7%—almost double the rate reported by adults 45 and older.

With these factors in mind, many respondents might not consider Ayana Therapy’s services to be affordable, especially without reimbursement from insurance. 

What Subscription Plans Does Ayana Therapy Offer?

Ayana Therapy’s prices are not clearly listed or explained on their website, which is confusing and could make potential users wary of Ayana's services.

In fact, the website is not entirely clear whether Ayana Therapy bills you on a monthly basis or charges per session because the "Sign Up" page doesn't have a pricing breakdown.

However, if you happen to visit the “Gift Cards” page, you’ll see different figures: $290 for a four-session package and $140 per single 45-minute session.

In its response to our questionnaire, Ayana Therapy confirmed that the information on the “Gift Cards” page is correct: The company offers one monthly subscription and the ability to purchase individual therapy sessions for a higher per-session cost.

Ayana’s subscription costs $290 per month and includes four 45-minute live video sessions per month. Individual sessions cost $140 per 45-minute live session and can be booked as needed. 

It's important to note that $290 works out to $72.50 (not $60) per session. The company would do well to update its website to avoid making potential clients feel misled by the banner displayed on the "Sign up" page.

Is There a Free Trial?

There is no free trial for individuals though companies and organizations can request demos

Does Ayana Accept Insurance?

As of September 2021, Ayana Therapy does not accept insurance.

However, depending on your out-of-network health care benefits, you still might be able to receive at least partial reimbursement for your therapy sessions. Just ask your Ayana therapist to give you a superbill that you can use to file a claim with your insurance provider.

Eighty-nine percent of the users we surveyed were able to obtain at least some reimbursement, but not very much. On average, users said they spent about $231.90 per month out-of-pocket.

Can You Change or Cancel Your Subscription?

You can change or cancel your subscription at any time, but Ayana Therapy does not refund unused sessions (single or as part of a membership). If you cancel your membership in the middle of the month, you'll be on the hook for all of your remaining sessions.

Ayana Therapy also charges full price for no-shows or sessions canceled with less than 24 hours' notice. 

If you cancel your membership, then reactivate your membership, the company will rematch you to your previous therapist, depending on availability.

Are There Discounts Available?

Ayana Therapy does not currently offer discounts or financial assistance.

Ease of Use

Once you’ve signed up, you'll be given access to a client portal, where you can schedule and attend sessions. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed thought the platform's user-friendliness was either very good or excellent and 78% said the same the platform's video quality was either very good or excellent.

Ayana Therapy conducts sessions via text and video. Text-based sessions and messaging may be very helpful for those who:

Eighty-eight percent of the users we polled said their experience online chat messaging their therapist was very good or excellent; 83% said the same about their video calls with their therapists.

Seventy-seven percent of surveyed users reported that the speed at which they heard a response from the therapist was either very good or excellent. 

If you don't want to continue working with your therapist, submit a request through your portal or send an email to customer service and the Ayana Therapy team will communicate with you and get you matched with another therapist.

If you do not like the therapist you’re currently working with, you can request to switch by emailing the Ayana admin team and they will help you find a better fit. This process of switching via email, however, does take longer than it does at other companies where you can switch providers at the touch of a button. That said, what you lose in convenience, Ayana Therapy tries to make up for by working more directly one-on-one with you to make sure your next therapist fits your needs.

Overall, 76% of the users we surveyed found the switching process easy or very easy—and most of the users we polled did switch at least once because only 8% met with a single Ayana therapist. Thirty-three percent met with two; 28% with three, and 31% with four or more.

Therapists' Qualifications and Quality of Care

Most of the people we surveyed said that the qualifications and expertise of Ayana therapists were a significant factor in their decision to sign up.

Eighty-one percent of the users we surveyed said they found the therapists’ qualifications to be either very good or excellent. 

Ayana Therapy told us that all the therapists, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and social workers it works with must be fully licensed in their respective states and have at least 2,000 hours of previous experience. The company also requires its therapists to complete the HIPAA and cultural competency training it provides.

Ayana Therapy could stand to be more transparent about its providers. There are no bios for interested therapy seekers to browse, and the company did not confirm for us how many therapists are in their referral network. But the fact that the company serves clients in all 50 states makes it reasonable to assume that it has recruited a decent number of therapists so far.

However, as with any online therapist service, the number of available therapists will vary by state.

According to our surveys, 84% of users said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options available.

In response to our questionnaire, Ayana Therapy reported a low rate of turnover among its team and said that some therapists have been with the company since its founding. This may allow for better continuity of care, as well as the possibility of seeing the same therapist if you cancel and later restart your membership.

However, since the company is still a relative newcomer to the online therapy world, it will take time to see if its turnover rate remains low.

Types of Therapy Offered

Ayana Therapy says that their therapists are primarily from the marginalized or intersectional communities they serve, which allows users to be matched with therapists who understand their cultures, religions, races, genders, and identities. 

Some of the techniques Ayana therapist practitioners use include:

Ayana therapy offers individual therapy for adults only; younger people and those seeking couple, family, or group therapy will need to look elsewhere. The company also does not work with psychiatrists or psychiatric nurse practitioners who can make diagnoses and prescribe medication, unlike the multiple competitors, such as Wellnite, Cerebral, and Talkspace, who do offer these services.

Although Ayana’s main draw is the ability for marginalized people to request therapists who understand their lived experiences, there’s no mention in the FAQs about obtaining letters of recommendation for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other gender-affirming care

Judging by the other services we reviewed, our best guess is that it’s up to individual therapists to set their own policies regarding transgender care—but this information should be clearly stated for the prospective trans and/or nonbinary clients who might view Ayana Therapy as their last hope.

Overall, though, 76 percent of our respondents said the services they received from Ayana therapists were very good or excellent. 

Privacy Policies

Ayana Therapy appears to value and protect your privacy and requires all of its providers to complete HIPAA compliance training. Its privacy policy also states that all video sessions and messages sent on the Ayana app and via the portal are secured end-to-end by Laravel AES-256 SSL encryption. Video sessions are never recorded or stored, and the company never shares your data with third parties without your permission

Ayana’s homepage promises that its services are “completely anonymous, allowing you to decide when you are ready to share your mental health journey outside of Ayana.” This anonymity may be very appealing to people who aren’t out and/or could face abuse for seeking mental health care. 

However, the privacy policy doesn’t explain how it’s possible to provide credit or debit cards anonymously and clicking on “Terms of Use” at the bottom of any page links unhelpfully to the privacy policy.

If your therapist decides you need more help than they can offer, require a different type of therapy, or could benefit from medication, they will refer you to local resources. As is required by law, they will also file formal reports or contact emergency services if they believe you are a threat to yourself or others.

You can obtain a copy of your medical records from Ayana Therapy for yourself or have it sent to another medical professional relatively quickly by asking your therapist for a release of information. Once you've signed it, your therapist can send your records directly to you or other medical professionals.

Overall Client Satisfaction

Sixty-seven percent of Ayana Therapy users who responded to our survey rated the therapy they received as either very good or excellent and 74% considered Ayana to be a very good or excellent value.

Seventy-five percent of surveyed users who had used other online therapy services said that Ayana was better or much better than their previous online service. 

Despite being a relatively new company, it would appear that Ayana Therapy is doing a relatively good job at attracting and keeping its clients. According to our survey:

  • Twenty-one percent of users have been clients for three to six months.
  • Thirty-six have been clients for six to 12 months.
  • Fourteen percent have been clients for one to two years.

Plus, 80% told us they were likely or very likely to be working with their Ayana therapist a year from now.

Seventy-nine percent of users reported that they were either likely or very likely to recommend Ayana Therapy to someone like them.

Is Ayana Therapy Right For You?

Ayana may be a great option for marginalized people who don’t want to have to spend valuable therapy session time educating their providers about their experiences. The company’s roster of BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ therapists already understand how intersecting identities like culture, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and disability can impact physical, mental, and emotional health. Ayana does its best to match users with culturally competent providers who share similar identities and lived experiences.

Not everyone has the time, energy, or resources to go to in-person sessions, so Ayana may also be an excellent fit for those who value the convenience and multiple modes of communication that online therapy can offer. 

The option to conduct live text sessions may especially appeal to people who are still learning English or have social anxiety, low hearing or vision, or nonspeaking communication styles. Unfortunately, we’re unable to confirm if any of Ayana’s therapists speak other languages or can offer video sessions in American Sign Language for d/Deaf clients.

Ayana Therapy's mission is to improve access to affordable mental health care by reducing stigma and connecting marginalized people with therapists from their own communities.

Most respondents told us they found Ayana’s monthly membership fee affordable, but they tended to be more affluent and privileged than the majority of BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ people who can’t afford to spend $290 every month. Given also that the company is not yet in-network with insurance companies and does not offer discounts or financial aid, it is likely that many people who need Ayana's services the most might not consider the cost to be all that affordable.

The fact that Ayana Therapy does allow you to book sessions individually is a perk for those who are uncertain they really want or need therapy or do not want to pay $290 upfront. However, single sessions cost double the rate than sessions that are part of a membership, so the cost of individual sessions can add up quickly. If you think you'll need to book more than two sessions a month, it's best to just pay for a membership.

Ayana Therapy is not for you if you’re under 18, need psychiatric medication management, or are looking for couples or group therapy. It’s unclear if any or all of the therapists can offer letters of recommendation for HRT and other transition-related care, so this may not be the ideal service for all trans and nonbinary therapy seekers.

It is also not meant to be a replacement for emergency service. If you're currently suicidal or homicidal, in need of inpatient care, or experiencing psychosis, seek emergency help from local providers, hospitals, or crisis hotlines.

A word of caution: If you or someone you know needs emergency help, try to request an ambulance or a crisis response team rather than the police, who are not adequately trained to respond to mental health crises. In fact, a third to half of fatal police shootings kill disabled and/or mentally ill people—and of those, twice as many are Black people than white.

Ayana Therapy vs. Kip Therapy

Both Ayana Therapy and Kip Therapy offer diverse providers who cater to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other minority communities.

Neither company employs psychiatrists or offers medication management.

However, there are a few key differences between the companies. First, as a former brick-and-mortar practice, Kip offers online and in-person sessions to only New York residents, while Ayana Therapy serves clients in all 50 states, giving it an edge over its competitor.

Second, Kip employs all of its 34 therapists; Ayana Therapy, meanwhile, is a referral network. While the company vets prospective therapists and only works with appropriately licensed providers that meet its high standards, Ayana therapists have their own individual practices and policies. 

Third, Kip goes beyond the individual talk therapy sessions offer by Ayana Therapy. You can book couples, family, and group sessions with Kip's therapists, as well as take part in a variety of educational mental health classes and panels.

The companies have different payment structures:

  • Kip's sliding scale ranges from $75 to $175 per session, depending on which tier of therapist you choose
  • Ayana Therapy's single sessions are $140 each, but the monthly subscription gets you four live sessions for $290.

It's possible to spend comparable amounts on either service, but only if you book four sessions with one of Kip's interns, who charge $75 per session for a monthly cost of only $10 more than Ayana's membership. However, a Kip therapist with more experience and certification may raise your monthly cost substantially.

Neither company is in-network with health insurance companies, and while both can provide superbills, neither can guarantee that your out-of-network benefits will reimburse you for your out-of-pocket costs.

Both company websites are modern and easy-to-navigate, though Ayana Therapy’s FAQs section is noticeably sparser than Kip’s. Kip prominently displays its pricing information and therapist bios, which can help give you more peace of mind than Ayana's sign-up process offers.

Kip also seems to have a slight edge on client satisfaction: 75% of its users who responded to our survey rated the services they had received as either very good or excellent, compared to 67% of Ayana Therapy respondents.

Eighty-three percent of Kip clients told us that they were either likely or very likely to refer someone like them to the company, which isn't much higher than the 79% of Ayana users who reported the same. Eighty percent of Ayana users said they were either likely or very likely to still be seeing a therapist within the company a year from now, compared to Kip's slightly higher 84%.

Of the users we surveyed that had tried other therapy services, 76% of Kip Therapy users reported that services were either better or much better than the services at the companies they used before. A comparable 75% said the same of Ayana Therapy.

Final Verdict

It can be difficult if not impossible to make progress in therapy with a provider who doesn't understand your identity, perspective, and culture. Ayana understands this, which is why it prioritizes matching clients with therapists who share similar backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, we highly recommend the service to marginalized adults who want to feel safe with and understood by their therapists.

However, the company may not be a good fit for those who require psychiatric medication management or letters of recommendation for HRT, need couples or group counseling, are under 18, or can't afford to pay $290 out of pocket every month.

Methodology

Our methodology for evaluating online therapy companies is comprehensive and data-driven. To review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 33 companies and surveyed 100 current users of each. This allowed us to directly and fairly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on:

  • Website usability
  • Sign-up process 
  • Therapist qualifications 
  • Types of therapy offered
  • Quality of care
  • Client-therapist communication options
  • Session length
  • Subscription offerings 
  • Client privacy protections 
  • Cost and value for money
  • Whether they take insurance
  • Average out-of-pocket costs
  • Therapist assignment process
  • Ease of changing therapists
  • Overall user satisfaction
  • Likelihood clients would recommend them

Specs

  • Product Name Ayana
  • Price $140
  • Year Founded 2019
  • Insurance Accepted? No; offers bills to submit to your insurer
  • Price $140/single sessions or $290/monthly subscription
  • HIPAA Compliant Yes
  • Platforms Live video and messaging
  • Payment Options Major credit cards, gift cards
  • App Available? (Y/N) Yes
Additional reporting by
Ray Finch
Ray Finch

Ray is a copy editor, fact-checker, mental health writer, and editorial producer with over five years of experience.

Learn about our editorial process
Edited by
Simone Scully
simone-scully-verywell

Simone is the health associate 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
Ray Finch
Ray Finch

Ray is a copy editor, fact-checker, mental health writer, and editorial producer with over five years of experience.

Learn about our editorial process
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