Brightside Online Therapy Review

A depression and anxiety specific platform with an outstanding standard of care

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Brightside

Brightside

Brightside is a professional and well-run online therapy company with a highly specific focus on depression and anxiety. The service displays a consistently high level of care, both in the sessions themselves and the additional resources provided through the user portal. It’s no surprise ninety percent of the Brightside users we surveyed gave the company a positive overall rating.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • In-depth intake questionnaire helps with accurate assessment

  • Check-in quizzes help show your progress

  • Automatic Therapist matching process makes for a no-hassle sign-up

  • High level of care from experienced therapists

  • Wide range of availability times

  • Specifically tailored to treat depression and anxiety

  • Messaging feature allows you to contact your therapist outside of appointments

  • Free self-care lessons offer excellent additional support

  • Safe and responsible medication policies

  • Evidence-based treatment based on CBT

Cons
  • No way to pick your own therapist or browse bios

  • No same or next day appointments

  • 24 hr waiting period from signing up to scheduling

  • Responses from customer service messaging can take well over 24 hrs

  • Minimalist portal can make it difficult to access certain features of the site

  • No specific treatment for conditions outside depression and anxiety

Key Facts
Price
$95-$349
Is Insurance Accepted?
Yes
Type Of Therapy
Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry
Communication Options
Messaging, Video Chat
HIPAA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
No
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.

Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental disorders in America. Approximately 19% of all adults in this country have an anxiety disorder, and about 7% of adults have experienced one major depressive episode. There are also likely millions more who go undiagnosed each year due to financial barriers, physical challenges (like being unable to drive), and lack of available local resources that keep mental health treatment out of reach. But that’s why online therapy companies like Brightside are trying to bridge this gap by making therapy more accessible on every level. 

As an online mental health care provider specializing in depression and anxiety exclusively, Brightside offers both medication and therapy, either separately or combined. And by specializing, it has developed a course of treatment that is specific, professional, and consistent. In both our user survey, which included 105 Brightside users, as well as our own trial of its services, Brightside stood out as an excellent choice for individuals seeking online care specifically for depression and anxiety. We compared it to 55 other companies; here’s how it stacked up against its competition.

What Is Brightside?

Founded in 2017 by Brad Kittredge, Mimi Winsberg, MD, and Jeremy Barth, Brightside is an online psychiatry and talk therapy provider that aims to ensure that everyone has access to the mental health care they deserve.  Kittredge founded the company after realizing that his own father had, like so many others, struggled to find help for his depression so he wanted his company to provide the kind of care he wished his dad have been able to find. 

Since then, the company has become one of the rising stars of the online therapy realm. This year, it raised over $50 million in its series B financing round–up from $24 million in its series A round last year–which shows how confident its investors are in the business.

What Services Does Brightside Offer?

Brightside focuses primarily on depression, but also monitors and treats users for anxiety, and offers a three-pronged approach: 

  • Medication 
  • Talk therapy 
  • Self-care 

You can choose either one or both of the first two options, and the self-care aspect is included in all three plans as 12 lessons that users can take as independent online study, in tandem with their scheduled therapy sessions. 

Each self-care lesson consists of a lecture, followed by questions modeled around basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people identify and change patterns and behaviors that negatively impact their emotional and psychological wellbeing. The goal of these classes is to help you reshape negative thought processes that contribute to your depression and anxiety. 

All talk therapy sessions are held with licensed therapists with several years of experience. For example, both therapists I met with when I tried Brightside’s services had over ten years of experience. 

The therapy sessions are only 30 minutes long, which is on the shorter side–some other sites offer 45-minute sessions at a similar price point–but the quality of care offered by the therapists, along with the added structure of the self-care lessons, makes up for it. (Are you looking for that ten-minute breathing exercise you’re worried a 30-minute session won’t have time for? Click on over to the self-care lesson.)

Medication management is also available, but you must first complete a video consultation with your psychiatric provider before a medication treatment plan can be established. The length of this session isn’t noted online, but follow-up appointments are 15 minutes each, and you can ask your provider to turn their camera off if you feel uncomfortable being face-to-face during these appointments.  

Brightside also offers weekly check-ins in the form of a short, virtual questionnaire to help you can keep tabs on how you are doing, and how your condition has been affected by treatment. This allows you to see how your symptoms are progressing over time, and help your provider adjust your treatment as needed.

Who Is Brightside for?

As noted above, Brightside is very specifically catered toward individuals looking for help with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. If you’re not dangerously depressed, you want help feeling better, or you are thinking of possibly trying out an SSRI, Brightside is absolutely a great place to start. 

While it neither rules out nor caters to people looking for mental health services outside of depression and anxiety (such as trauma issues or OCD), the company is very clear about what it doesn’t treat. 

Brightside is not for people with ADHD, substance abuse, BPD, or schizophrenia, as well as other diagnoses it considers better suited to in-person care.

The company’s reluctant to treat conditions it considers inappropriate for remote care or anyone who has recently been involuntarily hospitalized for psychiatric reasons only gave me more confidence in the level of caution and good medical practice it brings to its care model. Its main objective is to make depression medication—namely SSRIs and SNRIs—as well as talk therapy for depression and anxiety readily available and its FAQs offer the caveat that no one is guaranteed a prescription, and it also do not prescribe any controlled substances. 

How Much Does Brightside Cost?

Brightside offers three subscription plans, which, as mentioned above, all come with the 12-week self-care curriculum: 

  • The Medication Only plan is $95/month, which includes one 15-minute remote psychiatric provider evaluation a month, medication delivered monthly, and ongoing provider support and monitoring of your care, including any necessary adjustments.
  • The Therapy only plan is $299/month, which includes unlimited messaging and four monthly video sessions with your therapist. Additional video appointments can be purchased for $59 per session.
  • The Therapy and Medication plan is $349/month, which includes everything in the Medication and Therapy Only plans. 

Seventy-one percent of users said the services they received through Brightside were a good to excellent value for the cost. Eighty-eight percent of the users we surveyed found the company to be very affordable, affordable, or slightly affordable. 

Does Brightside Take Insurance?

Yes. Although Brightside is intended to be affordable out-of-pocket, it does accept insurance in all 50 states. The following insurance plans are considered in-network:

  • Cigna
  • Aetna 
  • Optum/United Healthcare (in CA & NV with national rollout coming soon)
  • Anthem CA
  • Allegiance

It also accepts HSA/FSA cards, allowing you to use pre-tax money from your paycheck to pay for medical services. 

Sixty percent of the users we surveyed said insurance helped them pay for Brightstar’s services, and 50% of users had either private or employer-provided insurance; however, it is unclear if these users also had HSA/FSA payments or used them to help pay for services they received.

Navigating the Brightside Website

Brightside

Brightside

The site is easy to navigate, with an appealing, turquoise color palate and intuitive navigation bars located on the top right of the homepage. There, you’ll find pages like Our Treatments, Reviews, FAQ, Business, and patient Login. You’ll also find a large, darker turquoise button that says “Start With a Free Assessment,” which takes you to a short questionnaire you have to fill out in order to be connected with a therapist.

Brightside

Brightside

That same button is also located several times over as you scroll down the homepage in orange, along with some high-level information on how Brightside’s therapy works, what it offers, and some stats on how helpful its treatment has been for patients.

Brightside

Brightside

The structure of the site is simple—in fact, 59% of users thought navigating the site was easy or very easy. Aside from an exceedingly vague “reviews” page, which claims to display over 2000 positive reviews from real-life clients (but without any context other than “Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what Brightside members are saying”), the information you can find on the site is all relevant. I particularly liked its “learn” section where you can find accurate, clearly presented information about what exactly anxiety and depression are, as well as how effective SSRIs are.

Brightside’s founders state they created the company because they have loved ones or patients with depression, and wanted to make treatment accessible; it comes across as a sincere goal that has been undertaken properly when you navigate the site.

Brightside

Brightside

Its FAQ page, which is linked in the top navigation bar on the site’s homepage as well as on the very bottom in the footer, is in-depth, and it includes 40 common questions one might have navigating a teletherapy site. I found most of my questions were easily answered. 

Some things were a little difficult to find on the site though. For example, it is somewhat hard to find contact information for the company. When I looked, I was led through a series of clicks that eventually advised me to call 911 if I was in distress, when really I was just looking for customer service. Still, its consideration for individuals with depression that requires immediate in-person medical attention is admirable.

Brightside has a social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with healthy followings on the former two (over 10,000 on Instagram and over 4,000 on Facebook). They post somewhat more often on their Instagram page, and the posts are usually easy to read, colorful facts about mental health that are expounded upon in the captions.

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Brightside?

As was mentioned above, the sign-up button is located in the top navigation bar on the homepage, as well as several times as you scroll down on that same page, but it’s labeled “Start With a Free Assessment.”  

Once you click on one of those buttons, you’re taken to a 20-question assessment designed to get to know you, what issues you’re looking to address, and what sort of therapy (and therapist) you think might be most helpful.  

First, it begins by asking you your first name and your zip code (to help narrow down which therapists can treat you). 

Then, it asks what condition you want help with if you already know. Your options are depression, anxiety, OCD, Postpartum depression, and insomnia, though, you can also pick “I’m not sure.” It also asks what symptoms you experience, and how often, which include if you have depressive thoughts, trouble sleeping, if you’re often tired, have little to no appetite, worry a lot, can’t sit still, and so on. 

It’s important to note that if you say you have suicidal thoughts, Brightside will suggest you seek “crisis support” since their therapists consider such a situation in need of immediate attention and beyond their scope. 

Once you’ve finished the questionnaire, you’ll be asked to create an account by entering your email. 

Next, it will give you access to your private portal and show you your results, which include a scale of your general anxiety and depression that ranges from minimal to severe. You can then click on Recommended Treatment Options, and it takes you to a page where it outlines which treatment option it recommends for you (based on your questionnaire), but it also explains the other two plans it has available as well if you’d prefer one of those.  


These results of your anxiety and depression scales are displayed on a graph, which over time will get filled out through self-reported weekly mental health check-ins, showing how you feel about your progress with your symptoms. 

However, bear in mind that even with a result of the lowest possible score for both anxiety and depression, it will still recommend you sign up for its medication and therapy plan.

Once you’ve chosen your plan–either medication, therapy, or both⁠—you’ll be taken to the next step in the sign-up process: matching you with a therapist. For this review, I choose the therapy plan. 

Matching With a Therapist

Unlike some of the other online therapy companies we reviewed, Brightside does not allow users to browse therapist bios or pick their own therapist. I thought this would annoy me, but instead, I found their system to be simpler, faster, and probably more effective than trying to make the decision myself. I’m not alone in that, either: 83% of our surveyed users said they found Brightside’s therapist matching system easy to use. 

In order to be matched, you’ll be asked to answer a new set of questions, but these questions are much more in-depth, allowing the company to best pick the therapist it assigns you. 

The questions get as specific as your height and weight (an FAQ explains that lifestyle can greatly affect depressive symptoms, which is ostensibly the reason for providing this information) and medication allergies, even if you are not seeking medication.

It also asks about your preferred pronouns, your therapy goals, drinking habits, recent major life changes, and if this is your first mental health episode or first time seeking treatment. The questions got so detailed and specific, it started to feel tedious until I realized, that’s it–at the end of it. Once I answered the last question, I wasn’t led to a list of search results to filter through; I was already matched with a therapist that I found to be exactly the type of person I would have selected had I done the search myself. 

My assigned therapist was a woman of color, had over ten years of experience, and worked specifically on CBT and “addressing the irrational way of thinking that impacts emotions and actions,” which is basically the core of Brightside’s treatment plan. Her photo was professional, and our first session went wonderfully (but more on that below).

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Brightside?

All therapy sessions are held over Zoom with Brightside. You can schedule (and reschedule) appointments through the patient portal on the website. Then when it’s time for your session, you can join the video call rom your portal on the website, or use the link they email you sent 30 minutes prior to the start of your consultation. 

I had no connectivity issues with any of my sessions, and it’s nice to use a platform as familiar and as functional as Zoom for therapy. I let myself into the waiting room five minutes before the session, and my therapist began the session right on time. Neither of us used headphones, and yet the sound was crystal clear with no echo. 

For the first session, my therapist began with an introduction of Brightside, filling me in on the missed session policy (more on that below), the 30-minute session length, and how I could message her anytime I wanted through the patient portal. She also told me I can schedule sessions whenever I want (for example, I could cram them all into one week if I so desired, I didn’t have to space them out once a week—which is an advantage over some of Brightside’s competitors.) 

She had a world map, a live plant, and a tidy office set up behind her, along with several framed degrees and certificates. The space looked like an actual in-person therapist’s office, which I think it was. I also tested other companies, such as Cerebral, where my therapists had online sessions in more ad-hoc spaces, so when I saw Brightside's background, I realized that the professionalism of her space helped put me in the right mindset. 

The first session managed to cover intake, therapy goals, and even a conversation about something immediate that was bothering me so the 30 minutes were well spent, with no time wasted, and yet it didn’t feel like we were pressed for time either.  

A fundamental aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the main modality used at Brightside, is supplemental “homework” that you do in between your therapy sessions. Through the portal, your therapist can see your homework and other “self-care” worksheets that you fill out, and they can discuss that work with you during a session.

Medication Management Sessions

Brightside’s medication management sessions happen once a month and consist of a 15-minute evaluation with your psychiatric provider conducted over Zoom. If your provider decides you would benefit from medication, they will prescribe you, and that medication will be sent to your home month. 

While you are required to be on camera for the evaluation, you can ask your provider to turn their camera off if that would make you more comfortable. 

Depending on your progress (discussed in your monthly consultation as well as in your weekly meetings with your talk therapist), your medication treatment plan may be adjusted over time. 

What Happens If You Missed a Session?

If you miss a session without canceling 24 hours ahead of time, you are charged a $20 missed session fee. However, it does not take away from your four monthly sessions—you can simply reschedule. It’s the same for psychiatry sessions (except you only get one of those a month). 

Switching Therapists

If you don’t like your therapist, you can switch at any time—although the process for doing so isn’t the most straightforward.

I found the user portal a little sparse while searching for a way to clearly and easily switch therapists. Finally, I found a way to send a message to the Brightside team, which created a ticket for my message, sent me an email, and told me my message would be replied to within business 24 hrs. 

I got a message back just over 24 business hours later (which was three days later, however, since it was a weekend), asking me what I was looking for in my new therapist, such as their gender and areas of expertise. 

I replied to the email, then called because I wanted to switch quickly. I spoke to a very nice lady in Texas who stayed on the phone with me as I made the switch through the portal. 

Again, Brightside selected my therapist for me, and again, I was completely satisfied with the level of care I received. My new therapist also had over 10 years of experience and led me through a productive, thought-provoking session.

Canceling Your Brightside Subscription

If you decide you don’t want to continue with your Brightside subscription, you can cancel easily. It just takes just a couple of clicks from inside your user portal, which you can access in the navigation bar on the homepage. 

You’re gently nudged to stick with it–it tells you that therapy can be hard and maybe you should message your therapist instead of canceling⁠—but then one more click allows you to confirm your cancellation. 

Since the membership is month-to-month and you’ve already paid up front, you can still schedule your remaining unused sessions after you have canceled if you have any. However, you have to use them all before the date your subscription expires.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

I found that both therapists I met with offered outstanding care, which likely has to do with their ten years of experience. They were kind and responsive, and my first therapist used the chat feature accessible in the portal to send me helpful worksheets on issues we had discussed after our session.

I also found taking the self-care lessons in tandem with the therapy sessions to be very effective⁠—I could use the lesson to reflect on what I had discussed in the session or use the session to talk about what I’d learned in the lesson. It was also helpful to revisit key tenets of CBT through the lesson that I had discussed with my therapist on my own. However, some people might not like this extra “homework,” which is an important part of CBT.

Another thing I liked about the self-care lessons is that if your therapist leaves or you decide to switch therapists, your self-care answers are available to the next person you work with, creating a documented record of what you’ve been working on. This should be helpful to both of you. 

I wasn’t alone in finding the quality of care at Brightside to be good. Of the users we surveyed, 75% said they would refer a friend to the site, and 62% said they would use Brightside again if they were to start online therapy over again. 81% of users rated the therapists in their state from good to excellent.

90% of users rated Brightstar as a good to excellent service overall. 

In addition, 91% of users rated the medication management and psychiatry services good to excellent; 60% said medication was available when they needed it, and 38% said psychiatrists were available to answers questions about medication needs. However, only 19% thought the psychiatric sessions were long enough to for their needs.   

Privacy Policies

Online therapy companies—including many of Brightside’s competitors—have come under fire for their privacy policies and how they use and gather private data on their users. So it’s natural to wonder if Brightside has similar issues. 

Most of Brightside’s privacy policy focuses on necessary information it tracks (like cookies) but nestled in there are those two important clauses: First, it reserves the right to sell the information that you gave the company during sign-up (which includes your email, phone number, mailing address, as well as other demographic information you provided during user surveys) to third party advertisers, so you may start getting ads based on private medical information you provided during intake. And second, it also reserves the right to make any changes it wants to this privacy policy at any time. 

That said, quite a bit of the policy relates to personal security, and your rights around privacy and how to exercise them. For example, the policy states “Where you have consented to the processing of your personal information, you may withdraw that consent at any time and prevent further processing by contacting us as described below.” This includes restricting access to cookie-based advertising and email communications.

Brightside vs. Its Competitors

As we mentioned, we compared Brightside against 55 other online therapy companies in order to get a sense of how it stacks up. 

Overall, the users we surveyed ranked Brightside favorably against the competition, with 78% saying they found Brightside better than other services they had used in the past. 38% said their therapist’s qualifications were better than previously used sites, and 31% said the site was easier to use. However, only 3% said it was easier to switch therapists on Brightside compared to other sites. 

However, if you are looking for help with a mental health condition other than depression and anxiety (say, ADHD or PTSD), Brightside is probably not your best option, as it will also readily admit. Teladoc might be a better choice for more specific mental health conditions, since they’re a full-service telemedicine company.

Additionally, if you feel like a half-hour isn’t long enough for your sessions, you might want to check out a site that offers longer session times, such as Talkspace. 

That said, Brightside does have a lot to offer if your primary concern is managing your depression or anxiety. If you like the idea of having a set 12-week curriculum built to change the way you think and deliver tangible results at the end of that time period (as Brightside claims), this is a good choice.

Final Verdict

Brightside is like a Michelin-starred restaurant with a set menu: they only do one thing, but they do it very well. The company is genuinely dedicated to helping individuals struggling with depression and anxiety, and it’s to Brightside’s benefit that it’s left other mental health conditions off their repertoire. 

Its prescription policy is conservative yet appropriate, and its therapy sessions are short yet effective. I felt as though its system is a well-designed, well-oiled machine–everything went smoothly (with the small exception of the weekend therapist swap), the level of care was excellent, and its template felt standardized. I strongly believe that it wasn’t luck of the draw that I had a great experience. 

Its platform is designed with both professional knowledge and attention to detail allowing every user access to the same outstanding quality of care. For anyone looking to delve into online care specifically for depression and anxiety, Brightside is an excellent place to do so. Overall, Brightside’s policies surrounding treatment and medication illustrate a responsible, professional standard for online care.

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. 

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. AADA. "Anxiety Disorders - Facts & Statistics."

  2. AADA. "What Is Depression?"

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.

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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