Brightside vs. Talkspace

Talkspace is a one-stop therapy shop; Brightside treats depression and anxiety

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Online therapy has gained steam in recent years, accelerating significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization recently found the COVID-19 pandemic to be responsible for a global 25% increase in anxiety and depression. As if that wasn’t bad enough, finances remain a barrier to receiving care. Our 2022 Cost of Therapy Survey found that 40% of surveyed therapy seekers need financial assistance to fund their treatment and 49% are concerned about their ability to afford their treatment over time. 

With this, more and more companies are developing with the goal of providing quality therapy virtually. Brightside and Talkspace are two big players in the online therapy space. Both of these virtual platforms offer similar therapy services and missions. We’ve reviewed them by surveying 105 users from both, and I tested both services myself. Here are the differences, similarities, and which is best for you.  

Brightside vs. Talkspace: How Do They Compare?

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.

: Brightside


  • Price: $95-$349
  • Is Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Type Of Therapy: Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry

Brightside is a virtual therapy platform based in San Francisco offering therapy and psychiatry services. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy to support individuals experiencing anxiety and depression. Founded in 2017, it blends 30-minute therapy sessions with a virtual cognitive behavioral therapy program to help individuals heal. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Accepts insurance

  • Offers free self-care lessons

  • Reasonably priced

Cons
  • Sessions are short

  • Requires homework outside of sessions

  • Doesn’t offer couples therapy

: Talkspace


  • Price: $276 - $516 monthly
  • Is Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Type Of Therapy: Couples Therapy, Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry, Teen Counseling

Talkspace is a New York City-based company with a mission of increasing the affordability and accessibility of therapy. It offers individual therapy for adults and teens, couples therapy, and psychiatry services. The company launched in 2016 and is known for its emphasis on text-messaging therapy sessions.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Accepts insurance

  • Switching therapists is easy

  • Can hold sessions via video, audio, or messaging

Cons
  • Quality of care varies

  • App is not user-friendly

  • Cannot view pricing information until you sign up

Compare the Brightside vs. Talkspace: How Do They Compare?

Best For
Price
Is Insurance Accepted?
Does it Accept HSA/FSA?
Type Of Therapy
Communication Options
Reset All
Brightside N/A $95-$349 Yes Yes Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry Messaging, Video Chat Learn More
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Talkspace N/A $276 - $516 monthly Yes Yes Couples Therapy, Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry, Teen Counseling Audio, Live Chat, Messaging, Phone, Video Chat Learn More
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Brightside vs. Talkspace: What Types of Therapy Do They Offer?

Both Brightside and Talkspace serve clients in all 50 states, which sets them apart from some of the other companies we reviewed. 

Brightside only offers individual therapy and psychiatry services for adults. The initial therapy session is 45 minutes long, with all follow-up sessions lasting 30 minutes. When I tried out the Brightside platform, I asked my therapist why the sessions were only 30 minutes. She explained that the hope is clients will complete their weekly cognitive behavioral therapy lesson outside of the session, thus supplementing the 30-minute appointment. 

Psychiatry appointments are about 15 minutes long, though the first appointment may run a bit longer.

At Talkspace, therapy services also last 30 minutes, but a key difference between it and Brightside is that Talkspace also offers therapy for couples and teens. While their appointments are the same amount of time, I found Brightside’s services to be much more focused and efficient. My Talkspace sessions were not as organized, and I missed the virtual lessons that I was receiving through Brightside. 

It’s also worth noting that while 30 minutes is short for individual therapy, it’s even shorter for couples therapy, where two people need time to talk. 

Talkspace psychiatry services are longer than at Brightside, though. An initial psychiatric evaluation is one hour long, with every follow-up lasting 30 minutes. 

While Talkspace doesn’t offer any virtual mental health lessons, it does have weekly workshops focusing on various mental wellness topics available in its highest-priced subscription package. 

Brightside vs. Talkspace: How Much Do Services Cost?

Brightside offers three monthly plans:

  • Individual therapy: 4 sessions per month, as well as access to its cognitive behavioral therapy program, for $299
  • Psychiatry: 1 appointment per month, plus medication delivery and monitoring, for $95 plus the cost of the medication
  • A combination of therapy and psychiatry: All of the above for $349

Talkspace, meanwhile, offers multiple tiers of membership:

  • Text-messaging therapy: Begins at $276 per month
  • Weekly video sessions and unlimited messaging: $396 a month
  • Weekly workshops, video sessions, and messaging: $436 per month
  • Couples therapy, including weekly sessions and unlimited messaging: Also $436 per month 

Talkspace's psychiatry services are not based on a monthly subscription model. Instead, it is paid per session. The initial session is $249, with follow-up sessions costing $125 each. 

Both companies accept insurance. Brightside is in-network with Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, and Anthem. Talkspace is in-network with Optum, Cigna, Oscar, and Regence. The exact services covered vary depending on your insurance plan. 

At both companies, you can cancel your membership at any time—just be sure to do so before your next billing date to avoid getting charged. At Brightside, if you’d like a refund, you’re directed to reach out to Brightside’s customer service team. Talkspace doesn’t offer refunds. 

Of the users we surveyed, Brightside’s didn’t find it to be the most accessible, with just 44% rating it as affordable, while at Talkspace, 58% of users found the platform to be affordable. 

If multiple members of the family are seeking out therapy through either of these platforms, it could easily exceed over $1000 in monthly fees. This is likely unsustainable for many, given that the median American household income is $70,784.

Brightside vs. Talkspace: Navigating the Websites & Apps

A difference between Brightside and Talkspace is that Brightside solely exists as a website, while Talkspace has both a website and an app. Let’s start by exploring the experience of navigating Brightside’s website.

Brightside

At first glance, Brightside has an inviting feel, with a header that states it offers “life-changing care” for various mental health disorders. All images on the website depict a wide range of people, inclusive of many different ages and races. Much of the language on the websites boasts Brightside’s research outcomes, including 86% of members feeling better within 12 weeks and another 71% reaching remission within 12 weeks. There are also testimonials at the bottom of the page. 

Brightside testimonial

Three things I really appreciate about the Brightside website is that it clearly breaks down the price of each plan, lists the insurance companies it's in-network with, and offers frequently asked questions all on the homepage. It was refreshing not to have to click around for this information.

Brightside price

Moving onto Talkspace: Its website also feels warm and inviting, thanks to its colorful blue and green tones set against a white background. The first thing I see when I head to the page is, “Feeling better starts with a single message.” 

The website feels more geared towards young people, though, with marketing images depicting people who all seem to be under 35 years old. While it does list the insurance companies it is in-network with, it does not list its out-of-pocket pricing. I also couldn’t find a frequently asked questions section anywhere on the website. 

Talkspace homepage

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, the footer has various links in small font. Some of these include free mental health tests, information on depression and anxiety, how to find a therapist through Talkspace, and information on its various services. In general, this website felt difficult to navigate.

Upon downloading the Talkspace app, you are immediately prompted to either sign up or log in. Until you do one or the other, you aren’t able to access any functions of the app. Once you sign up, your user portal looks the same both on the app and the website. 

Talkspace app

While I personally felt Brightside’s website was easier to navigate than Talkspace’s, our user data disagrees. Eighty-two percent of users found the experience of navigating the Talkspace website easy. This is 13% more than the 69% of users who found the Brightside website easy to navigate.

Brightside vs. Talkspace: How Do You Sign Up? 

Deciding to attend therapy is hard enough. Ideally, signing up for an online therapy platform won’t make it harder. Both Brightside and Talkspace have relatively simple signup procedures, but there are some key differences to keep in mind:

  • First, Brightside will show you the pricing options for various plans prior to you even signing up. 
  • Second, Brightside will match you with a therapist instantly while Talkspace will take about 48 hours to match you with a therapist. 

But let’s take a closer look at both signup processes.

Brightside 

Signing up for therapy at Brightside is easy, but be prepared to set aside at least 20 minutes to do it. To get started, click on one of the many areas on the website where you’re invited to complete a free assessment. Once you do so, you’ll begin the signup process. 

Brightside signup

First, you’ll complete a questionnaire that takes less than five minutes. This assessment will invite you to answer questions that work to zero in on your current mental health symptoms. You’ll also need to share some basic information, like your date of birth and your address. Upon doing so, you are directed to your user portal where you receive a preliminary diagnosis plus an explanation of the reasoning behind the diagnosis. In the portal, you’ll also be prompted to sign up for a therapy session. 

When booking a therapy session, you’ll need to enter payment and pay for the full subscription upfront. After paying, you can expect about 15 more minutes of questionnaires. After you complete all questionnaires, you’re offered various appointment times. 

This is how you’re matched with a therapist: As soon as you decide which time you’d like, you’re scheduled for your first appointment. Keep in mind that this will be the first time you’re able to see any information about your therapist. That being said, Brightside users were pleased with their therapist, and 79% of users said their provider met most, if not all, of their needs.

The Brightside clients we surveyed generally found the signup process to be pretty straightforward, with 75% referring to the process as either easy or very easy. 

Talkspace

To get started with Talkspace, you’ll click on which service you want to sign up for on the homepage. 

Talkspace sign up

Upon doing so, you’re prompted to answer a brief assessment. This assessment will ask for information on why you’re seeking therapy, how old you are, and where you’re based. The assessment took less than five minutes. 

Talkspace assessment

Once completed, you are able to choose from your desired plan. Keep in mind, this is the first time you’ll see Talkspace’s costs. It does alert you that while your payment information will be stored on file, you won’t be charged until you are matched with a therapist.

After picking your plan, you are immediately taken to your user portal, which consists of a chat window and icons in the corner that will take you to pages outlining your subscription, personal information, payment methods, and other administrative details. 

In the chat window, there is a message letting you know that you are currently being matched with a Talkspace therapist and you can expect to receive a provider within 48 hours. Talkspace’s matching service seems to be pretty spot on; 78% of Talkspace users said their provider met most or all of their needs.

Overall, the process was very simple at Talkspace and the users we surveyed agree, with 76% saying they considered the process easy. 

Brightside vs. Talkspace: How Do Therapy Sessions Work?

While Brightside and Talkspace have similar session models, there are some unique features for each service. Below are the key differences in how messaging, sessions, and cancellations work for each company. 

Messaging Your Therapist

Messaging your therapist is easy both on Brightside and Talkspace. On Brightside, you’ll head over to the chat box in your user portal and simply send them a message. Your therapist will respond at their earliest convenience, which was the same day in my case. Brightside does not offer live text messaging sessions. Instead, messaging is used as an adjunct to your weekly live video sessions. 

Talkspace has a much larger emphasis on messaging, with the option of having your weekly live session be solely via text messaging. Both my individual and couples Talkspace therapists set expectations around how much they can message between sessions, with both of them stating they checked their messages twice a day Monday through Friday. 

On both platforms, therapists were engaged and thoughtful when addressing any messages I sent between sessions.

Video Sessions

My first Brightside video session was 45 minutes long, with all subsequent sessions lasting 30 minutes. My provider was punctual and professional. I noticed her background was neat, looking like an actual therapist’s office. She was warm and thoughtful, explaining how the platform works, asking me questions, and immediately providing actionable feedback. She encouraged me to try out the platform's virtual cognitive behavioral therapy lessons between sessions. In my second session, she continued to build rapport as she provided solution-focused insight and implemented mindfulness techniques. 

Talkspace only offers 30-minute sessions, and doesn’t have any self-guided resources to use in between sessions. I found Talkspace’s services to be less professional. My therapist was over five minutes late to our first session. She didn’t send me a message giving me a heads-up, nor did she respond to the one I sent her asking if our session was still happening. She was visibly flustered, and I noticed she was looking off-camera for much of our time together. 

Couples Therapy Sessions

Brightside does not offer couples therapy sessions, like Talkspace does. 

My partner and I signed up for a Talkspace couples therapy session, which ran just 30 minutes, which felt really quick for both of us to get acclimated and share our history. Our couples therapist was wonderful, though. She was skilled at building rapport with each of us swiftly, and her background was neat and professional. I felt she was confident in her skills and ability to support us, which instantly put both of us at ease. 

Missed Sessions 

If you no-show or cancel a session with less than 24 hours notice at Brightside, you’re charged a $20 cancellation fee. However, you do not forfeit one of your sessions for the month.

At Talkspace, you’re not charged a fee for no-shows or late cancellations. However, you do forfeit one of your sessions for that month. 

Brightside vs. Talkspace: Therapist Qualifications

I was impressed with the qualifications and professional training of my Brightside therapist. She was a licensed psychologist with a background in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. She’d been practicing for over 20 years, making me feel comfortable that she was more than qualified to offer support. That being said, Brightside does not have a public list of its providers, making it hard for me to compare her to others. Brightside states that it hires therapists who are graduates of prominent programs, have years of experience, and are fully licensed. Eighty-six percent of users rated the qualifications of Brightside therapists as good, very good, or excellent.

Talkspace has a wide range of therapists. I was impressed by the variety of licenses, races, and ages of providers. While I didn’t feel the best about my experience with my first individual therapist, I knew there were plenty of others I could choose from. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to switch therapists. Turns out nearly half (49%) of users we surveyed tried out two to three therapists before landing on one. Plenty were pleased with their experience, with 75% of users stating they’d use Talkspace again if they needed to find another therapist. 

Brightside vs. Talkspace: Switching Therapists

The process of switching therapists differs significantly between platforms. At Brightside, you have to email the customer care department, while you can switch therapists at the click of a button at Talkspace. 

Attempting to switch therapists at Brightside wasn’t without its bumps. While I really enjoyed my time with my first therapist, I was curious to explore other options. I reached out to Brightside’s customer care department by email and let them know I was ready to switch therapists. They responded the following business day and asked me if I had any particular preferences for my new therapist. I let them know I’d prefer to work with a BIPOC female provider. They matched me with a new provider within a day. 

However, there was a booking glitch, and I was unable to book with her. I let customer care know, and they resolved it within one business day. I was able to book a session about one week out from my initial request. Customer care reached out two days before my session to let me know the therapist was no longer with the platform and they’d reassign me to another provider in one week. This was frustrating, and the whole process left me without care for two weeks. 

When I wanted to switch therapists at Talkspace, I simply went to my account settings, clicked on the section that covers my payment and plan information, and scrolled down to the bottom of the page. There is a button that invites me to switch providers, offering an instant switch.

Brightside vs. Talkspace: Privacy Policies

User privacy is of great concern when it comes to virtual therapy companies. While both Brightside and Talkspace are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal law protecting personal health information, they also have some things to look out for in their privacy policies.

Let’s start with Brightside. 

In Brightside’s privacy policies, there is a note stating that users’ data will be used for research purposes. It clearly states all data will be anonymized and that researchers uphold the same confidentiality rules as Brightside as a whole. There isn’t a way to opt out of having your data used for research. While measuring the platform’s clinical outcomes is important, it is equally important to be mindful of users’ autonomy. I found it a bit concerning that this was in the privacy policy, as users aren’t very likely to check this out first before signing up. 

Talkspace has come under fire in the press for its privacy practices. In June 2022, three U.S. senators released a statement about Talkspace and BetterHelp, condemning their use of users’ personal data. There is concern that large mental health platforms like Talkspace are sharing users’ data with large tech companies. While the data is anonymous, there is still a possibility of identifying details of users being exchanged. 

Talkspace’s privacy policy also covers research. It states that the company will participate in university research studies occasionally and may request users to join them. However, it is made clear that users have to provide written authorization proving that they consent to participate in the study. 

While Brightside’s use of anonymized data for research purposes isn’t the best, it does beat out Talkspace sharing user data with tech companies. At least Brightside explicitly states that its team of researchers must uphold the same privacy practices as the company as a whole.

Brightside vs. Talkspace: User Satisfaction

Both Brightside and Talkspace clients are generally satisfied with the platforms. 

Ninety percent of Brightside users rated the platform as good, if not excellent.

Talkspace landed the exact same rating from users.

As a user, I was very pleased with the quality of my first Brightside provider, though I was disappointed in never getting to meet my second provider. My experience with Talkspace’s individual therapy services was lackluster at best. However, my couples therapist renewed my sense of faith in the platform. The only downfall is that 30 minutes simply isn’t long enough for a couples therapy session. 

Therapists were equally responsive across platforms—I could expect to hear back from them within the same day. Scheduling was also easy on both platforms. I was able to book sessions instantly from their respective user portals. 

While I was disappointed in the outcome of my Brightside therapist switch, I did appreciate its customer service team. They were very quick with getting me support. When I mentioned I was upset by the two-week lapse in care, they offered to give me a refund for the whole month’s subscription. The majority (69%) of Brightside users were satisfied with the customer service they received through the platform. Even more Talkspace users were pleased with the customer service they received, with its customer service satisfaction rating landing at 74%. 

Final Verdict

While Brightside and Talkspace offer similar services, there are major differences to keep in mind about each platform. First, Brightside's standard plan, offering four 30-minute individual video sessions and unlimited messaging, costs $299, while a similar Talkspace plan costs $396. Brightside’s psychiatry offerings are significantly less expensive than Talkspace's at just $95 a month, or $349 for therapy and medication management. Talkspace’s initial psychiatry session will run you $275, with follow-ups costing $125 each. Both platforms accept plans from four insurance companies. 

Brightside offers a virtual cognitive behavioral therapy program alongside its services, while Talkspace doesn’t have any out-of-session resources. Neither company has the best privacy policy, but Talkspace’s controversy over sharing data with tech companies feels a bit more severe than Brightside using anonymized data for research purposes. 

Talkspace offers couples therapy and teen counseling services, two services that Brightside doesn’t. This makes it a very well-rounded service, which we liked. It would be a great company to check out if you’re new to therapy or are interested in pursuing therapy for the whole family. If you’re in a partnership or are seeking out support for your teenager, Talkspace may be your best bet. In addition, the users we surveyed rated Talkspace higher than Brightside. Still, we would still recommend Brightside. It is a great pick for people with anxiety and depression due to the price point and the extra resources offered. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Brightside and Talkspace Prescribe Medication?

Yes, Brightside and Talkspace both offer services where you can receive a prescription for mental health medication. Keep in mind that neither platform can prescribe controlled substances like Xanax, Klonopin, or Ritalin.

How Often Can You Speak to Therapists on Brightside and Talkspace?

Each platform offers sessions on a weekly basis. Additionally, you can message your therapist as much as you’d like between sessions.

How Long Are Brightside and Talkspace Sessions?

Your first Brightside session will be 45 minutes long, then every session after will be 30 minutes. All Talkspace sessions are 30 minutes long.

Are Brightside and Talkspace Covered by Insurance?

Brightside and Talkspace are covered by some insurance plans. Brightside is in-network with Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, and Anthem. Talkspace is in-network with Optum, Cigna, Oscar, and Regence. Neither plan accepts Medicaid or Medicare.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately compare Brightside and Talkspace, we surveyed 105 users of each company. Additionally, I tested each service and interviewed a Talkspace therapist. This allowed me to gather qualitative and quantitative data about the user experience at each of these companies. When scoring each of these platforms, I considered the following factors: price point, the number of insurance plans accepted, quality of care, types of services offered, overall user satisfaction, company reputation, privacy practices, and general user feedback.  

Psychologist talking to patient

Fiordaliso / Getty Images

Article 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. Semega J, Kollar M. Income in the United States: 2021. U.S. Census Bureau.

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.

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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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April McCormick
April McCormick

April is the health editor for performance marketing at Verywell. Her work has appeared in Time, Parents Magazine, The Huffington Post, TripSavvy, Parenting.com, First Time Mom and Dad, Mama Mia, All4Women, the New York Times Bestseller, A Letter To My Mom, and more.

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