Cerebral Online Therapy Review

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Cerebral Online Therapy Review

Cerebral Online Therapy

Verywell's Rating
4.4

As the winner of the Best for Patient Satisfaction award, Cerebral had the highest overall rankings of all 33 companies we reviewed.

However, after the survey was conducted and this review was published, the company was accused of over-prescribing controlled substances to patients. These allegations will be taken into careful consideration when reviewing Cerebral for the 2022 Online Therapy Awards.

VERYWELL MIND's 2021 ONLINE THERAPY AWARDS
  • Best for Patient Satisfaction
  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Accepts multiple insurance plans

  • Offers talk therapy and medication management

  • Provider bios displayed on the website

  • Multiple ways to communicate with your therapist

  • Accepts HSA and FSA cards as payment

  • Ships prescriptions directly to your home

Cons
  • Insurance coverage varies by state

  • Talk therapy services not available in all 50 states

  • Not all conditions are treated in each state

  • Medication costs billed separately

  • No financial aid is available

  • Company is discontinuing prescription of controlled substances

Key Facts
Price
$85 to $195 per month
Is Insurance Accepted?
Yes
Communication Options
Messaging, Video Chat
HIPPA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
Yes
Does it Accept HSA/FSA?
Yes
Why Trust Us We surveyed 100 users from each online therapy company and asked the companies to complete questionnaires. Then, we conducted comprehensive research with a psychotherapist. Read our Full Methodology
33 Companies reviewed
3,497 Total users surveyed
300 Data points analyzed

In March 2022, news broke that a number of current and former Cerebral clinicians and staff members said they felt pressure from company leadership to over-prescribe stimulants, benzodiazepines, and other controlled substances. 

Former Vice President of Product and Engineering Matt Truebe alleged in an April 2022 lawsuit that then-president and CMO Dr. David Mou had announced a goal of prescribing stimulants to every single client with an ADHD diagnosis. 

Truebe also claimed in his lawsuit that about 2,000 patient accounts had duplicate mailing addresses in the company’s database, suggesting that some people might have received multiple prescriptions of the same monthly medication. Cerebral has denied these allegations.

Cerebral announced in May 2022 that it would stop prescribing most controlled substances to new clients as of May 20 and to existing clients as of Oct. 15. The company said the decision was related to the upcoming expiration of the waiver to the Ryan Haight Act, which has allowed virtual prescriptions of controlled substances since 2020. Clinicians will still be able to prescribe naloxone and suboxone (buprenorphine + naloxone) for the treatment of opioid addiction. 

The federal government has opened an investigation to determine whether the company violated the Controlled Substances Act. Mou replaced Cerebral co-founder Kyle Robertson as CEO on May 18, 2022. 

The research, surveying, and analysis required to review Cerebral’s services took place in the second half of 2021, before this information came to light. Verywell Mind will follow this developing story closely as we review the company for our 2022 Online Therapy Awards.

Founded in 2020, Cerebral is a fairly young online therapy company based out of San Francisco. In the short time since its launch, it has expanded rapidly, serving users in all 50 states by offering either talk therapy or medication services for a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, postpartum depression, and menopausal depression.

Plus, the company is in-network with multiple insurance companies and ships prescriptions right to your door. As a subscriber, you also are assigned a care coordinator to act as your case manager, checking in with you once a month to make sure you're happy with the quality of service.

Cerebral did not respond to our questionnaire, despite our multiple attempts to contact a representative. This hindered our ability to gain as much insight into the company and its goals as we could with some of its competitors. We had to rely exclusively on user survey data to assess the business.

Keep reading to see how Cerebral stacks up against its online therapy competition. 

First Impressions and Sign-up Process 

When you visit the Cerebral homepage, you're greeted with the words, "Expert help for your emotional health," beside a photo of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who now serves as the company's chief impact officer. Below that, you'll see a summary of some of the conditions it treats and services it provides, as well as a large button inviting you to get started.

Simone Biles on Cerebral Homepage

Scrolling down, you’ll find further details about the company’s services, a link to a free emotional assessment, a flowchart of how services work, and detailed information about the different membership plans and prices. At the very bottom of the page, you will see a few testimonials and a link to the “Care Team” page, where you can read the bios of the therapists and doctors you can meet with. 

Overall, the website feels clean, inviting, and modern. It’s easy to navigate and find the relevant information you might want before signing up, especially if you visit the company’s detailed and thorough FAQ page

The website also has a decent mental health blog, but since there is no link to it in the main menu (just at the bottom of the page), you might miss it unless you go looking for it. It’s hard not to notice that many of the posts are written by the same group of writers, but there is no author bio in the posts, so it is not clear what the authors’ qualifications are to write about these mental health topics. 

At the bottom of the page, you’ll also find links to additional resources about anxiety, depression, and ADHD, as well as links to crisis resources. 

Eighty-five percent of the users we surveyed reported that they either had a very good or excellent experience signing up for Cerebral.

The process is pretty straightforward: Begin by creating your account with your name and contact information; then, you’ll answer a series of clinical questions as part of an emotional assessment once your email is confirmed. The site will use your answers to recommend a Cerebral plan (though the choice is always yours) and available therapists and providers.

Once the sign-up process is complete, you’ll receive a notification from your provider who will schedule a video or phone call with you relatively quickly. Thirty-nine percent of respondents told us they heard back the same day, 28% said it took a couple of days, and 16% said they heard back the same week. Only 17% said it took longer than a week.  

Cost 

Eighty percent of the users we polled said Cerebral’s subscription prices were very good or excellent. Overall, the company's out-of-pocket prices are still below average compared to the other companies we reviewed, including Talkspace and Betterhelp, and they become very low cost if the company is in-network with your insurance plan.

Cerebral's Prices Compared to Other Therapy Options

What Subscription Plans Does It Offer?

Cerebral offers three different therapy plans, which all bill you monthly. 

The three plans include:

  • The Medication & Care Counseling Plan: This costs $85 per month and includes the evaluation, diagnosis, and, if necessary, a prescription from a medical provider, as well as regular video or phone sessions with your care counselor.  
  • The Therapy Plan: This plan costs $259 per month and includes weekly video or phone sessions with a licensed therapist and the ability to message your therapist anytime. 
  • The Medication + Therapy Plan: For $325 per month, you can receive everything included in the other two plans above. 

For both plans that include the ability to receive a prescription, the cost of the medication will be billed separately, but it will be automatically shipped to your home monthly. (Shipping is included in the price of your medication, though.)

It is worth noting that while you are guaranteed weekly talk therapy sessions, the Cerebral website does not state how long sessions are. Since the company did not respond to our questionnaire, we do not know the typical session length.

Is There a Free Trial?

There is no free trial offered for Cerebral, though you can take the emotional assessment for free without committing to signing up. 

Does Cerebral Accept Insurance?

Cerebral accepts multiple insurance plans—and if you're in-network, your subscription plan, regardless of which one you choose, costs only $29 a month. However, depending on your plan, you might also have to pay a copay, as well as the cost of the medication. 

It is worth noting that the insurance plans the company accepts vary depending on what state you live in, so make sure Cerebral is in-network before you sign up if you don't want to pay out of pocket.

You also can pay for your subscription with HSA/FSA funds.

Can You Change or Cancel Your Subscription?

You can cancel at any time by sending an email, and your request will be confirmed within a few hours. You also can cancel or reschedule any video call or phone call with your provider as long as you give 24 hours' notice. 

Are There Discounts Available?

Cerebral offers a $30 special for the first month, or readers can use code VERYWELL65 to get 65% off the first month of medication management and counseling.

The company does not provide financial aid.

Ease of Use

Once you’ve signed up for your plan, your prescriber or therapist will reach out to schedule your initial consultation so you both can determine your treatment plan. 

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

From there, you will schedule all your weekly or monthly live sessions directly in your private user portal on a desktop or in the Cerebral app. This portal is where you can send messages to your providers whenever you want. This is also where your care counselor will check in with you once a month to see how you’re progressing, answer any questions you have, or work with you to resolve any issues. 

Eighty-three percent of the users we surveyed thought the Cerebral platform was either very good or excellent in terms of user-friendliness, and 84% thought the video and platform quality was either very good or excellent.

If you’re not happy with your prescriber or therapist, you can request a switch when you speak with your care counselor, send a message through the contact page, or call the company’s customer service line during business hours. Depending on what method you choose, the switching process might take longer than at some of the other companies we reviewed.

Still, 86% of users we surveyed found the process easy or very easy—which is higher than the average number of users who found the switching process easy or very easy at competitor sites. 

Therapists' Qualifications and Quality of Care

Eighty-eight percent of our survey respondents said that therapist qualifications were a big reason why they chose Cerebral for its online therapy, and 86% said the therapist qualifications were very good or excellent. 

If the provider bios on Cerebral’s website represent the entire staff (a fact we couldn’t confirm since the company didn’t respond to our questionnaire), it would appear that Cerebral has hundreds of prescribing care providers, licensed therapists, and counselors. Some of the prescribers are psychiatrists, while others are medical doctors or board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioners. 

All Cerebral therapists are licensed and have a graduate degree. Some have a Ph.D. in their field, while others are licensed clinical social workers or counselors. Due to licensing laws and availability, the number of providers per state may vary. 

Ninety-five percent of users reported they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options available.

Since the company didn’t respond to our questionnaire, we’re not sure how long providers stay with the company or whether turnover and continuity of care are issues. 

The therapists associated with Cerebral are all licensed in their respective states. The care counselors may also be licensed therapists, but not all of them are, since they are not meant to provide therapy but rather offer extra support and check on your progress. 

Types of Therapy Offered

Cerebral, as mentioned, offers talk therapy and medication management. The company currently offers medication management to people in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C., but talk therapy is currently only available in 30 states. 

The treatment you receive at Cerebral will vary depending on who your provider is, but some of the therapy techniques currently offered by Cerebral therapists include: 

Privacy Policies

According to its privacy policy, Cerebral takes client privacy and data protection seriously. The company is HIPAA compliant and adheres to all laws and protocols to protect a patient’s privacy. It also used encryption to protect private information in case the company is hacked. 

However, even though Cerebral protects your identity, the services are not anonymous. The company knows who you are and makes efforts to verify your identity before you can see a clinician. In addition to requiring your name, birth date, contact information, and emergency contact information, the company also requires that you upload a current, unobstructed picture of your face and a current photo ID card before you can begin to utilize the services. 

If your therapist decides you need more help during your treatment than they can offer, they will refer you to a local resource for a higher level of care. If your medical provider or therapist feels you are in danger or a danger to others, they will contact local authorities and your emergency contact as is required by law.

You can request a copy of your medical records from Cerebral by submitting a written request to your prescriber or therapist.

Overall Client Satisfaction

Cerebral was very highly rated with the users we surveyed. Eighty-three percent said the services they received were either very good or excellent, while 81% said its value was very good or excellent for the money spent.

Eighty-three percent of those who had used other online therapy services said Cerebral was better or much better than their previous online service. 

Cerebral’s users seem pretty loyal to the company, especially given that it’s relatively new. Thirty-one percent said they had been with the company less than six months, but 34% said they had been using it for six months to a year, and 35% had been using it for over a year. In fact, 92% of users told us they were likely or very likely to be working with a Cerebral provider in 12 months. 

Ninety-five percent said they were either likely or very likely to recommend someone like themselves to Cerebral.

Is Cerebral Right For You?

If you have an insurance plan in-network with Cerebral, this is the online therapy company we recommend if you’re looking for individual treatment because the price ($29 + copay and medication cost) is much more affordable than many of the other companies we reviewed.

Cerebral is still a good choice, though, if your insurance is not in-network and you need a combination of talk therapy and medication. While the most expensive at the company, this plan is still more affordable out-of-pocket than several of the other companies we reviewed, including Talkspace. It might also work well for you if you already have a prescription for a mental health medication but need a more affordable and convenient way to get it every month. 

Cerebral could work well for people with postpartum depression, ADHD, PTSD, and bipolar depression. However, medications for the latter three conditions can only be prescribed in some states. 

Cerebral is not for everyone. If you want couples therapy, teen counseling, family therapy, or group therapy, this isn’t the company for you. It’s also inappropriate for people with active addiction issues, active eating disorders, relationship issues, or dynamic family issues. If you have a more severe form of depression or panic disorder, it may also not be a good fit. 

Cerebral is not an emergency service so it won’t work for people who are in crisis, struggling with suicidal thoughts, or need inpatient care. People with psychotic disorders or a history of psychosis are also not a good fit.

Cerebral vs Monument

Cerebral and Monument are two companies that offer individual talk therapy and medication management with licensed therapists and board-certified medical providers. Both have well-designed websites that are informative, resource-laden, and easy to navigate. 

However, these two companies have completely different areas of specialization. While Cerebral focuses on treating people with anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, and insomnia, Monument aims its services at people in alcohol addiction recovery.

As a result, Monument’s medication management focuses exclusively on prescribing medications that improve a person’s ability to resist alcohol and stay sober.

Website Comparison: Cerebral vs Monument

Therapy sessions at both companies take place via video or phone, though both also allow you to send messages to your provider through the portal at any time. Cerebral lists all of its providers’ bios on the website, whereas Monument offers opportunities for potential clients to meet the therapists in community group forums. 

Cerebral and Monument differ in terms of price. While Cerebral has three plans ranging from $85 per month to $325 per month (or $29 with insurance) and medications are billed separately, Monument offers a free membership to anyone who wants to participate in its sober community chat forum. You only pay for supplemental services, which start at $10 a month (with a $45 start-up fee) and go up to $249 a month. 

When we surveyed users, Cerebral had a slight edge: 

  • Eighty-three percent said the services were either very good or excellent, compared to 75% at Monument. 
  • Ninety-five percent said they were either likely or very likely to refer someone to the company, whereas only 88% of Monument clients said the same. 
  • Eighty-three percent said Cerebral services were either better or much better than the services at the companies they used before. That number was 80% at Monument. 

However, 93% of Monument respondents said they were either likely or very likely to still be seeing a therapist within the company a year from now, compared to 89% at Cerebral. 

Final Verdict

If you have the right insurance plan, Cerebral can be a cost-effective and convenient way to receive online talk therapy and medication management—though it's still a pretty affordable option if you have to pay out-of-pocket, too. You get access to highly qualified licensed therapists as well as board-certified prescribing providers, and your medications are shipped directly to your home—no stop at the pharmacy required. Plus, you'll have a care coordinator checking in with you every month to make sure you're happy with the care you're receiving.

However, not all services are available in every state, so check that the company will work for your needs.

Methodology

Our methodology for evaluating online therapy companies is comprehensive and data-driven. To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 33 companies and surveyed 100 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 website usability, sign-up
process, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, and how
easy it is to change therapists. We then looked at therapist qualifications, the types of therapy offered, quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, and the therapist assignment process. Finally, we looked at cost, value for money, whether the companies take insurance, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood clients would recommend them.

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
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