Circles Review

Find a supportive group of people who know exactly what you’re going through.

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3.8

Circles

Circles

Circles

Pros
  • Convenient access to online group therapy

  • Different groups dedicated to specific issues

  • Bios of all therapists and group facilitators posted on the website

  • You can choose what group you want to join

  • Groups are led by licensed therapists and certified life coaches

  • Informative, helpful blog and free online resources available

  • Unlimited messaging available

  • Free trial available

Cons
  • Only offers group therapy

  • No medication management services

  • Does not accept health insurance

  • FAQ section on the website isn’t that thorough

  • Website does not display emergency resources

If you’re looking for a safe space to share your feelings with people who can relate to your experience, Circles is the company we recommend. All groups are topic-specific, held weekly, and guided by professional therapists.

3.8

Circles

Circles

Circles

When you think of online therapy, chances are you think of individual talk therapy—but if the idea of talking one-on-one with a therapist isn’t what you want to do, you have another option: group therapy. Every week, you can meet with a therapist and a group of people who relate to your experience because they’re going through something similar. And now, you can do that online, thanks to companies like Circles. 

Originally founded as ‘7 Chairs’ in 2018 by Irad Eichler and Dan Landa, Circles changed its name in 2020, but its mission has remained largely the same: to offer people emotional group support for whatever mental health issue they’re dealing with—whether that’s grief, relationship issues, parenting issues, stress, depression, anxiety, or something else—all from the comfort of their own home. And on this front, the company stands out from many of the others we reviewed because it offers a different form of psychotherapy, all for much less than the cost of a traditional in-office therapy visit. 

To fairly and thoroughly review Circles against its competitors, we surveyed 100 current users from 33 different online therapy platforms 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 Circles stacks up against its online therapy competition.

First Impressions and Sign-up Process

When you land on the Circles homepage, you’re greeted by the encouraging words “Share with those who can truly support you,” and an illustration of five people with their arms around each others’ backs. Below that, you’ll find a short description of how Circles’ groups work and a blue button inviting you to “Join a Circle.” 

Circles
The Circles Homepage.

Circles

Scrolling down, you’ll find an illustrated flowchart showing why a Circle is helpful, an explanation of why their prices are more affordable than traditional therapy, and an explanation of the sign-up process. Towards the bottom of the page, you’ll find testimonials, bios of some of the group facilitators, the company’s promises to their clients, links to where to download the app, and some FAQs. You’ll also find a menu at the top with key info, such as the company’s “About Us” page, pricing, blog, contact info, as well as the login and sign-up buttons. 

Overall, the website has a clean, slightly animated, feel that’s easy to read and navigate—except for the privacy policy page, which features a light gray background and slightly darker gray lettering so you have to strain your eyes a little to keep reading. It’s hard to say that this wasn’t intentional to make users avoid going through the fine print. 

Circles Blog
The Circles Blog.

Circles Blog

The company blog is well-maintained, insightful, and helpful for individuals looking for extra mental health content. It appears that the team posts multiple times per week and sometimes, even daily. Posts range in topics from LGBTQIA+ specific content, to work burnout, to grief, to relationships. Some posts also feature interviews with online emotional support specialists. 

The website does feature a page of therapist bios, but since the focus of this company is on group therapy, the bios appear under the group they facilitate. This allows you to browse through the type of group you want first, then pick a facilitator and/or time that works for you. 

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

This number makes sense—the sign-up process is pretty straightforward. You begin the process with a short questionnaire about your mental health goals, your age, your living circumstances, and what you’re looking for from group therapy. This allows the company to make suggestions for appropriate Circles you can join. As mentioned before, this is where you’ll see your therapist’s bio, too. If you don’t like the groups recommended, you can start the questionnaire over again or call customer service for assistance. 

Once you have chosen your group, you’ll pay and create your account. Should you be accepted into your chosen group, you will receive an email with instructions on how to download the app and sign in to your Circle account for the first time. In responding to our questionnaire, the company told us that you should hear from your group facilitator within 24 hours—but only 30 percent said that was true for them. Thirty-six percent said it took a couple of days, while 24 percent said it took a week. Ten percent said they heard from their facilitator within two weeks.

Cost 

On Circles’ homepage, the company proudly declares that it “gives you a whole month of support for less than the cost of a single private therapy session”—and in this regard, they are correct. Circles is one of the most affordable online therapy options available, and 70 percent of the users we polled said the cost was very good or excellent. 

What Subscription Plans Do They Offer?

You cannot join more than one group at Circle unless your request is approved by the company. Regardless of what Circle group you join, your cost is the same because Circles only offers one subscription plan that costs $20 a week (or roughly $80 a month, though it varies since you’re billed weekly rather than monthly—a notable difference between Circles and the other subscription-based companies we reviewed).

For this price, you’ll get:

  • Access to one, professionally-led therapy group that meets weekly for about 60 minutes
  • Unlimited messaging with other group members and facilitator

Is There a Free Trial?

Yes. You can attend your first weekly Circle session for free. Your credit card won’t be billed until the end of this trial. 

Does Circles Accept Insurance?

No. Circles does not accept insurance. 

Depending on your out-of-network health care benefits, you might still be able to receive at least partial reimbursement, though. Just ask the company for a superbill, which you can use to file a claim with your insurance provider. 

Can You Cancel Your Subscription?

Yes, you can cancel at any time—including at the end of your trial week—in your portal, in the app, or by contacting customer service. Just make sure you cancel before you’re billed each week for your group meeting. 

Are There Discounts Available?

There are no discounts or promotions for Circles. 

However, in responding to our questionnaire, Circles told us that they do offer financial assistance to those who cannot afford their services. They did not provide any details, though, on how you apply or how you qualify for this aid. 

Ease of Use

Once you’re signed up, Circles is a very easy platform to use because you will do almost everything from the Circles app. Each week, you need to log in to the app (or your web portal if you’re on a desktop) at your designated meeting time to attend the group session, which is held via video conference—78 percent of survey respondents said the video quality of these sessions was either very good or excellent. 

As noted above, you can also message your fellow group members and facilitator anytime during the week—this, too, is done directly in the app.

If you do not like the group you are in, you can request a switch—but to do so, you have to call or email customer service so they can go over your options and find a new suitable group.  This means the switching process is a little slower than at other companies, which might be why only 74 percent of respondents said changing groups was very easy or easy. 

Therapists' Qualifications and Quality of Care

All Circles group therapy sessions are led by a professional, which is a real draw for users—79 percent of the users we surveyed said it played an important role in why they chose this company over the competition.

Eighty-one percent of respondents said their group facilitator’s qualifications were either very good or excellent. 

Most group facilitators at Circles are licensed therapists, with—they tell us—1500 to 2000 hours of field experience. However, not all are. Some are certified life coaches, while others specialize in business development. 

As a newer company, it’s difficult to judge whether therapist turnover is an issue. Circles did inform us that if for any reason a group facilitator leaves the company, the group they were leading will be notified in advance and there will be a formal handover process to a new facilitator.  

An impressive 90 percent of survey respondents said they were satisfied with the therapist options provided.

It’s important to remember, though, that while group therapy can be useful for a wide variety of mental health conditions—including depression, stress, anxiety, substance disorders, and more—and be very effective, it is different from individual talk therapy. Circles is very clear in its Terms of Use that its services are not meant to provide psychological advice; the groups, even if the group facilitator is a psychologist or clinical social worker, are meant to be more of a support platform. This means that the providers cannot give you psychological advice or offer you other therapy. So if you are looking for a diagnosis or psychological advice, you are best looking elsewhere. 

If you read the company’s Terms of Use, there are also a few groups led by “peer facilitators,” who are users who have requested to facilitate a group on the Circles Support Platform. While Circles might approve a user’s application to hold one of these, it’s important to note that the company makes it clear that it is not liable for the quality of those groups the way they are with groups held by a facilitator provided by the company. It also doesn’t mean that the peer facilitator has the same—or any—training. 

Types of Therapy Offered

As mentioned above, Circles is a group therapy company—which sets them apart from most companies we reviewed. The company’s goal is to connect you with others who are going through a similar life struggle, mental health issue, or situation and provide you with a safe, secure environment for you to share and work on your personal growth. 

There are Circles devoted to such topics as:

  • Managing emotions
  • Trauma recovery
  • Coping with separation or divorce
  • Managing grief
  • Dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Living with chronic illness
  • Parenting issues
  • Overcoming burnout

The techniques and approaches used in each group will vary depending on your group facilitator but could include CBT, DBT, motivational interviewing, supportive psychoanalysis, and stress management. You can also find additional resources on the website or in the app, such as informative videos and worksheets. 

Circles does not offer individual therapy, couples counseling, psychiatry, or medication management. You can attend Circles for support or in conjunction with individual therapy services—but it should not replace other mental health services if you need them. 

Privacy Policies

Circles says that it takes great care to protect your personal information, but its “Privacy Notice” does not go into the detail that many of its competitors do, which is disappointing. In responding to our questionnaire, they provided little additional information besides stating that they use encryption to protect any identifying information stored in their app or website. The privacy notice does describe what and how the company uses information collected about you, though.

Even though Circles states that they try to protect your identity, data, and privacy from others, the services are not anonymous. The company knows who you are and makes efforts to verify your identity before you can use their services. You are required to give your name, email address, phone number, and intake information to participate in services. 

If during your treatment, your therapist decides you need more help than they can offer, a different type of therapy, or medications, the company will refer you to a local resource that is a better fit. As is required by law, they will also file a formal report if they believe you are a threat to yourself or others. 

Overall Client Satisfaction

Eighty percent of the users we surveyed rated the services they received through Circles as either very good or excellent, and 73 percent said its value was very good or excellent for the money spent.

Ninety percent of respondents said they were either likely or very likely to recommend someone like them to Circles. 

It appears that Circles has some pretty loyal users, especially for being a newer company. While 40 percent of respondents had been with the company less than six months, 24 percent had been clients six months to a year, and 36 percent had been with it longer than a year. Plus, 86 percent told us they were likely or very likely to still be attending a group with a Circles therapist a year from now. 

Seventy-seven percent of the users who had used another online therapy service said that Circles was either better or much better than their previous online service.

Is Circles Right For You?

Circles is a company that will work for you if you are primarily looking for emotional support for your mental health issues or because you’re going through a tough time. If you have recently experienced a death, for example, or if you’re in the process of getting a divorce, you will find a Circle to join where you can talk to other people who understand what you’re going through. 

In general, group therapy and support groups will be most beneficial if you are looking for ways to feel less alone and want to learn from others about how to cope with what you’re going through. If you’re someone who likes to talk to others or you’re an extrovert, you’ll likely find group therapy helpful. 

Plus, unlike some support groups that are led by facilitators with little to no training, most of the ones Circles offers are led by a licensed therapist or mental health coach. This can give you some peace of mind that you’re truly joining a safe place. These groups are also ideal if you don’t have the time to travel to an in-person group or if there are simply no support groups near you. Some groups meet as late as 9 p.m., which might work well for you if you live with young children or work long hours. 

Circles is also more affordable than most online therapy and traditional in-office therapy, so if you’re on a budget, this company might be a fit for you.

However, Circles is not meant to replace traditional psychotherapy or psychiatry, so if you live with a more severe mental health disorder, its services will not be enough to treat you, since group facilitators cannot give psychology advice, diagnose, or prescribe medication. You will need to look elsewhere if you want individual talk therapy, couples therapy, psychiatry, help for substance abuse, or medication management. However, some Circles groups can be a supplement to other forms of therapy.

Circles is not an emergency service, so if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, are in crisis, need inpatient care, or have a history of psychosis, this is not the company for you. Circles is also only meant for adults—if you are under the age of 18, you’ll need to seek therapy elsewhere. 

Circles vs. Sesh

Circles and Sesh stand out from the other companies we reviewed because they focus exclusively on group therapy and peer support over individual talk therapy, psychiatry, or medication management. Both employ licensed therapists and certified life coaches to facilitate most of their online group sessions and offer groups dedicated to specific topics. Group sessions are 60 minutes at both companies.

Both companies have lower prices than the companies that offer individual therapy and neither company accepts insurance

  • Sesh costs $60 per month
  • Circles costs $20 a week (or roughly $80 a month)


While Sesh might cost a little less, Sesh groups are larger. As many as 14 people might be in a therapy group with you, while at Circles, most groups are capped at six people. This might mean you have less time to share during a Sesh group therapy session. Both companies allow you to try a group before paying for a subscription. 

Sesh and Circles both have modern, informative, and easy-to-navigate websites. Sesh has a more thorough FAQ page, but we weren’t able to find the company’s Terms of Use or Privacy policies on the website prior to sign-up as we could with Circles. They both have an app you use to attend group sessions and communicate with your group facilitator or other group members. 

When it came to user satisfaction, 80 percent at Circles said the group therapy they received was very good or excellent, but only 71 percent said the same at Sesh. Still, 90 percent of Circles users and 94 percent of Sesh users said they were either likely or very likely to refer someone to the company; while 86 percent of Circles respondents and 89 percent of Sesh respondents said they were either likely or very likely to still be seeing a therapist within the company a year from now.

Of the polled users who had tried more than one therapy service, 77 percent of Circles users reported that services were either better or much better than the services at the companies they used before. This number was slightly higher—82 percent—at Sesh. 

Final Verdict

Group therapy isn’t the same as individual talk therapy and it’s not for everyone. If you live with a serious mental health condition, need psychiatric help, or medication management, Circles isn’t the service you need. But if you’re looking for professionally-led support groups that you can attend from home, Circles might work well for you. The cost to join is pretty affordable and you can try any group for free before signing up to make sure you “click” with the group before you’ve joined.  

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

Learn more: Read our full online therapy methodology to see how we evaluated each service.

Specs

  • Product Name Circles
  • Year Founded 2018
  • Insurance Accepted? No
  • Price $20/week
  • HIPAA Compliant No
  • Platforms Video and messaging
  • Payment Options Major credit cards
  • App Available? (Y/N) Yes
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.

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3 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.
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  2. Coco GL, Melchiori F, Oieni V, et al. "Group treatment for substance use disorder in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials." Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2019;99:104-116.

  3. APA PsycNet. "The efficacy of group psychotherapy for depression: A meta-analysis and review of the empirical research."