Included Health Online Therapy Review

An affordable, pay-per-session platform that makes scheduling appointments easy

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Included Health

Included Health

Included Health is a concierge-style virtual care platform available to people with employer-provided coverage. While the company’s broad approach to “care for everyone” can sometimes feel unfocused, we think the service works well for people who want all their virtual care to exist under one umbrella and for people who need access to psychiatry providers for medication management (a feature not always available on virtual therapy platforms).

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Free of cost with employer coverage

  • Providers located nationwide

  • Many types of insurance plans accepted

  • Psychiatrists available for prescriptions

  • Assistance with benefits

  • Coordination across care teams

  • Experienced, high-quality selection of providers

Cons
  • Inaccessible if your employer doesn’t provide an account

  • Website is lacking informative details

  • Registration is required to browse providers and see costs

  • Hard to know what is Included Health vs. Doctor on Demand, or if it matters

  • Mixed messages about target audience

  • No areas of specialization or focus

Key Facts
Price
Free to use if your employer offers it as a benefit; standard copays and fees per your existing insurance coverage still apply
Is Insurance Accepted?
Yes
Type Of Therapy
Couples Therapy, Family Therapy, Individual Therapy
Communication Options
Video Chat
HIPAA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
Yes
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.

Making the move to accessing healthcare online isn’t always as easy as it seems. One of the biggest issues is how to utilize different virtual platforms for different needs (like urgent care versus talk therapy) without feeling like your care is disconnected or disjointed. 

Included Health aims to simplify the online healthcare experience by synchronizing virtual care between providers and eliminating common barriers, like cost and convenience, to receiving high-quality care. But while the website takes a “care for every kind of person” approach, you can only access Included Health if your employer has opted into the service, which means not everyone can actually take advantage of it.

To figure out who can utilize Included Health, how it works, and whether the service is useful, we surveyed 105 of its users and I heavily researched the company. I also interviewed a representative of Included Health.

What is Included Health?

Included Health is a service that employers can opt into for their employees; in other words, if your employer offers Included Health as part of your health insurance benefits, you can use the platform to receive online care across several different specialties and get assistance understanding your benefits, finding providers that meet your needs, and coordinating your care between care teams. Along with whatever health insurance is provided, your employer may offer Included Health access, allowing you to manage all your virtual healthcare needs within one platform. 

To understand how Included Health came to be in its current form, you have to go back to 2011, when Dr. Lawrence Hofmann partnered with entrepreneur Owen Tripp to found Grand Rounds Health. The company first provided expert second opinions on complex medical issues, then segued into healthcare navigation before launching a telehealth platform in the spring of 2020 after COVID-19 hit the U.S.

In May of 2021, Grand Rounds Health merged with Doctor on Demand, a 24/7 virtual healthcare platform, to expand its reach nationwide, and also acquired Included Health, a growing virtual platform designed to address the challenges of LGBTQ+ people seeking care. It takes a bit of digging to get a handle on the company’s history; it’s not exactly promoted on the web site in a clear way, and there’s virtually no information about what Included Health looked like—or how it got started—before the merger.

There isn’t much bad press to be found in the news about Included Health, though. The main issue I ran into was that the messaging on the web site is noticeably broad—advertising all kinds of care for all kinds of people—while the company’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts devote more space to promoting its LGBTQ+ services. 

Included health FB

This means that, to an outsider, it’s a little unclear who the targeted audience is for Included Health’s services. In my research, I got the impression that the company is still working out the kinks of the 2021 merger (for example, many services are still offered through Doctor on Demand, as Doctor on Demand by Included Health).

What Services Does Included Health Offer?

Because behavioral health is just one component of the services available through Included Health, there’s not a lot of information about the therapy services provided. Further complicating things is the fact that you need to be employed with a company offering Included Health as part of its insurance coverage to access a full profile, which would allow you to browse providers, see plans and fees, and just generally get a good feel for the web site. 

Since I don’t have an employer account, I was pretty limited. I was able to create a basic account for myself, but hit a wall early on in terms of what I could access without employer-provided coverage; I wasn’t able to see what types of therapy I could receive, how long the sessions would be, or how much the sessions would cost. 

I was eventually able to locate a page on the web site explaining that behavioral health services are provided by psychiatrists and therapists, and that both talk therapy and medication management are available. Appointments are flexible, with the option to be scheduled outside of the standard business hours on Monday through Friday. The platform also says it offers coaching services as part of its behavioral health offerings, and that “coaching support” is available 24/7.

Included Health

In an effort to get more information, I reached out to the company with several questions. In an email interview with one of its representatives, I was informed that the company provides individual, couples, and family therapy—which aligns with what the users we surveyed told us as well.

I was also told the company treats members of all ages and it doesn’t have a minimum age to access their services. You can choose to have your sessions last 25 or 50 minutes. 

Notably, Included Health provides access to psychiatrists through the site, which means you can utilize it for medication management purposes. This isn’t true for all online therapy platforms, making Included Health an option for more complex behavioral health needs. 

Of the users we surveyed that had used Included Health, 50% responded “yes” when asked to consider if the therapists have better qualifications, experience, and/or specialized training than other services they’d tried previously.

Who Is Included Health For?

Included Health is for people whose employers have partnered with the company to offer easy access to virtual care to their employees. Having an employer account allows you to actually take advantage of the concierge-style benefits of Included Health, like assistance with figuring out your health benefits and selecting the services and providers you need to see. 

It would be especially helpful for someone who plans to see multiple types of providers online, since you won’t have to choose separate platforms for differing needs and can have each of your care teams connect with one another when needed.

On its site, Included Health specifically calls out the following mental health care specialties:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Postpartum mental health care
  • Relationships
  • Trauma and loss

It also says Included Health performs screenings for mental health conditions, including PTSD and substance abuse disorders. It also offers the ability to take a virtual assessment regarding your need for support, browse therapists, and then schedule a virtual visit. 

There isn’t a particular type of therapy seeker who would benefit from this flexible, online therapy model—it’s fairly standard and could likely provide services to a significant population of people who have access to the platform. 

With a little more navigating online, I was able to find a separate Included Health branch of behavioral health care aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. On this platform, you can register as an LGBTQ+ member and access the same types of therapy offered on the regular Included Health site, but with providers who claim to have experience and particular knowledge treating LGBTQ+ patients. 

How Much Does Included Health Cost?

If your employer is providing coverage for you through Included Health, the service itself is available to utilize at no cost (meaning you don’t pay any extra fees to access it). You’ll be able to see primary care, specialty, urgent care, and behavioral health providers, as well as tap into Included Health’s navigation feature to connect with providers easily, find out about the benefits provided through your employer health insurance, and share medical information across different care teams.

It’s important to note that while Included Health can facilitate a more coordinated approach to your virtual care, it’s not an insurance plan and the care isn’t free just because your employer provides you with an account. You will still have to pay your usual co-pays and out-of-pocket costs and meet your deductible based on your specific insurance coverage. 

Included Health’s representative informed us that, without any insurance or an accepted insurance plan, members have the option to pay out-of-pocket according to the following fee schedule: 

  • For psychology, i.e., individual/couple/family talk therapy, it costs $129 for a 25-minute appointment and $179 for a 50 minute appointment.
  • For psychiatry services, it costs $299 for an initial 45-minute appointment and $129 for a 15-minute follow-up appointment.

For talk therapy, these costs are within the typical range of $60 and $200 per session, but on the higher end. Many people will want to schedule weekly or bi-weekly visits, lasting nearly one hour, with a therapist to make progress on their goals; with Included Health’s out-of-pocket costs, this would cost anywhere from $358 to $716 per month, which is higher in total than some other online therapy platforms’ monthly subscription costs. (Take Online-Therapy.com, for example, which costs $440 per month for its premium tier plan including two sessions per week and unlimited messaging with your therapist). 

If you don’t have a participating insurance plan with Included Health, there are probably more cost-effective options out there for talk therapy, though that’s not necessarily true for its psychiatry services. These actually fall on the lower end compared to the cost of a standard psychiatry consultation, and you’re less likely to need one appointment per week on an ongoing basis if you’re only seeking medication management. 

Does Included Health Take Insurance?

Included Health is a benefit an employer can choose to offer along with their employer-provided health insurance, so it doesn’t “take” insurance in the traditional sense. If your employer has opted into Included Health but doesn’t provide you with your insurance coverage (you don’t work enough hours to qualify, for example, or you’re covered under a family member’s insurance through their employer), you may still be able to apply whatever insurance coverage you have independently to the care you receive through the platform. 

The Included Health representative told us that it works with many employers and health insurance plans, and that members can add their insurance during the registration process to find out if their health plan is covered by their behavioral health services. I couldn’t locate a comprehensive list of accepted plans on the site. 

For the most part, the users of Included Health that we surveyed told us that they have some kind of existing insurance coverage, with only 10% of the users we surveyed reporting they had none. Meanwhile, 52% of Included Health users surveyed said their insurance helps pay for their therapy through the service.

Does Included Health Offer Discounts?

Discounts aren’t applicable for Included Health, at least not for the patient (there may be discounts available for employers looking to purchase access for their employees). 

Navigating The Included Health Website and App

The landing page for Included Health is pretty sparse: it invites you to activate your account (if you have one through your employer), calls out several of the platform’s top services--such as 24/7 urgent care, online therapy, and access to billing experts--and displays a two-minute promotional video summarizing what Included Health offers users. There’s also a chat widget that pops up, though most of the response options end with the widget giving you a number to call for specific information rather than the information itself (or a customer service rep).

Included health

Across the top of the page are a few drop-down menus that house most of the information available online for users. The “Solutions” tab, for example, breaks out each of Included Health’s main services, like primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health, explaining what’s included in each type of service and inviting you to get started with setting up your account or finding a provider. These separate pages, however, are also sparse, and tend to reiterate information found on the main page of the site. 

Included health

The “Buyers” tab isn’t relevant for individual users, but the “About Us” tab is where you’ll find FAQs, contact info, news articles and announcements, the Included Health blog link, and some resources (mainly infographics and white papers). These links are also not overly packed with information; the FAQ section, for one, focuses heavily on open enrollment questions rather than ones about how the service actually works.

Included health FAQs

Personally, I found the website easy to navigate because of how clean and simple it was, but at the same time, the process of actually locating information was frustrating. Many of the details about what’s available through the service, how it works, how much it costs, and who would benefit from it are tucked behind a paywall, of sorts, that can only be accessed if your employer has given you account credentials. 

The users we surveyed, however, didn’t seem to have the same issues I did. 29% said their experience navigating the site was easy and 22% said it was very easy. (And an additional 43% selected “neither easy nor difficult.”) Furthermore, 70% of users said they thought the site’s additional resources, like blog posts and informational content, were excellent, very good, or good. 

Does Included Health Have An App?

Included Health has an app that is available to both Mac and Android users (and so does Doctor on Demand). You can download these apps through the App Store or Google Play.

At first glance, the interface for the app has the same clean, simplified design as the website, but you can’t get past the first screen without an existing account or employer credentials, so there’s no ability to browse the app just to look around and see how it works. You can activate an employer-based account through the app, though--the first screen gives you an option to log into your account or look up your benefits based on your name and employment information.

Included Health App
Included Health App

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Included Health?

Unfortunately, I was unable to dig deeply into the sign-up process for therapy at Included Health since I don’t have an employer-provided account. I tried to create an account without employer-provided credentials and was able to do so, but hit a wall pretty quickly when it came to searching for providers. 

If you have an employer who has opted into the platform, however, the process should be much easier. While enrollment in Included Health isn’t automatic, there are employer-specific enrollment links for employees wishing to join—and that once the employer or insurance is added, Dr. Benders-Hadi told us, members are automatically shown the relevant price-share they would be responsible for when making appointments. 


Additionally, you can get started by registering on the Doctor On Demand by Included Health website or mobile app, since Doctor on Demand works with many employers and insurance health plans. To see if your company is included, you can open the Doctor On Demand app and sign in to your account, go to the gear symbol in the top right, and go to “Employer” or “Insurance” and follow the prompts.


“Once you are registered,” adds Dr. Benders-Hadi, “you can view available therapists licensed in your state, read their biographies, and choose who you want to talk to. You can view all available therapists, or filter by your preferences for things like gender, languages or provider focus areas. You may also choose to meet with the same therapist for future visits.”

Therapist Qualifications at Included Health (percentages)

Finding a Therapist at Included Health 

Based on my conversation with Dr. Benders-Hadi and our survey results, I learned that you can choose to be matched with a therapist or select one for yourself. The Included Health web site uses “matching” language, but in our survey, 72% of users said they chose their own therapist, either from the company’s full list or a curated list of providers determined by location, insurance coverage, and session availability. Only 28% of users reported being assigned a therapist based on their intake responses.

Although I wasn’t able to view the credentials of individual providers, in general, the staff available through Included Health appear to be qualified: they are all either licensed therapists or psychiatrists, though there’s no information about those training and licensure requirements. In our survey, 29% of users reported seeing a psychiatrist, 33% a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and 13% a primary care physician. As for overall satisfaction with their provider, 44% of users rated their provider’s qualifications as excellent and 33% rated them as very good.

The subject matter expert I consulted with, however, did share concerns about the lack of provider credentials viewable on the site. 

“It’s a red flag to me that they employ coaches and don't specify what kind of training or certification coaches are required to have,” says Amy Marschall, Psy.D. “I'm also concerned that their behavioral health page lists coaching as the top service they offer: coaching is not therapy, and few coaches are licensed mental health professionals.”

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Included Health?

Similar to the matching process, the way you begin therapy through Included Health after sign-up seems to depend on your preference. 

match

When I walked through the sign-up steps as far as I could, I was given the option several times to fill out a questionnaire and receive a response from an Included Health specialist within a few days if I wasn’t sure where to start. However, the web site also indicates that you can book an appointment with your chosen therapist on the spot, so it seems like that’s an option as well. 

Video Sessions

Included Health offers video visits between patients and providers. There was little information available to me online, however, about how smooth this process is for patients in terms of app or browser reliability, or what system requirements are needed. Dr. Benders-Hadi told me that all sessions are conducted by logging into your account, either on your mobile device or on a laptop/computer, and that the service is operated on a proprietary electronic health system that is compliant with all HIPAA and state and federal privacy regulations.

Users appear to use both their browsers and their apps when logging into video sessions with their providers: 27% reported using their smartphones for appointments and 21% said they use their laptops. 

Medication Management/Psychiatry

One of the more unique aspects of Included Health is the ability to connect with psychiatry providers for medication management needs or prescriptions. The needs of users varied, but 41% said they utilized psychiatry services through Included Health for depression, 43% for anxiety, 13% for eating disorders, and 13% for insomnia. 

Prescribed medications varied widely, as well, though anxiety medications were the most commonly prescribed; 31% of users surveyed said they were given an anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax or Valium. 19% were prescribed an MAOI inhibitor, 15% an atypical antidepressant like Wellbutrin, and 15% a controlled stimulant like Adderall.  

In general, the results of these virtual psychiatry visits seem to be positive: 74% of users surveyed said their prescriber had excellent, very good, or good bedside manner, 55% noted that their provider takes time to listen to them during sessions, and 35% said they never feel rushed.

What Happens if I Miss a Session at Included Health?

There is no information on the Included Health website about canceling, rescheduling, or missing appointments, but the Terms of Service for Doctor on Demand indicates that appointments must be canceled or rescheduled within 24 hours of the start time to avoid incurring a fee “equal to all or a portion of the fees you and your insurer or other payor would have paid for the scheduled services.”

Switching Therapists at Included Health

According to Included Health’s PR representative, switching therapists is fairly simple: “Members always have the option to schedule a behavioral health appointment with another provider who fits their needs better,” I was informed.

This does seem to be corroborated by our survey, in which users reported never having to switch therapists 44% of the time and only once 31% of the time. Most users said that, in total, they have only worked with one to three therapists through Included Health. In addition, the vast majority of users—92% —said they were able to choose their new provider themselves from a list on the site.

As far as the process goes, users indicated there were multiple approaches to initiating the switch, from simply clicking a button selecting they wanted a new therapist, filling out and submitting a form through the site, and contacting customer service. In most cases, a new therapist had been selected or assigned within a few days to one week.

Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Included Health

There was no specific information given on the Included Health website regarding discontinuing or pausing therapy. In most cases, that is a conversation best held between you and your provider, but we encourage you to contact Included Health if you have questions about continuing your therapy. 

Overall Rating of Included Health (percentages)

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

When it comes to offering users a qualified mental health care provider, Included Health excels: providers are licensed professionals who take their time when consulting with patients, and access to psychiatry providers online is a major benefit. 

In general, users reported that the providers they saw were qualified to address their behavioral health concerns: 21% of users gave their provider a rating of “excellent,” 29% a rating of “very good,” and 30% a rating of “good.” Furthermore, 32% of users we surveyed said they thought the qualifications of their providers were better than with other online health services they had used in the past.

Users also seem to make progress while seeing Included Health providers: 49% of the users we surveyed said they discontinued therapy because they reached their goals or were feeling better, and 67% of users said most or all of their needs were met working with their provider. While the reasons for continuing to see a therapist or not can vary, it’s notable that 28% of users said they were likely to still be seeing a therapist six months from the time of the survey (and 25% percent said the same for 12 months on). 

According to the Included Health representative, therapists stay at Included Health because they are able to focus more on providing high-quality clinical care and less on the usual administrative tasks associated with private practice. The representative also informed me that its therapist turnover rate is low—and if a therapist does leave, the final sessions with patients will be spent processing the upcoming change, determining a plan of action if therapy needs to continue with someone new, and making recommendations for specific therapists who can take over. 

I was unable to confirm the low rate of therapist turnover myself, though no major issues were reported in our user survey. Dr. Marschall did raise a concern about its “on demand” access, noting that this can be a problem within the field of therapy: “If you expect your therapist to always be available, it puts them at risk for burnout and high turnover, and it increases dependence in the therapeutic relationship, which can interfere with recovery.” 

The other issues raised when you look at Included Health on the whole is its overly-broad approach to tackling so many different problems. 

“It’s difficult to say without knowing more about specific providers, but any company that makes broad claims that they can manage any and every condition is possibly exaggerating,” says Dr. Marschall. “This would mean that clients might seek them out and get inadequate care.”

I’ve noted before that the website is less than transparent about who it can best serve, with targeted messaging on the site differing from the messaging via social media. It’s still unclear to me whether Included Health is trying to actively position itself as an LGBTQ+-focused healthcare platform or whether it’s just looping in the existing infrastructure after the 2021 mergers. 

Finally, while the website offers easy navigation, it was frequently difficult for me to find answers to key questions about how the service works and what it offers. That may have been because I didn’t have full access to the site without an employer-based account, but the lack of transparency was frustrating from an informational standpoint.

Privacy Policies at Included Health

The privacy policy at Included Health appears to be fairly standard: it states that Included Health may need to collect personal information from you in order to provide services, such as medical history and medical records, and that the site uses encryption technology to protect user data. 

It mentions meeting the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) but does note that how it meets those regulations may differ on a state-by-state basis. Same goes for Protected Health Information, or PHI; the information collected, used, and disclosed may vary based on Included Health’s agreements with various health insurance plans.

At the time of publication, nothing notable has been reported in the news about the security of Included Health or its failure to protect patients’ information.

Included Health vs. Its Competitors

Included Health has three main competitors: Teladoc, MDLIVE, and Amwell. Since Included Health has a unique, employer-provided benefits model, it’s difficult to compare them directly, but there are some notable differences to mention.

Teladoc has an overall higher approval rating of 97% among users (compared to Included Health’s 84%). But where 87% of Included Health users said their experience using this service was more positive than their experience using other platforms, only 75% of Teladoc users said the same. Fifty percent of Included Health users noted that the site’s therapists had better qualifications versus only 13% of Teladoc users.

One of the ways MDLIVE outperformed Included Health in our survey was in overall usability: 34% of people said the sign up process at MDLIVE was “very easy” compared to only 23% of Included Health users, and 29% of MDLIVE users gave the site an “excellent” rating for helpfulness at connecting them with a therapist compared to 14% of Included Health users. That said, more Included Health users than MDLIVE users said their care is better than it has been in the past, at 36% and 23% respectively.

As for Amwell, 88% of users gave the service a rating of good, very good, or excellent when asked to consider Amwell overall, compared to 84% of Included Health users. The two companies were also similarly matched when it came to comparing therapy outcomes; 28% of users said they were no longer receiving therapy through the Amwell platform because they were feeling better, while 29% of Included Health users said the same. The two services were also tied for provider diversity, with 79% of users for both Amwell and Included Health saying diversity was good, very good, or excellent.

Final Verdict

Because of my own limitations in digging deeply into the Included Health website without an employer account, I was underwhelmed by my impressions of the platform: it was hard to find the information I was looking for, plus the many different branches of Included Health (including Doctor on Demand and the LGBTQ+-focused services) didn’t sync up clearly enough for me. You could spend a lot of time on the website searching for what you need and still be unsure if you’re in the right place.

But in general, the users we surveyed (who, presumably, have access to the full range of information stored on the site) say their experience using Included Health has been a good one—72% of users said they would be likely to recommend the service to others and 84% of users said that, overall, Included Health is good, very good, or excellent. As I’ve pointed out throughout this review, users are largely happy with the experience level of their providers, the length of appointments and the unhurried manner in which they’re conducted, and with their overall outcomes after completing therapy via the site. 

The fact that you can access all of your virtual health needs from one platform, rather than utilizing different services for different types of care, is a unique feature of Included Health often not found with other services. However, Included Health’s broad messaging of “care for every kind of person” sometimes feels too broad to really be meaningful, and the company might benefit from narrowing its focus to demographics that truly need a cohesive service like the one it offers.

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 interviewed a PR representative from Included Health to clarify aspects of the service that were still unclear or otherwise not provided on the website. We also worked with a subject matter expert to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

Edited by
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
and
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