Pathlight Behavioral Center Online Therapy Review

Intensive outpatient treatment for eating disorders and mood and anxiety issues

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Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center

Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center

Pathlight is in a category all its own, filling a much-needed gap between in-patient treatment and casual once- or twice-a-week therapy. Pathlight Behavioral Center is the virtual home to both a Mood and Anxiety Center and an Eating Recovery Center that each provides the option of a part-time intensive outpatient program (IOP) and a full-day partial hospitalization program (PHP). Both programs include individual therapy, group and/or family therapy. 

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Has been conducting virtual therapy since 2016 

  • Accepts most major health insurance plans

  • Offers intensive virtual options that allow users to continue attending school or work 

  • Offers both virtual and in-person options 

  • Quick intake process

Cons
  • Website is complex and difficult to navigate

  • Chooses therapists for you

  • Eating disorder program is only offered in 10 states

  • Mood and anxiety program is only offered in 10 states

  • Expensive if not covered by insurance

  • Limited flexibility for scheduling appointments

Key Facts
Price
N/A
Is Insurance Accepted?
Yes
Type Of Therapy
Children's Therapy, Couples Therapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Individual Therapy, Medication Management, Psychiatry, Teen Counseling
Communication Options
N/A
HIPAA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
No
Why Trust Us
55
Companies reviewed
5,775
Total users surveyed
350
Data points analyzed
We surveyed 105 users from each online therapy company and asked the companies to complete questionnaires. Then, we tested the services ourselves, conducted comprehensive data collection research, and evaluated our results with the help of three licensed therapists.
Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center

Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center

The burden of inpatient care on hospital resources and patients’ wallets has always been extensive. A 2016 study found that the average hospital stay for someone with an eating disorder was 13.6 days, while the average stay for someone suffering from a mood disorder varied between 4.2 and 7.6 days. The average cost was $1400 per day, approximately $1700 in today's value.

After discharge, up to 69% of patients will be re-admitted, especially if there is not a sturdy discharge plan in place, such as placement in a partial hospitalization program or an intensive outpatient program. Unfortunately, there is a much larger demand for placement in these programs than there are available spots, and even if a spot is available, payment is often the partial or full responsibility of the patient.

This is where Pathlight Behavioral Treatment Center comes in to bridge the gap. Initially, the virtual programs offered were spinoffs of Pathlight’s Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight’s Mood and Anxiety Center, the latter of which focused largely on treating depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and trauma. Pathlight’s niche of providing intensive virtual treatment options is in a category all its own. 

With the help of the 105 users of Pathlight we surveyed, we gained insight into the registration process, cost of therapy, modalities of therapy offered, and user satisfaction. We also contacted Pathlight directly in order to find out more about its hiring practices, privacy measures, and the quality of services provided. 

What Is Pathlight Behavioral Treatment Center? 

Pathlight was founded under the name Insight Behavioral Health in Chicago in 2006 by Susan McClanahan, PhD, a clinical psychologist who is currently on faculty at Northwestern University Medical School, and whose resume reads like a list of Ivy League institutions. 

In 2011, Insight partnered with Eating Recovery Center, a Colorado-based facility that had just been founded in 2008. The two quickly expanded their locations to include Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Maryland, and Washington state. Pathlight then launched its virtual therapy option in 2016 as a way to ensure continuity of care for clients who would benefit from more intensive treatment, but whose school or work would be negatively impacted by prolonged inpatient treatment. 

On September 22, 2020, Pathlight announced its intention to rename and rebrand from Insight Behavioral Health to Pathlight Behavioral Treatment Center, publicly explaining that this change was made to “better describe the company’s promise to answer the need for more comprehensive, specialized mental health services.”

At the same time, Pathlight’s leadership was transferred from Dr. McClanahan to Anne Marie O’Melia, MD. A quick glance at the pedigrees of both shows a clear decision to lean in to a more medical model of care. Dr. O’Melia is a triple board-certified physician (general medicine, pediatrics, general psychiatry), and holds subspecialty board certifications in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine.  

The change in name and leadership was likely an attempt to help the company shake off the stigma of a large number of extremely negative reviews of the eating recovery centers located in Illinois. Online reviews from multiple sources cited inexperienced staff as a major concern, while others felt that the services the program had advertised fell short of expectations. 

What Services Does Pathlight Offer? 

Pathlight Behavioral Treatment Center currently offers a wide range of services through both in-person and virtual sessions, including individual therapy; group therapy for adolescents, teenagers, and adults; and medication management. It also offers several groups intended to educate and connect the family of the individual receiving treatment, such as skills groups, education groups, support groups, and nutrition groups. 

Pathlight offers the holy grail of those looking to reduce the rate of repeated inpatient hospitalizations: a discharge plan that is intensive enough to hold the promise of a patient’s full recovery, and yet permissive enough to allow the patient to return to real life—including a job and/or school.

Pathlight offers a part-time intensive virtual outpatient program (IOP). They also offer an in-person IOP and a full-time partial hospitalization program (PHP). All three provide treatment for mood and anxiety and recovery from eating disorders. 

The main difference between the programs is the number of treatment hours per week. The intensive outpatient treatment program meets for 3 hours a day, three days a week, while the PHP meets full-time, 7 days a week. Both IOPs and PHPs have been found to improve treatment outcomes.

Pathlight relies largely on evidence-based modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure and response therapy (ERT). 

Who Is Pathlight For? 

Pathlight treats adolescents and adults aged 12 and older who are struggling with a mood and anxiety disorder or an eating disorder and who would benefit from a higher level of treatment than weekly talk therapy. A virtual intensive option is perfect for those who may not have the finances or transportation available to complete an in-person program, as well as those whose family obligations might interfere with their absence from home. 

How Much Does Pathlight Cost?

The cost of Pathlight simply cannot be compared to the cost of other online therapy services like Talkspace or LiveHealth Online: Pathlight offers a prix fixe menu of non-negotiable intensive services, while Talkspace and LiveHealth Online allow you to order a la carte, choosing the subscription or type of service that best fits your particular needs (such as only messaging or only medication management). 

The out-of-pocket cost for the intensive outpatient treatment program at Pathlight is $4800 for 30 days, 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. The cost includes an initial assessment (intake) with a clinician, and both individual and group therapy three days a week. 

Pathlight’s website makes it quite easy to keep track of your bill and to pay your bill online, which is a huge plus as you are able to make sure all charges are valid and necessary at the moment, rather than waiting for a bill to come at the end of the billing cycle. 

Does Pathlight Take Insurance?

Pathlight is in-network with most major insurance companies, although Pathlight does not accept Medicaid, Medicare, or Tricare. It bodes well that more than half of our users surveyed successfully used their insurance to pay for their treatment at Pathlight. 

Keep in mind that even if your insurance does pay for treatment at Pathlight, most likely you will still be responsible for your copay, which can vary widely, from as little as $15 to as high as $60 per session. 

If your insurance does not cover the recommended course of treatment, Pathlight has a team of staff members who will work with you to find a financial solution that is affordable and explain the appeals process by which you can attempt to receive reimbursement for some of the fees.

Does Pathlight Offer Discounts?

Pathlight does not offer discounts, but its website lists several scholarships and detailed instructions about how to apply for scholarship-funded treatment. In addition, Pathlight emphasizes the importance of continued research in order to assess whether the virtual therapy option is as effective as the more typical in-person option. Throughout the year Pathlight’s website highlights free or reduced treatment options for those willing to participate in research trials. 

Navigating the Pathlight Website 

The home page of Pathlight clearly divides the website into two distinct programs: the Eating Disorder Center, with a teal tree logo, and the Mood and Anxiety Center, which has an orange, Zen-like symbol as a logo. 

P1

The Mood and Anxiety Center homepage greets you with the phrase “Pathlight: Life-Changing Mental Wellness That’s Right for You,” while the Eating Disorder Center homepage claims that it is “A National Leader in Eating Disorder Treatment.” 

P2

Scrolling down each homepage, you’ll see sections describing how the treatment works, who the treatment is for, and the conditions addressed in each program.

P3

Both the Eating Disorder Center and the Mood and Anxiety Center throw a ton of information at you at once, but if you know what you are looking for, the website is easy—or easier—to navigate.

P4

The Mood and Anxiety Center has a bright, eye-catching teal flying rectangle that reads “Start your journey” and then allows you to choose whether you are seeking help for yourself, for a friend or family member, or for a patient. You’re then given three options:  “I’d like to talk with a clinician about treatment options,” “I’m ready—I’d like to start treatment,” or “I’m looking for additional resources.” These steps all lead you to speaking or emailing with someone for further information. 

The number to call for more information or to schedule a free assessment is impossible to miss. It is at the top and bottom of every page. 

P6

I was actually surprised that more than half of the users we surveyed reported that navigating the Pathlight website was quite easy. And 44% of people who had used other online therapy services in the past preferred Pathlight for two main reasons: 1) the technology was easier to use, and 2) the therapists were better trained in specialties that the users were searching for.

I found the website really overwhelming. At one point, the website actually made me feel a bit anxious, and I felt as if I had to put my laptop down and then come back to it later, to try to navigate a different part of the website. Another thing that I didn’t love: despite Pathlight’s frequent use of the term “psychoclinician” or “masters-clinician” on its website and in its media packet, neither the American Psychological Association nor the New York Office of Professions acknowledges a “psychoclinician” as a profession, degree, or job title. 

I will say, when I called the information line, the masters-clinician who I spoke to was kind, personable, and knowledgeable about the questions I asked. The phone call was significantly easier to navigate than the website, and a lot easier to manage. 

During the course of this assignment, I spent hours on the Pathlight website, and in the end, I learned a lot. I downloaded a body-positive exercise called "Love Your Tree" that teaches you to embrace your differences, and I intend to use it in my own clinical work and share it with my school district. I also signed up to receive a newsletter called "Say It Brave" about working to end the stigma of mental health, and I learned a lot about new forms of therapy that I was previously unfamiliar with. 

But, that is also my problem with the Pathlight website: There is so much information that it is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed or distracted. 

Also, unlike other companies we reviewed, Pathlight does not have an app that directly connects you to your treatment team at this time. 

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Pathlight?

Signing up for treatment at Pathlight starts with an initial phone call, where you give your name, number, and insurance information, and a receptionist or masters-level clinician schedules an appointment for you for a clinical assessment, which is essentially a 60- to 90-minute initial intake session to determine whether you are an appropriate fit for Pathlight. 

The assessment is usually scheduled within one to three days of your initial phone call and most people are admitted to a program within 7 to 10 days. The individual who conducts the clinical assessment (initial intake) assigns you to the provider you will be working with. An individual therapist and group therapist are both assigned.

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Pathlight?

Percentages

The Virtual IOP conducts both group and individual sessions via telehealth. This involves three 3-hour group sessions per week, tailored specifically to your particular needs. These groups use evidence-based modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and exposure and response prevention (ERP), as well as process-oriented group therapy and behavior modification group therapy. It also provides one individual therapy session or one family therapy session per week. The IOP program also includes weekly support groups for peers, alumni of the program, and caregivers.

There are always at least two different time slots being offered per cycle to accommodate participant's school or work schedules; for example, there may be one session that runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and another that runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the same days. 

If the individual seeking treatment has a therapist they would like to continue seeing while at Pathlight, coordination of care between their personal therapist and the individual therapist at Pathlight will be arranged. If medication management is needed, the intake clinician can help coordinate services with a psychiatrist; however, Pathlight does not provide medication management for remote patients at this level of care. 

Pathlight’s treatment philosophy focuses on providing support for the family of the individual receiving treatment, as well as follow-up aftercare through the introduction of an alumni network, the opportunity to connect through various community events, regular educational newsletters, and access to the Mental Notes Podcast, which highlights true stories of recovery from past Pathlight clients. 

Switching Therapists at Pathlight

Given the length of time of the 30-day program and the limited resources of therapists and patients, changing therapists is not recommended and usually not necessary. 

Pausing or cancelling services is also not applicable, given the 30-day requirement of the IOP program.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

Forty-eight percent of our users surveyed felt the process of finding their therapist was quite easy and that the therapist they were assigned met all or most of their needs. Also, more than 60% of Pathlight users stated that they were likely to recommend Pathlight to a friend. 

When we checked back in with our users, 42% of those surveyed had discontinued therapy—but for positive reasons! The majority reported ending treatment because their mental health had improved and/or they had achieved their goals from therapy. 

Another positive finding for Pathlight is that of those who remained in therapy, 36% felt it was likely that they would still be in therapy six months from now. It seems a fair assumption that someone looking forward to a future with their current therapist is happy with the work they have done so far. 

Percentages

Privacy Policies at Pathlight

Although Pathlight is HIPAA-compliant, a large part of its treatment approach is to involve the client’s family, as well as to encourage the client to participate in group therapy if relevant. In this case, all personal information is strongly encouraged to stay within the boundaries of the group or family, but as with all group work, ultimately the safety and privacy of the individual is directly related to the compliance of other group members. 

Pathlight vs. Its Competitors

Two of Pathlight’s main competitors in the online therapy field are Talkspace, which offers text therapy, video sessions, and medication management, and LiveHealth Online, a general telehealth company that offers mental health services. 

Both Talkspace and LiveHealth Online scored significantly higher than Pathlight did in overall user satisfaction, with scores of 90% over Pathlight’s 79%. But, when we asked our users if their therapy needs had been met, the playing field became a bit more even, with 73% of Pathlight users, 78% of Talkspace users, and 80% of LiveHealth users stating that some or all of their needs had been met.

Beyond the data we collected from the users we surveyed, Pathlight is in a league of its own because of the uniqueness of the services it offers. 

Of the 55 online therapy and psychiatry companies we researched, only Pathlight offers intensive services like IOP and PHP—other telehealth companies urge potential clients to look elsewhere if they need a higher level of care. 

And apparently Pathlight is good at what it does. Since Pathlight offers both in-person and virtual intensive outpatient programs, Pathlight was able to compare program completion rates of both inpatient and virtual participants and determine that virtual participants were 25% more likely to complete the IOP than their in-person counterparts. I would call that a win for Pathlight.

Final Verdict

Pathlight has broken the mold and delivers a service that was very much needed by a small and more specific segment of the population. Although the intensive outpatient program is not yet available in every state, a growing number of people ages 12 and older are able to return to school or work while receiving the continued care they need for their eating disorder or their mood and anxiety disorder. Pathlight provides a solid place for people to land after they leave an inpatient program so that they are less likely to end up returning.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers. 

4 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. Owens PL, Fingar KR, McDermott KW, Muhuri PK, Heslin KC. Inpatient stays involving mental and substance use disorders, 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  2. Siddique SM, Tipton K, Leas B, et al. Interventions to reduce hospital length of stay in high-risk populations: A systematic review. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(9):e2125846. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.25846

  3. Vigod SN, Kurdyak PA, Dennis CL, et al. Transitional interventions to reduce early psychiatric readmissions in adults: systematic review. Br J Psychiatry. 2013;202(3):187-194. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.112.115030

  4. Hayes NA, Welty LJ, Slesinger N, Washburn JJ. Moderators of treatment outcomes in a partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient program for eating disorders. Eat Disord. 2019;27(3):305-320. doi:10.1080/10640266.2018.1512302

By Lindsay Weisner
Lindsay is a psychologist, freelance writer, co-author of an empirically based self-help book called Ten Steps to Finding Happy: A guide to finding permanent satisfaction, and the co-host of the Crimes of Long Island Podcast.

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