PlushCare Online Therapy Review

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Plushcare Online Therapy

Plushcare Online Therapy

Verywell's Rating
3.4

PlushCare offers therapy and general medical services, but its therapy sessions are more expensive than competitors’. All psychiatric medication management is provided by primary care physicians who consult with psychiatrists employed by the company.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Facts
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Therapy sessions are 45 minutes

  • Medication management services are available

  • Weekly sessions included in subscription price

  • All therapists are licensed

  • Modern, informative website

  • Fast appointment times available

  • Therapist bios are available online

  • You can choose your therapist

Cons
  • Doesn’t accept insurance for therapy, only primary care

  • Therapy services not available to patients in all states

  • No psychiatrists on staff; prescriptions filled by MDs

  • No messaging-based therapy option

  • Cannot prescribe certain controlled medications

  • No refunds for unused therapy sessions if you cancel mid-month

  • No teen, couples, or group therapy

Key Facts
Price
$14.99/month or $99/year membership plus $149 per week or $169 per session for therapy; $99 per month for medication management
Is Insurance Accepted?
No. Not for mental health services
Communication Options
Audio, Video Chat
HIPPA Compliant?
N/A
Is There an App?
Yes
Does it Accept HSA/FSA?
No
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

PlushCare was founded in 2015 by Ryan McQuaid and is headquartered in San Francisco, CA. The mission of the company was to create an online platform to provide the highest quality healthcare experience for every person in the U.S., regardless of location or health insurance status. The company does a good job of sticking to that goal today, though it should be noted that only its medical services are in-network with insurance companies.

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

First Impressions and Sign-up Process 

When you arrive at PlushCare’s homepage, you’ll find a photo of a smiling woman above the words, “Healthcare that makes you smile.” Below that, there's a brief summary of the company’s services and an orange button encouraging you to schedule your first session. Below the button, there is an asterisk and the promise that if the company is unable to treat you or provide care, you'll receive a full refund.

Plushcare Landing Page

If you click that button, you will be taken to the intake page for scheduling a primary care doctor, not a therapist. This is fine if you’re coming to PlushCare for medical services, but misleading if you’re here for any of their other services, like therapy. 

It’s also worth noting that this intake will simply ask you if you’re paying for yourself or using insurance before letting you book without any preliminary questions about why you’re there or what you’re seeking treatment for.

Once you've selected a time slot, the platform gives you five minutes to complete the booking process before the slot becomes available to all PlushCare users who are trying to schedule their own sessions.

If you disregard the orange button and scroll down the page, you’ll find more information—such as what kind of training PlushCare's MDs have, how its virtual sessions work, and the types of insurance it accepts—but just like the orange button, the focus is on medical services, not therapy. This lends the impression that this is a telehealth rather than a therapy site.

The only way you can find information about PlushCare’s therapy options is by clicking on “What We Treat” in the top navigation bar and then selecting “Mental Health” or “Online Therapy.” (The fact that there are two options dedicated to the same service is also confusing.)

Plushcare Mental Health Page

If you select “Mental Health” on the top navigation menu, you’ll be taken to a page topped with a calming, blue image of a woman, the words, “We take care of you, body and mind,” and a short paragraph inviting you to speak with one of their therapists or primary care physicians to get emotional support or medication. Below that is another orange “Book an Appointment” button. However, this time, when you click, you’ll be taken to a short mental health intake page. This questionnaire will ask you if you’re interested in therapy, medication, or aren’t sure. 

Next you’ll be asked if you’re looking for a prescription for one of four medications: Xanax (alprazolam), Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, Ativan (lorazepam), or Valium (diazepam). If you answered "no" to the previous question, you'll indicate if you’ve ever been diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia. 

If you answer "yes" to either question, you’ll be informed that PlushCare’s services are not appropriate for you.

After the questionnaire, if you said you were interested in therapy, you’ll be taken to a page where you can schedule your first session. If you indicated that you were interested in medication, you’ll be offered the chance to enroll in the Care + Meds plan (more on this below) and/or book a primary care appointment.

Plushcare Online Therapy Page

If you select “Online Therapy” on the homepage’s top navigation menu, you’ll land on a different page than the "Mental Health" link. This one outlines the company’s therapy program and gives you the option to see if it offers therapy in your state.

It’s worth noting that if you select this, you’ll simply be taken to a scheduling page where you can book your first session or a 15-minute informational call. Again, you will not fill out an intake form about your mental health history first. If you opt to schedule a session, you’ll then be given the option to pick any therapist you want (their bios are linked below their head shot) at a time that works for you.

The website itself looks modern, loads quickly, and is well maintained. The site has a blog, which is broken up into topic areas, such as online prescriptions, primary care, mental health, online doctor, and more. If you’re looking for information about specific conditions, symptoms, or treatments, you can scroll through posts sorted by topic or use the search function at the top of the page.

Plushcare Blog

The company also has a presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which seem to be updated relatively regularly. 

PlushCare’s most informative and easy-to-navigate page is its FAQs page, though to find it you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the homepage where it's hidden in a footer menu.

The PlushCare app is available on Android, Windows, iOS, and Mac, if you'd prefer not to use the browser version of your portal.

Seventy-two percent of the users we surveyed reported they had a very good or excellent experience signing up for PlushCare.

The sign-up satisfaction rate is lower than average, which we suspect might have to do with the confusing navigation and the lack of a personalized mental health intake form.

Cost 

PlushCare is a telehealth service first, and an online therapy company second. As such, there are two costs: the membership subscription and the cost of your treatment. This is a different business model than most of the companies we reviewed.

Seventy-one percent of the users we surveyed said the cost was very good or excellent. 

However, it’s important to note that while the median U.S. household income in 2019 was $68,703, according to the Census Bureau, only 15% of PlushCare users had an income close to (or below) that. Instead, overwhelmingly, PlushCare users made more than the median U.S. income: 22% had incomes between $75,000 and $99,000 annually; 57% had incomes between $100,000 and $199,999; and 6% had incomes over $200,000. 

As a result, what may have been affordable to the PlushCare users we surveyed may not be affordable to most therapy seekers, especially since you have to pay for both a PlushCare membership and each therapy session without insurance. 

This is especially true given that the price per therapy session is higher than most companies we reviewed.

PlushCare's Prices Compared to Other Therapy Options

What Subscription Plans Does PlushCare Offer?

In addition to a membership fee of $14.99 per month (or $99 per year), you will be charged for each appointment you book.

If paying out of pocket, appointments with a medical doctor are $119 each; if you have in-network insurance this will be reduced to a copay.

PlushCare does not allow users to use insurance to cover therapy sessions, however (though the company is planning for its therapy offerings to be considered in-network by late 2022).

In addition to the base monthly or yearly fee, therapy sessions cost:

  • $149 each ($596 billed every four weeks) for four weekly sessions.
  • $169 per single session if you want the flexibility to schedule sessions when you need them, rather than weekly.

If you’re seeking medication management or a prescription for mental health medication, you will need to enroll the Care + Meds plan, which is $49 the first month, and $99 per month after that. It includes:

  • Monthly video check-ins with your doctor.
  • Medication shipped to your home.
  • Ongoing support from the care team.

All these fees can add up if you want to get both psychiatric and therapy services from PlushCare. The final ongoing cost for four weekly therapy sessions and enrollment in the Care + Meds plan (in addition to the $14.99 monthly base fee) could cost over $700 if not using insurance.

Is There a Free Trial?

All users get a free 30-day trial of the PlushCare membership, but you will pay for your therapy sessions or doctor appointments.

Does PlushCare Accept Insurance?

While PlushCare accepts insurance for its primary care services, it does not accept insurance for therapy or prescription delivery service—a detail only made clear in the FAQs, not on the homepage.

Users may feel misled when signing up for the first time, especially since PlushCare prominently displays its insurance partners on its home and membership pages.

Can You Change or Cancel Your Subscription?

You can cancel your membership at any time through the app or your client portal. You will be reimbursed for the unused sessions remaining for that month.

However, while you can cancel or reschedule therapy and doctor sessions up to two hours before the appointment begins without penalty, appointments canceled within the two-hour window will be deducted from your monthly allotment of appointments and you will be charged a $30 cancellation fee. The same holds true for no-shows.

Are There Discounts Available?

The first month of services are free.

Members paying out of pocket also have access to $5 basic labs and up to 80% off medications; all subscribers can add family members at no cost.

Ease of Use

Eighty-four percent of the users we surveyed thought the PlushCare platform was either very good or excellent in terms of user friendliness and ease of use, which was above average compared to the other users we surveyed. This is likely because once you’ve created your PlushCare account, scheduling is fairly easy and intuitive.

You can message your doctor, therapist, or care coordinator with questions or concerns at any time through your portal or the app. However, the bulk of the communication with your therapist will take place during your weekly audio or video session.

Some competitors (such as Talkspace) offer the option to have live chat sessions or to receive counseling through asynchronous messaging, but sessions at PlushCare take place via audio or video only.

A representative we spoke with explained that these 45-minute sessions foster more client-provider trust than live chat sessions, and that keeping messaging between sessions to a minimum helps clients “learn to implement coping mechanisms through the week instead of relying on texting anytime something comes up.”

PlushCare tells us that the average client waits about 24 hours between selecting a therapist and hearing back from them, though survey respondents reported longer wait times:

  • Thirty-four percent of the PlushCare users we surveyed heard back within the same day.
  • Twenty-seven percent heard back within the next few days.
  • Twenty-eight percent heard back later in the week.
  • Eleven percent waited one to two weeks (or more).

Still, 74% of all current PlushCare clients who responded to our survey rated this wait time as either very good or excellent.

If you do not like the therapist or doctor you’re currently working with, you can switch by contacting the Operations team or by scheduling an appointment with another therapist of your choosing.

Eighty percent of users we surveyed described the switching process easy or very easy—a higher-than-average rating compared to the other 32 online platforms we evaluated.

Therapists' Qualifications and Quality of Care


In general, the providers at PlushCare who speak directly with clients are board-certified doctors and therapists who are licensed to practice independently in multiple states. You can view the bios and qualifications of your providers on the site at the time of scheduling your appointments. PlushCare vets each clinician with a process that includes an interview, a background check, and license verification. Additionally, PlushCare's Credentialing Peer Review Committee (CPRC) reviews each candidate's credentials.

Eighty percent of the users we surveyed said that therapist qualifications were either a moderately important or extremely important reason for choosing PlushCare; but after trying the services, 74% said they found the therapists’ qualifications to be either very good or excellent. This was a below-average satisfaction rate compared to the other companies we reviewed. 

It’s possible that part of the reason why users would eventually report lower levels of satisfaction because clients do not have the option of meeting with a psychiatrist for medication and evaluation, only medical doctors. However, PlushCare's medical doctors who prescribe and offer medication management do consult company psychiatrists in order to make the best choices when it comes to your particular mental health needs.

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

PlushCare has licensed therapists available in every state, but its site does not disclose how many therapists in total are associated with its service. The number you have to choose from depends on where you live. 

According to our user surveys, most people switch providers a few times before finding the right match; only 7% had stuck with the first person they choose, while:

  • Thirty-three percent of the people we surveyed reported having seen two providers.
  • Thirty-eight percent had seen three.
  • Twenty-five percent had seen four or more.

Though PlushCare tells us that there's a low rate of turnover among its providers, if your therapist ever leaves the platform, the company can refer you to a new provider on or off the platform.

Types of Therapy Offered

PlushCare offers a variety of physical health services, including care for urgent medical issues, everyday primary care, and case management. It also offers talk therapy (if you live in certain states) and medication management for non-controlled substances, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and Wellbutrin (bupropion).

PlushCare cannot provide treatment for more severe mental health conditions and it cannot prescribe controlled substances, such as Xanax, Adderall, Ativan, and Valium. The full list of drugs its providers cannot prescribe is noted online.

PlushCare’s mental health services can help with:

Clinicians at PlushCare have a diverse range of specializations and trainings. Some of the modalities your therapist may use with you in sessions include:

The platform also offers worksheets, guidebooks, and other education resources.

Privacy Policies

Like most of the online therapy companies we reviewed, PlushCare takes a number of steps to protect client privacy and data. It is HIPAA compliant with all its protocols and according to its privacy policy, it states that it has implemented all “commercially reasonable” physical, technical, and administrative security measures to protect your information. The company uses a firewall and other security infrastructure, and it encrypts all data during transmission using SSL security, an industry standard. 

If you want to obtain your medical records from the company, you can do that relatively quickly and easily once you sign a release of information. The records can be sent directly to you or another medical professional.  

While PlushCare protects 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.

If during your treatment, your therapist decides you need more help than they can offer, a different type of therapy, or medications they can't provide, the company will refer you to a local resource that is a better fit. They will also file a formal report with authorities if they believe you are a threat to yourself or others, as is required by law. PlushCare's nursing team is also available to provide additional crisis support.

Overall Client Satisfaction

Sixty-five percent of the users we surveyed rated the services they received through PlushCare as either very good or excellent, which is lower than the average for all the companies we reviewed. Seventy-four percent said the value was very good or excellent for the money spent. 

Still, 82% who had used other online therapy services said that PlushCare was better or much better than their previous online service.

According to our survey, it appears that most clients are relatively new to the company:

  • Eighteen percent had been users for less than three months.
  • Twenty-five percent had been users for three to six months.
  • Thirty-two percent had been users for six to 12 months. 

Meanwhile, only 14% had been users for over a year and only 11% had been users for more than two years. 

Still, 89% told us they were likely or very likely to be working with PlushCare a year from now.

Ninety-six of users reported that they were either likely or very likely to recommend someone like them to PlushCare.

Is PlushCare Right For You?

PlushCare is first and foremost a primary health care company, so its main focus is on physical health. Thus, if you’re looking for an all-around care company that will cater to your physical and mental health needs, it might work well for you. You can easily add on mental health or medication management services to your PlushCare membership, making it a one-stop destination for virtual care—if you can afford the cost, of course.

PlushCare bills its services as especially suited for LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, college students, entrepreneurs, first responders, and faith-based communities.

However, if mental health care is your primary concern, there are likely better options for you. There are more affordable talk therapy services available, including some that take insurance, which is why PlushCare is not one of our recommended best online therapy companies. It is also not the place to go if you’re looking for sessions with an actual psychiatrist, nor can its providers see people under the age of 18. 

Its therapists do not offer couples or group therapy, cannot diagnose mental health conditions for work or school accommodations, and cannot provide letters of support for emotional support animals (ESAs). PlushCare's doctors cannot prescribe controlled substances, so the service may not be the best choice if you have a condition like ADHD, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder and require the use of restricted medication.

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

PlushCare vs. Doctor on Demand

PlushCare and Doctor on Demand are both telehealth companies that have expanded to offer mental health services. Both offer talk therapy services with licensed therapists as well as medication management services. However, Doctor on Demand users are able to meet with psychiatrists, while PlushCare's medical doctors provide medication management with the guidance of psychiatrists who work for the company.

Both accept insurance for their primary care services, but only Doctor on Demand accepts insurance for its therapy services as well. 

PlushCare also charges for its membership, while Doctor on Demand is free to join and you pay simply for the services you use when you use them.

  • PlushCare charges $14.99 per month or $99 a year for its membership, then $149 for 45-minute weekly therapy sessions or $169 for individual 45-minute talk therapy sessions. Medication management for mental health costs $49 the first month, then $99 per month.
  • Doctor on Demand offers 25-minute talk therapy sessions for $129, or $179 for 50-minute sessions. Initial psychiatrist appointments cost $299, with 15-minute follow-ups costing $129. If you have insurance, you may pay less. 


Both websites are informative, but not the most intuitive to navigate, especially if you’re more interested in mental health services rather than those for physical health. Both companies display provider bios when booking your appointments, though, and have informative blogs. 

Website Comparison: PlushCare vs Doctor on Demand

In terms of user satisfaction, Doctor on Demand may have had a small edge: 75% said the services were very good or excellent, which was much higher than the 65% at PlushCare that said the same. 

However, 96% of PlushCare clients said they were either likely or very likely to refer someone to the company, compared to only 90% of Doctor in Demand clients. 

Plus, 89% percent of PlushCare users and 88% of Doctor on Demand users reported they were either likely or very likely to still be seeing a therapist within the company a year from now; the same number (82%) of users at both companies said the services they received were either better or much better than the services at the companies they used before.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a one-stop online destination for your primary care and mental health, PlushCare might work for you. Your membership will give you fast access to a doctor whenever you need it, and if you can afford the extra out-of-pocket cost, you can also schedule weekly or as-needed therapy sessions or seek prescriptions for your mental heal medication. 

However, PlushCare says its goal is to enable the highest quality of healthcare for every person in the US, regardless of location and health insurance status. While it might achieve this goal as a primary health care company, when it comes to mental health, it seems to fall short of achieving that goal.

Since its therapy and medication management services are not covered by insurance and are more expensive out of pocket than almost all the other companies we reviewed, its services are likely out of reach financially for most users.

Methodology

Our methodology for evaluating online therapy companies is comprehensive and data-driven. As mentioned above, we sent questionnaires to 33 companies and surveyed 100 current users of each in order to gather 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 the ease of changing 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 assessed 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.

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  1. Semega, J., Kollar, M., Shrider, E. A., & Creamer, J. Income and poverty in the United States: 2019. United States Census, 2020.