In an article recently published in the Financial Times, UK therapists show concerns about the online therapy platform Betterhelp. Betterhelp was recently fined $7.8m for sharing client health information with social media companies
The Financial Times, not typically known for its coverage of therapy and mental health, recently featured a headline addressing concerns about BetterHelp’s fast-paced expansion in the UK. BetterHelp, an American online therapy platform, has gained significant attention in the UK, with its advertising becoming increasingly pervasive.
FT journalist Ian Johnston spoke with seven therapists about their experiences with BetterHelp’s recruitment process, compensation, and client safety measures. The platform sets therapist fees based on the number of sessions and additional increments for text communication between sessions.
Andrew Flynn, a Hartlepool-based counselor, criticized BetterHelp’s “unethical” pay structure. Although UK clients pay a similar rate to Flynn’s private practice fees, he only received around £18 per session from BetterHelp. Flynn claimed that the system encouraged burnout, as he initially worked six sessions per day before reducing his hours due to feeling overwhelmed.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) used to recommend therapists work no more than 20 hours a week, but now leaves the decision to individuals. In a September 2022 article in Therapy Today, Janine Hayter reported not being able to choose clients or refer them elsewhere, which she found uncomfortable and unprofessional.
While some therapists appreciate the steady workload, concerns have been raised about the low compensation rates. Clients may be attracted to the platform’s affordability and convenience, but are they aware of the small portion their therapists receive?
Therapy Today’s editor, Sally Brown, expressed concerns about the potential commoditization of therapy and questioned whether platforms like BetterHelp can maintain minimum standards of clinical care while scaling up. Training to become a therapist is costly and time-consuming, with hidden expenses such as personal therapy, supervision, continuing professional development, insurance, marketing, and office space.
Therapists interviewed by the FT felt that BetterHelp disregarded these factors, both in terms of pay and support. Despite its massive advertising campaigns, the platform has faced controversy, including a $7.8 million settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission for sharing customer health information with social media companies like Facebook and Snapchat.
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