• I Don't Trust My Therapist is a Channel 4 investigation into the ethics and processes of US therapy platform BetterHelp

  • Read on for a summary of their main findings, plus information about our charter for therapists and clients

Channel 4’s just released documentary I Don’t Trust My Therapist is an investigation of US online therapy platform BetterHelp. Presenter and podcaster Jackie Adedeji sets out to investigate its claims to make therapy more accessible and affordable.

From the clients Adedeji meets she uncovers some damaging claims:

  • Insufficient checks on age or whether client is in a crisis situation, and therefore at risk of suicide 
  • Clients feeling their stories of sexual abuse were disbelieved or minimised
  • Unreliable therapist behaviour, such as poor time-keeping, missed sessions, not remembering the name of the client
  • Little oversight concerning complaints so clients didn’t know where to turn 

There is no doubt that many people are happy with the BetterHelp service. Clients pay from £180 per month for four sessions, which may be online, by email or SMS. They may change their therapist at any time, and they relish the simplicity of the platform.

Therapists have a variety of opinions about the platform. Some are pleased with the speed at which they get new clients, even if the amount they are paid is less than a third of what BetterHelp is paid by the client. But others, as reported in April in the Financial Times, believe it is insufficiently rigorous in the way it treats the serious subject of therapy. We have also written about the platform and held discussions with professional associations, and we know it is a complicated story for some therapists.

I Don’t Trust My Therapist Jackie Adedeji spoke to Sally Jenkins who worked for the platform until earlier this year and decided that “it was not fit for purpose”. For example, she said it encouraged taking on too many clients in order to make the higher fee scale. “If I had worked like that I would have been physically and mentally exhausted.” She also criticises its level of safeguarding.

The American company grew quickly, paying high fees to well-known influencers and podcasters who personalised the company’s message. BetterHelp was the biggest advertiser on podcasts in the world, and exceeds even Amazon in spend. In August this year alone it spent $10 million on advertising.

Using influencers and prolific content-producers made it appear, especially to young people, that there was no other way of accessing therapy quickly. As one of the young women interviewed by Adedeji said “every other person I saw on my phone was talking about BetterHelp”. The Advertising Standards Association pulled them up over a Facebook ad which gave misleading information, and both the Care Quality Commission and the Citizens Advice Bureau have received complaints about the company, but as it is not a UK business, they cannot investigate.

The area of therapy is largely unregulated, and over the past nine years we at Welldoing have set ourselves high standards to reassure clients about our service, and to attract professional, ethical therapists to join us. After months of discussion with therapists and three of the biggest professional associations, this week we launched a Charter for Therapists and Clients which outlines our transparent processes. Read about our promises to both sides of our therapy marketplace and do get in touch if you want further information.

Further reading

Read about people's experiences of therapy here

Meet our therapists here