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Cerebral vs Talkspace: Which Online Therapy Platform Is Better?

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Medically reviewed by: Onyinye Elizabeth Mbata, MD

Anxiety, stress, and depression – thankfully, it’s no longer taboo to discuss these prevalent mental health concerns. With tens of millions of adults and kids in the United States suffering from anxiety disorders, it’s about time that we bring mental health into the limelight.


Whether you’re looking to manage a mental health condition or alleviate occasional stress, therapy is a valuable tool. We can all benefit from speaking to a trained professional to overcome worries and anxieties, no matter how large or small. 


With the recent boom in telehealth services from the COVID-19 pandemic, online therapy platforms became a mainstream way to get the mental health care that you need. These “teletherapy” providers make it quicker, more convenient, and more affordable to talk to a therapist – and that’s something we can get behind!


If you’re looking to give teletherapy a try, the first step is to choose a platform. This has become a pretty crowded field over the past several years, but Talkspace and Cerebral are undoubtedly two of the forerunners. 


Keep reading for our complete run-down on Cerebral and Talkspace, as well as our top online therapy platform recommendation. 


A summary of online therapy platforms

In past generations, mental health care was anything but accessible. For one, in-person therapy sessions average $100 to $200 per session, making cost a major barrier standing between many patients and the care that they need.


For those with mental health care insurance coverage, finding a local, in-network provider can prove to be mind-bendingly frustrating, if not downright impossible. And that’s before you even decide whether or not the therapist is a good fit for you!


These factors leave out a significant downside of traditional therapy: convenience. Most therapists work within normal office hours, making it difficult to slot sessions into a busy schedule. Add in the time required to commute to that session, and it’s no wonder why people may give up on therapy altogether. 

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Source: Cerebral


With online therapy platforms like Talkspace and Cerebral, you don’t have to worry about these inconveniences. Virtual therapy is far less expensive than conventional therapy, and most platforms offer all-inclusive subscription plans. 


Additionally, teletherapy platforms do the hard work of finding a provider for you. In most cases, you’ll complete an initial assessment and, based on your answers, the platform will find a therapist within its network that matches your needs. 


We also can’t talk about online therapy without noting the benefit of getting mental health care from the comfort of home. No stuffy waiting rooms, no commute, and complete privacy – what’s not to like?


Cutting to the chase: 

Read on for more details on each online teletherapy service, but if you’re short on time, here are the biggest takeaways:

Cerebral vs Talkspace

Based on reviews from real users, Cerebral is our top choice for online therapy. They offer a more affordable and convenient option for both therapy, medication & care counseling

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Talkspace is a great option for the same features if Cerebral isn’t available in your state or doesn’t take your insurance.

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Cerebral review

Cerebral is a telehealth platform offering mental health services, including assessments, video and phone appointments, medication management, and medication delivery. The company’s mission is to bring affordable, high-quality, and on-demand mental health care to the masses. 


Additionally, Cerebral works hard to give users a stigma-free care platform. By getting the mental health care that you need from the comfort of your own home, you can steer clear of judgment and enjoy complete privacy. 

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Source: Cerebral


Which conditions does Cerebral treat?

Cerebral treats anxiety, depression, insomnia, depression, trauma, and PTSD. In certain states, the platform also offers treatment for ADHD, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, opioid use disorder, and chronic obesity. In addition, pediatric care and schizophrenia care will soon be added for certain states. 


Note that Cerebral recently stopped prescribing stimulants for ADHD. However, you can still receive non-stimulant ADHD treatments on the platform. 


Ease of signing up with Cerebral

Thankfully, it only takes a few minutes to register online with Cerebral. To get started, you’ll simply need to follow these steps:


1. Create an account 

First off, Cerebral will gather basic information including your name, address, phone number, a photo of your face, and a government-issued ID. You’ll also be asked which mental health concern(s) you’re seeking treatment for.  


2. Complete a questionnaire

Cerebral conducts an emotional assessment to find the right treatment plan for your needs. This questionnaire only takes a minute to complete and asks basic questions such as how often you experience feelings of fear or anxiety. 


3. Select a treatment plan

After finishing the emotional assessment, Cerebral will give you three different subscription package options (Medication + Care Counseling, Medication + Therapy, and Therapy). Once you select a package, the platform will offer a selection of therapists and/or prescribers, along with their bios. You can review the bios and choose the provider that best suits your needs.  


4. Have a phone or video call with your prescriber

Upon choosing a provider, Cerebral will schedule your first phone or video appointment within seven days. Your provider will establish your treatment plan during this appointment. 


If your provider includes medication in your treatment plan, they’ll order a monthly prescription. This prescription can be either shipped to your doorstep or picked up at a local pharmacy.  


5. Connect with your care counselor

With your treatment plan in place, you’ll either have a weekly virtual appointment with your therapist or speak with a Care Counselor via phone or video each month. You can also schedule a follow-up appointment with your therapist, Care Counselor, or prescriber at any time. 


Cerebral treatment plans

Above, we mentioned that Cerebral offers three different subscription plan options. These include:


Medication + Care Counseling

This membership plan includes:

  • A virtual evaluation, diagnosis, and medication prescription from a licensed prescriber
  • Monthly prescription delivery
  • Monthly virtual sessions with your Care Counselor
  • Behavioral health counseling and progress checks

With this plan, you’ll first meet with your prescriber to set your personalized treatment plan and prescribe the medication that you need. After this point, you’ll have monthly virtual meetings with a Care Counselor.


Your counselor is responsible for checking in on your well-being and the effectiveness of your treatment plan. You can ask them questions about your medication, side effects, and other mental health strategies, such as meditation and guided breathing.


Monthly meetings with your Care Counselor aren’t as extensive as therapy sessions, but still go a long way towards keeping your therapy journey on track. 

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Source: Cerebral


Medication + Therapy

This membership plan includes:

  • A virtual evaluation, diagnosis, and medication prescription from a licensed prescriber
  • Weekly virtual therapy sessions
  • Monthly prescription delivery
  • 24/7 virtual chat with your therapist
  • Progress tracking from your prescriber and therapist

This treatment plan is more extensive than the Medication + Care Counseling option because you’ll meet with a licensed therapist rather than a Care Counselor. It’s a good choice for people who benefit from weekly therapy sessions and may need medication to manage their mental health concerns. 


Therapy sessions through Cerebral are conducted virtually and last for 45 minutes. All of the therapists on Cerebral are licensed in their state and use evidence-based tactics, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 


Along with weekly therapy sessions, this subscription plan includes secure messaging with your therapist, which you can access at any time. 



This membership plan includes:

  • Weekly virtual therapy sessions
  • 24/7 virtual chat with your therapist
  • Progress tracking from your prescriber and therapist

This membership plan is a fitting option for patients who are interested in weekly therapy sessions but don’t require medication. You’ll get weekly virtual therapy sessions, access to a secure chat room with your therapist, and progress tracking. 


Other Cerebral treatment plans

It’s worth noting that Cerebral offers treatment plans beyond the three listed above. These plans don’t include therapy, so we won’t go over them in detail, but you can check Cerebral’s site if you’re interested in learning more:

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Source: Cerebral


Where is Cerebral available? 

Cerebral currently offers medication management in all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C. 


However, Cerebral talk therapy services are currently only available in 29 states, including:

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If you don’t live in one of the states listed above, you won’t be able to utilize either the Medication + Therapy or Therapy plan from Cerebral just yet. But, rest assured that this DTC platform is working to expand its talk therapy services. 


Cerebral pricing

Cerebral membership plans have the following out-of-pocket costs:

Medication + Care Counseling $85 per month ($30 for the first month)
Therapy $259 per month ($99 for the first month)
Medication + Therapy $325 per month ($139 for the first month)

If you’re having medication delivered through Cerebral, you won’t have to worry about shipping costs – they’re included in the subscription price. 


Does Cerebral take insurance? 

Cerebral accepts insurance for most treatment plans. While the platform is always working to expand its in-network insurance partnerships, it’s currently limited to certain major commercial health plans in certain states. 


Currently, Cerebral works with the following insurers, in the following states:

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Source: Cerebral


Patients with out-of-network insurance may be able to receive reimbursement for Cerebral treatment from their insurers. Simply reach out to Cerebral to receive an invoice, which you can then submit to your insurer. 


Cerebral reviews from real patients

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Source: TrustPilot


Talkspace review

With celebrity endorsements from Olympian Michael Phelps and singer Demi Lovato, Talkspace has garnered a lot of attention over the past several years. Founded in 2012, the company was rooted in the goal of making high-quality mental health services accessible to all. Now, with a rapidly growing base of active members (61,500, as of September 2021), Talkspace is a major player in the world of teletherapy.  

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Source: Talkspace


Which conditions does Talkspace treat?

Talkspace is a bit different from Cerebral in that it offers therapy not only for individuals, but also couples and teens. Within these categories, Talkspace therapists can help manage a broad range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and PTSD.


Psychiatrists on Talkspace can also prescribe medications (except for controlled substances) to treat mental health conditions. 


Ease of signing up with Talkspace

The first step of getting started with Talkspace is to complete a quick assessment. The platform will first ask you why you’re looking for help (feeling anxious, relationship troubles, etc.), then inquire about your basic personal information and overall health. 


Upon completing this assessment, Talkspace will set to work on matching you with a provider. This typically takes 48 hours or less. At this point, you’ll also need to select a plan: Live Therapy, Messaging Therapy, and Live and Messaging Therapy, and input payment information, if required. But, you won’t be charged until you have a match. 


After you’ve received a match from Talkspace, you can schedule an initial video session, during which your provider will develop a personalized treatment plan. This plan may include medication and follow-up appointments. 


If you don’t think that your match from Talkspace is the right fit, don’t head for the hills quite yet. Talkspace will find you a new match at no added cost. 

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Source: Talkspace


Treatment options available on Talkspace

We’ve already mentioned that Talkspace offers therapy services for individuals, couples, and teens, as well as psychiatry services. With this in mind, Talkspace offers three main therapy subscriptions:


Messaging therapy

This treatment plan includes unlimited text, video, and audio messaging. It allows you to connect with your therapist in a secure chat room, 24/7. While you probably won’t get a fast reply if you message your therapist in the middle of the night, you will get responses throughout the day. In fact, Talkspace offers a guaranteed response time five days per week. This means that you can expect a response from your provider within around four to six hours.  


If having your deepest, (possibly) darkest thoughts stored within a mobile app seems downright anxiety-inducing, you’ll be glad to learn that all of the communications within the chat room are protected and fully encrypted. You can even set a password for the mobile app for an added layer of protection.  

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Source: Talkspace


Live therapy

The Live Therapy plan includes four 45-minute live therapy sessions per month. With this option, you’ll have the option to schedule and attend sessions with your therapist. The plan doesn’t include messaging with your provider, so it’s a fitting choice for those who like to talk it out face-to-face, rather than in a chat room.  


Live + messaging therapy

This plan offers the best of both worlds, with unlimited text, video, and audio messaging and four 45-minute live therapy sessions per month. While this plan is, unsurprisingly, more expensive than the other two, it offers the convenience of instant messaging along with the perks of live sessions.


Psychiatry services

If you think that you’d benefit from medications to manage your mental health, you can schedule an appointment with a licensed psychiatrist or nurse practitioner in the Talkspace psychiatry network. Rather than having a subscription plan, you’ll schedule live video sessions directly with your psychiatrist whenever you need one. 


After your initial psychiatry appointment on Talkspace, your prescriber can send your prescription to your local pharmacy for pickup. If your insurance provides mail order delivery, you can also get your prescription sent to your home. 


Couples therapy

Couples therapy on Talkspace involves a subscription plan with four 45-minute live sessions per month, as well as unlimited text, video, and audio messaging.


Talkspace pricing

Here’s the out-of-pocket pricing breakdown for Talkspace:

Messaging Therapy plan $69 per week
Live Therapy plan $99 per week
Live + Messaging Therapy plan $129 per week
Psychiatry services

Initial online evaluation: $249

Each follow-up appointment: $125

Couples Therapy $109 per week

Does Talkspace take insurance?

Yes! One of the major perks of using Talkspace is that it accepts a large range of health plans, including those from Premera, Optum, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, and Gatorcare. During your initial assessment, you can provide your insurance or employer and Talkspace will check your eligibility. 


Talkspace reviews from real patients

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Source: TrustPilot


How do they compare to other top online teletherapy services? Cerebral vs Talkspace vs Brightside Health

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For a more granular comparison of Cerebral vs Brightside Health, check out our review!


The verdict: Do we recommend Cerebral or Talkspace for online therapy?

When comparing Cerebral and Talkspace for online therapy, there are several factors to consider. Both companies offer unlimited chatting with their messaging plans, as well as convenient scheduling. While Talkspace conducts all live sessions via video, Cerebral offers the option of phone or video sessions. 


As far as cost goes, Cerebral is significantly more affordable than Talkspace. However, while Talkspace is available in all 50 states and accepts a broad range of health insurance plans, Cerebral is limited to 29 states for therapy plans and works with less insurance providers. Additionally, Cerebral doesn’t offer therapy plans for teens or couples, like Talkspace does.


After reading reviews from real members, we noticed a significant number of complaints about Talkspace’s customer service. In this regard, Cerebral seemed to have a better reputation among patients. 


With all of this information in mind, our final verdict is this: Overall, we recommend Cerebral for virtual therapy and messaging. It’s affordable, dependable, and easy to use. However, if Cerebral isn’t available in your state or doesn’t accept your insurance, or if you need teen or couples therapy, give Talkspace a shot – it has plenty of awesome features to offer and is still far less expensive than conventional therapy. 


Have you tried Cerebral or Talkspace, or any other online teletherapy platforms? Tell us about your online therapy experience in the comments below!

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