Brightside Therapy: Reviews and Costs in 2022

Learn why Brightside therapy could be a good fit if you experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, have health insurance, or want access to both medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

This content is researched and written based on extensive testing by an external reviews team and does not reflect the views or opinions of Everyday Health’s editorial team. Everyday Health may earn a commission from purchases of products featured in this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Offers a therapy plan, a medication plan, and a plan that combines both
  • All subscriptions include unlimited messaging and self-care videos
  • Uses a proprietary technology to help providers prescribe the most effective medication
  • Monthly subscriptions cost between $95 and $349


Brightside is an online therapy platform dedicated to treating adults ages 18 and older. It made our list of the best online therapy platforms due to its proprietary technology for prescribing medication to help manage mental health conditions. Brightside also treats other mental health conditions related to anxiety and depression, including generalized anxiety disorder and postpartum depression. In our review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Brightside, including insurance options, available medications, and what you can expect with each plan.

Pros and Cons of Brightside Online Therapy

Pros

  • Accepts insurance
  • Can use a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA)
  • All subscriptions include self-care videos
  • Data-driven technology helps providers prescribe the medication most likely to be effective
  • Available in every state
  • Less expensive than Talkspace psychiatry

Cons

  • Option to switch therapists is not guaranteed
  • Only offers video therapy; no audio-only or live chat sessions
  • More expensive medication plan than Cerebral

How Does Brightside Work?

To get started with Brightside, you’ll first complete a free online questionnaire. It typically takes less than a minute and asks you about your symptoms of anxiety and depression and how they affect your quality of life. You will need to provide your name, ZIP code, and email to complete the questionnaire and see your results. Based on your answers, Brightside will assign you an anxiety score and a depression score that will help you and your providers track your progress throughout treatment.

After being presented with your anxiety and depression scores, you can choose to start treatment with a medication plan, therapy plan, or combination of both. You can access free Brightside self-care lessons without creating an account or submitting any payment information. Once you select your plan and click the “Start Treatment” button, Brightside will ask you a few questions about your medical history, including whether you’ve had seizures, been diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychosis, or attempted suicide.

Based on the answers to your medical history questions, you may be presented with a message that states, “Treating certain more complex or severe conditions requires closer interaction with a clinical provider. To explore antidepressant medication or other clinical treatments, we recommend that you visit your primary care doctor.”

If the answers to your medical history questions determine that Brightside can provide you with care, you will be asked to enter your payment information and schedule an appointment. Our reviews team was able to find an appointment within 48 hours.

Every two weeks during your subscription, Brightside will prompt you to retake the same questionnaire you completed during your initial assessment. Over time, you can see how your anxiety and depression symptoms decrease, stay the same, or worsen. Your results are stored in a chart on your Brightside portal, which you can reference at any time. Your provider will also reference this chart to see how well your treatment plan is working.

This type of individual medical information is considered protected health information and is protected under the Brightside Notice of Privacy Practices. According to Brightside, it collects certain details about your personal health information to provide treatment. The company states that it will take “all reasonable precautions to protect it from any improper disclosures.” That said, Brightside outlines some of the scenarios when it may use or share this information with third parties. These could include sharing your information for treatment purposes with providers, for payment purposes with insurance providers, for scheduling and appointment purposes with providers, and for any judicial or administrative proceedings in accordance with all relevant laws.

For business purposes, Brightside says that it will share only a minimum of information with associates for things like credit card billing, but this will never include your medical records. You can read the full details in the Notice of Privacy Practices and find more on your rights on the Brightside website.

Although Brightside specializes in anxiety and depression, it recognizes that both conditions come in many forms, which is why it also treats the following related conditions:

Brightside Treatment Plans

Brightside Medication Plan

According to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatrist in private practice in New York City, “The goal of medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety is to alleviate the symptoms so that the individual can function better in their relationships.” Dr. Gilman adds that money problems, trouble keeping a job, isolation from friends and family, and problems with drugs and alcohol could be signs that depression or anxiety have affected your ability to function.

With the Brightside medication plan, you’ll start with an intake assessment that captures more than 100 data points, including your family medical history, any stressors you’re experiencing, the main symptom you want to focus on, whether you have support systems in your life, and whether you’ve been diagnosed with mental health conditions or taken medication before. Your provider will use this information during treatment to understand which medications may work best for you. You will then schedule an appointment via your patient portal.

During your first appointment, you’ll have an evaluation with a Brightside psychiatric provider to discuss the best path forward. Brightside allocates 30 minutes for this session, though your session may be shorter depending on your needs.

You are not, however, guaranteed to receive a prescription. Brightside providers will only prescribe medication if it is safe, effective, and appropriate. It also recommends therapy before using medication or as a complementary treatment method instead of using medication alone. If your provider decides against medication, you may or may not receive a refund for your appointment. Brightside evaluates all situations on a case-by-case basis.

If your provider decides that medication is the right approach, they will follow the American Psychiatric Association guidelines for how to prescribe medication. These guidelines involve an initial psychiatric assessment that includes an evaluation of a patient’s psychiatric symptoms, trauma history, psychiatric treatment history, and substance use; an assessment of suicide risk and the risk for aggressive behaviors; cultural factors; overall medical health; a quantitative assessment of symptoms; and the involvement of the patient in treatment-making decisions.

Your provider will also consider information from its clinical decision-making tool, called PrecisionRX, before prescribing. The tool analyzes the more than 100 data points from your initial intake assessment to suggest the medication options most likely to be effective for you. These data points include things like your family medical history, any stressors you’re experiencing, the main symptom you want to focus on, whether you have support systems in your life, and whether you’ve been diagnosed with mental health conditions or taken medication before.

The Brightside approach to identifying medication options for patients has shown some promising results. A study published in January 2022 in the journal Cureus?found that patients using Brightside to treat depression had 50 percent higher response and remission rates compared with those receiving treatment as usual for depression from a large Midwestern health system (Brightside funded the study and its employees coauthored the report). Standard treatment for depression frequently involves a psychotropic prescription medication under the supervision of a primary care physician or behavioral health specialist in an outpatient setting.

Available Medications With Brightside

Brightside providers prescribe medication on a case-by-case basis. Some of the most common medications that Brightside prescribes are nonaddictive and include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Besides antidepressants, Brightside providers may prescribe antipsychotic medication such as ziprasidone (Geodon) and antiseizure medication like divalproex (Depakote) to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. Brightside lists its most commonly prescribed medications on its website, but you can contact support@brightside.com to inquire about a specific medication before signing up.

Brightside providers do not treat or prescribe medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and they do not prescribe any mental health medications that are considered controlled substances, including Adderall, Ritalin, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Ambien, and Tramadol, as well as generic versions of most medications. Controlled substances include both illegal and legal drugs, and are assigned rankings from 1 to 4, also called “schedules.” According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the lower the schedule, the higher the risk for abuse and dependence on the drug.

How to Get Your Brightside Prescription

Every medication prescribed by Brightside costs $15, or whatever amount your pharmacy copay is if you’re using insurance, plus the $95 monthly fee. Brightside can ship medication to your door or your local pharmacy for pickup at no added cost. Your first prescription may take 7 to 10 business days to arrive.

Your provider will follow up with you as they deem necessary before authorizing monthly refills. The frequency of these follow-ups is up to the provider and depends on whether you’ve been on the medication before, how you’re feeling on the medication, and how you’re tolerating potential side effects.

If you have questions about your treatment plan or medication, you can message your provider with questions at any time. You can also use your online portal to access information about your medication, such as potential side effects, and request a review of your treatment plan if you feel it may be off track. This may involve a video follow-up with your psychiatric provider to discuss your treatment plan. Your subscription includes unlimited video follow-ups.

Brightside Therapy Plan

With the Brightside therapy plan, you get four 30-minute sessions with your assigned therapist every month. Your first session will be 45 minutes long to give you additional time to provide your therapist with important background information about your experience with depression or anxiety. According to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, your first therapy session should be a more involved discussion on why you’re seeking therapy, the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and your past experiences with therapy. If you want additional 30-minute sessions, you can purchase them for $59 each.

During your initial therapy appointment, your therapist may or may not make a diagnosis. Some patients may have been to therapy or on medication before, which could make it easier for providers to diagnose, while some are new to mental health care, which could require further evaluation to make an appropriate diagnosis.

If your provider determines that this platform is not the right fit for you, Brightside will refer you to local providers. If you have insurance, Brightside will find local providers that accept your plan.

Brightside therapists use a version of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is considered the gold standard of psychotherapy because it is the most well researched and effective approach, according to an article published in January 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

You can contact your provider at any time with the unlimited messaging included in your membership. In our April 2022 survey of 1,000 online therapy users, 57 percent of Brightside members received responses within 24 hours. Separately, 18 percent received responses within a few days, another 18 percent received responses within a week, and only 7 percent of respondents stated that it regularly took more than one week to get a response.

If you are unhappy with your therapist, Brightside may allow you to switch to a different one, but it does not guarantee it since it is based on the availability of therapists in your state. If you have questions about switching therapists, you can reach out to support@brightside.com.

Brightside Medication + Therapy Plan

With the combined medication and therapy plan, Brightside will assign you a care team that includes a psychiatric provider and a therapist who are licensed to practice in your state. The plan includes all the benefits of the stand-alone medication and therapy plans, and you can message your psychiatric provider or therapist at any time. According to the Mayo Clinic, the combination of taking antidepressants and receiving therapy is, in many cases, more effective than taking antidepressants alone.

Brightside Cost and Payment Options

Brightside accepts insurance from Cigna, Aetna, Allegiance, and Anthem California, and is rolling out nationwide coverage for Optum–United Healthcare. If you plan on using insurance, the price you’ll pay will depend on your plan’s coverage details. Here are the costs of each plan without insurance:

  • Medication Plan $95 per month, plus $15 per medication or your pharmacy copay if you are using insurance
  • Therapy Plan $299 per month; includes unlimited messaging and four monthly therapy sessions; optional additional sessions cost $59 each
  • Medication + Therapy Plan $349 per month, plus $15 per medication or your pharmacy copay if you are using insurance

The cost of each medication is $15 or the cost of your pharmacy copay with insurance. Medication can be shipped to your door or shipped to your local pharmacy for no added fee.

Brightside does not offer financial aid.

You can pay with Visa, Mastercard, HSA, or FSA.

Compare Brightside to Other Online Therapy Options

Brand

Cost Per Month (Medication Management Only)

Cost Per Month (Therapy Only)

Cost Per Month (Medication and Therapy)

Accepts Insurance

Types of Therapy

Brightside

$95; $15 per medication or your pharmacy copay

$299; $59 for additional sessions

$349

Yes

Video

Talkspace

$249 for initial consultation; $125 for follow-ups

$276–$516

N/A

Yes

Video, audio, chat

BetterHelp

N/A

$240–$360

N/A

No

Video, audio, chat

Cerebral

$99*

$259*

$325*

Yes

Video, audio

*Cerebral requires an additional subscription fee that starts at $30 per month if you use insurance, depending on your insurance plan. The fee does not include the cost of any copays for provider visits or medication costs, which vary by drug and insurance plan.

Brightside Health Reviews

Our reviews team asked Brightside users about their overall experience with its platform and customer service. According to our online therapy survey, 57 percent of Brightside customers had a mostly positive to positive experience overall, and 71 percent had a mostly positive to positive experience with Brightside customer service, specifically.

Brightside Health has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for failure to respond to 12 out of 16 complaints. It gets 1.71 out of 5 stars based on seven customer reviews.?It is not accredited by the BBB.

On Trustpilot, Brightside Health is rated 2.1 out of 5 stars, with eight customer reviews. Brightside does not have an app.

The positive reviews for Brightside mention compassionate providers and convenient mental health prescriptions, while negative reviews mention poor experiences with certain providers, rushed consultations, lack of responses, trouble scheduling appointments at specific times, and difficulty getting prescriptions filled. Some complaints mention being overcharged when using insurance.

Why You Can Trust Us

We independently investigate and recommend products and services that we believe will enrich the lives of our readers and meet their specific needs. You can read our full online therapy review methodology here. We’ve spent many hours carrying out in-depth research on the online therapy market. You can trust our review because we did the legwork for you in these specific ways:

  • Engaged in ongoing independent research
  • Mystery shopped each of the brands
  • Contacted brands’ customer service teams to ask questions and gauge responsiveness
  • Consulted six leading psychologists and psychiatrists
  • Became customers of online therapy providers ourselves
  • Reviewed academic research about the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy
  • Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties such as the BBB and Trustpilot

The Bottom Line

Unique medication-matching technology, adherence to CBT-focused therapy, free self-care videos, and mood and side-effect tracking make Brightside a competitive option in the online therapy market.

Brightside could be a good choice for online therapy if you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression, especially if you’re looking for mental health medication tailored to your symptoms. Brightside may also be worth a look if you have a plan with one of its insurance partners, which could lower your overall cost.

Brightside may not be the right fit if you want to easily switch therapists or have a condition it doesn’t treat, such as borderline personality disorder or ADHD.

In Emergency Situations

If you are in crisis, waiting for an online therapy appointment may not be safe. In case of an emergency, call 911. That includes plans to harm yourself or others. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Help is available 24/7.

You can also reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). The SAMHSA line is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals facing mental or substance abuse disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Brightside therapy have an app?

Brightside does not have a mobile app that you can download. You can log in to your patient portal by visiting app.brightside.com and entering your credentials.

Does Brightside take insurance?

Brightside accepts Cigna, Aetna, and Anthem California, and is rolling out nationwide coverage for Optum–United Healthcare.

What medications can Brightside prescribe?

Brightside can prescribe SSRIs, SNRIs, and other nonaddictive antidepressants to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. Brightside providers may prescribe antipsychotic and antiseizure medication to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder.

What medications can’t Brightside prescribe?

Brightside does not prescribe any controlled substances, including alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), or ketamine (Ketalar).

Does Brightside treat ADHD or bipolar?

Brightside does not treat or prescribe medication for ADHD. Brightside treats bipolar 2, but it treats bipolar 1 on a case-by-case basis.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  • David D, Cristea I, Hofmann S. Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry. January 2018.
  • Online Therapy Survey. 1,000 respondents. Conducted using Pollfish. Launched April 11, 2022.
  • Antidepressants: Selecting One That’s Right for You. Mayo Clinic. September 23, 2022.
  • Interview With Stephen Gilman. New York City. April 2022.
  • Drug Scheduling. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • What to Expect in Your First Counseling Session. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. January 13. 2017.
  • Chokshi S, Senathirajah Y, Yadav V, et al. A Comparative Evaluation of Measurement-Based Psychiatric Care Delivered via Specialized Telemental Health Platform Versus Treatment as Usual: A Retrospective Analysis. Cureus. January 2022.
  • Practice Guidelines for the Psychiatric Evaluation of Adults, Third Edition. American Psychiatric Association. 2015.
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