10 Reasons to Ditch the Therapy App

Updated: Jan 13

a guide for clients and therapists

Lately it feels like every other ad on social media is promoting one of the many therapy app options, all competing for your business. I've worked for 3 of them over the past 6 years, and would like to explain a few of the reasons why you should AVOID the apps at all cost. I'll provide strategies for getting access to therapy that best suits you, without the often predatory middle man.

  1. The intake and informed consent process does not meet most therapist ethics standards

  2. Frequent unethical transitions between therapists happen (ie: transferred without notice, releasing data before you consented)

  3. All the apps are private corporations that take more than half of the money you spend on therapy, therapists are not compensated well and have little autonomy in the work

  4. The companies distance themselves from liability- the therapist is still 100% alone if there’s a client concern or lawsuit

  5. HIPAA is not followed as closely because they are “not a covered entity” because they are a technology company, not a healthcare provider. This is problematic on many levels.

  6. Insurance integrations hinder quality of care (ie: limited sessions without ability to negotiate, therapists working to meet reporting standards instead of client best interest)

  7. Therapists are penalized financially for not meeting outcome measures- it’s capitalism not social justice or client well-being

  8. Algorithms problems are frequent and complex- given in state licensing requirements and limited/ changing providers, you can’t really choose the qualities you prefer in a provider

  9. None of the companies are seeking to shift the mental health system or challenge white supremacy, elitism, classism, racism, sexism, homophobia within it ( and sometimes within the company itself).

  10. The cost is similar, if not more than therapy in person, but you’re getting less time with your provider (usually 30 min video sessions versus an hour).

Teletherapy can be effective, with the right person and in an ethical framework. Every therapist is now digital- reach out to an individual provider that you like and build a direct relationship. The foundation of any good therapy experience is a quality relationship…. Which the apps can’t facilitate as well as your own intuition, engagement and community support.

If you need help finding a provider, here are some good options. Every insurance network has a list of providers it works with, so that’s a good place to start: learn your coverage and options. If you don’t have coverage, many therapists take sliding scale clients if you ask. Use some of these searches below or use a site from the certifying board to avoid middlemen marketing and bias. Asking friends for recommendations can be really helpful too, and they are likely vetted already which is great. Apps like Welltoyy and Daylio can also help with app based tracking and support, while having a direct relationship with your provider for regular care. You can usually have an intro call to see if it’s a good fit. Please visit the 'Our Network' page on our site for more therapists, peer support counselors, etc. that we recommend.

Some common questions to ask your provider in a first call:

-What is their experience working with your specific needs/ identities?

-What their approach to managing power dynamics and potential oppression in the caring relationship? -How do they handle client feedback if something isn't feeling right?

-What if they don’t have an answer, will they tell you directly?

- What is their clinical approach and how is it informed by critical consciousness, anti-oppression?

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