Cerebral Online Therapy Review 2023: What We Know – Comprehensive Analysis

Dr. Serenity
April 10, 2023

Cerebral Online Therapy: A 2023 Review

Looking for mental health care that’s more convenient than in-person services? Cerebral offers online therapy and medication management subscriptions. However, the platform has been under investigation for its practices. We mystery-shopped Cerebral to provide an unbiased review of its pros, cons, and plan options.


  • Combine online psychiatry and therapy
  • Free monthly medication delivery for eligible plans
  • Medication management available in all 50 states
  • Accepts insurance


  • Therapy not available in every state
  • Cannot directly message providers, only care coordinators
  • No financial aid available
  • Inconsistent information on its website and from customer service
  • Under investigation for its prescribing and billing practices


Understanding How Cerebral Works: Subscription-Based Mental Health Care

Cerebral, a cutting-edge mental health platform, offers comprehensive therapy and medication management through subscription-based plans. With a team of experienced mental health care providers, including prescribers, licensed therapists, and care counselors, Cerebral aims to provide convenient and accessible mental health care for those in need. Here’s a closer look at how Cerebral works and what users can expect when signing up for this innovative service.

Assessment and Account Creation: A User-Friendly Process

Getting started with Cerebral is easy. Users begin by creating an account and completing a comprehensive questionnaire that assesses the symptoms and severity of their mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. This assessment helps Cerebral tailor their care to each individual’s unique needs, ensuring personalized treatment plans.

Plan Selection and Subscription: Flexibility and Options

Once the assessment is complete, users can select the plan that best suits their needs and enter their payment information to start their monthly subscription. Cerebral offers a range of plans to choose from, providing flexibility and options to fit different lifestyles and budgets. Users can explore the available providers and book an appointment for the same day, ensuring timely access to care.

A Collaborative Care Team: Care Coordinators, Prescribers, Therapists, and Care Counselors

Cerebral takes a collaborative approach to mental health care, providing users with a care team that works together to address their needs. The care team may consist of:

  1. Care Coordinators: These dedicated professionals serve as the liaison between the patient and the provider. They assist with account management, provider matching, and monitoring messages to ensure prompt responses to user questions from providers as needed. Care coordinators play a crucial role in facilitating smooth communication and coordination of care.
  2. Prescribers: Cerebral’s team of prescribers includes psychiatrists, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who are qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat various mental health conditions. They can provide medication management to users as part of their comprehensive treatment plan.
  3. Licensed Therapists: Cerebral’s platform also includes licensed therapists who provide therapy to users through live sessions. These therapists are experienced in various therapeutic modalities and can provide support for a wide range of mental health concerns.
  4. Care Counselors: Care counselors hold a master’s or bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or counseling and serve as a point of contact for patients. While they are not licensed therapists and cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions, they provide valuable support and assistance as part of the care team.

Seamless Communication and Flexibility: Messaging and Provider Changes

Cerebral understands the importance of ongoing communication between users and their care team. Users can message their care coordinator for support between sessions, ensuring continuous access to care and assistance. Although users do not communicate directly with their prescribers or therapists through the platform, care coordinators monitor the patient portal chat and can involve providers for responses as needed. Additionally, users have the flexibility to change their prescribers or therapists at any time by contacting their care coordinator, ensuring that they have control over their treatment journey.

Easy Cancellation: Convenience and Flexibility

Cerebral values its users’ autonomy and provides easy cancellation options. Users can cancel their subscription at any time through the app or account settings, or by notifying their care coordinator. This flexibility ensures that users have control over their subscription and can make changes as needed.


Comparing Cerebral Plan Options

Cerebral offers different subscription-based plans to cater to various mental health needs. Each plan includes live sessions with mental health care providers and unlimited messaging with a care coordinator for seamless communication and support.

  • Therapy Plan

The Therapy plan includes four monthly live sessions with a therapist conducted through video or phone on the Cerebral website or app. It does not include medication management.

  • Medication + Therapy Plan

The Medication + Therapy plan includes an initial evaluation and regular follow-ups with a prescriber, along with four monthly live sessions with a therapist. Medication delivery is included in this plan if you choose to fill your prescription with Cerebral.

  • Medication + Care Management Plan

The Medication + Care Management plan includes an initial evaluation and regular follow-ups with a prescriber, along with one monthly session with a care counselor. It also offers unlimited messaging with a care coordinator for continuous support.

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment + Care Counseling Plan

The Medication-Assisted Treatment + Care Counseling plan is specifically designed for individuals managing opioid use disorder and living in Colorado, Florida, or Washington. It pairs you with a substance abuse specialist prescriber for regular meetings, and a care counselor for monthly sessions to support you in managing mental health symptoms. Medication delivery is not included in this plan, and prescriptions must be picked up from a local pharmacy.

  • Medication + Coaching Plan

Note: This plan is not mentioned on the Cerebral website but was provided in a customer service call on October 5, 2022.

The Medication + Coaching plan is similar to the Medication + Therapy plan, but it includes four 30-minute monthly live sessions with a care counselor instead of a therapist.

Plan Comparison

Here is a comparison of the different plans offered by Cerebral:

PlanCostMonthly Sessions with TherapistMonthly Sessions with Care CounselorPrescriber Evaluation and Follow-upsUnlimited Messaging with Care CoordinatorMonthly Medication Delivery
Therapy Plan$259 per month4NoYesNo
Medication + Therapy Plan$325 per month4YesYesYes
Medication + Care Management Plan$99 per month1YesYesYes
Medication-Assisted Treatment + Care Counseling Plan$195 per month1YesYesNo
Medication + Coaching Plan*$195 per month4YesYesNo

*Note: Plan not mentioned on the Cerebral website.

Please note that users can only select from the Therapy, Medication + Therapy, and Medication + Care Management plans when signing up. To sign up for other programs offered by Cerebral, users must call in to get their plan adjusted, as informed by a Cerebral customer service representative on October 6, 2022.


Cerebral Cost and Payment Options

Cerebral offers monthly billing for its plans, starting from the day you create your account and enter your payment information. While the website states that subscription prices may vary based on location, conditions, or other variables, a conversation with a Cerebral customer service agent on October 5, 2022, revealed the following prices:

  • Therapy – $259 per month
  • Medication Plus Therapy – $325 per month
  • Medication Plus Care Management – $99 per month
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy Plus Care Counseling – $195 per month
  • Medication Plus Coaching – $195 per month

Additional Sessions

If you need more than the standard four sessions with your therapist or care counselor, you have the option to pay for additional sessions. A therapist session costs $65 per session, while a care counselor session costs $30 per session, as confirmed in a conversation with a Cerebral customer service representative on October 5, 2022.

Medication Costs and Insurance Billing

The Medication Plus Therapy plan includes the cost of delivery but not the cost of the medication itself. Cerebral can bill your insurance for any covered medications that you’re prescribed, and you would be responsible for the copay. According to information provided by Cerebral’s customer service representatives on October 5, 2022, most medications cost $10, but some may be up to $40, depending on the medication and insurance coverage.

Flexible Payment Methods

You can use your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) card as a payment method, but only if you are paying for your subscription out of pocket.

Insurance Billing

If your providers are in-network with your insurance, Cerebral can bill your insurance provider for your sessions. In this case, you will be responsible for a $30 monthly subscription fee, which is not covered by insurance, as well as your plan’s copay amount. Cerebral can provide superbills or invoices for those using out-of-network insurance benefits.

Refunds and Financial Assistance

Cerebral’s terms and conditions state that there are no refunds for partial subscriptions, even if users don’t end up seeing a provider. Currently, Cerebral does not offer financial assistance for its subscription plans.


Compare Cerebral to Other Online Therapy Platforms

PlatformCost for Medication Management*Cost for Therapy*Cost for Medication Management and Therapy*Medication Delivery OptionAccepts Insurance
Cerebral$99 per month$259 per month$325 per monthYesYes
Brightside$95 per month$299 per month$349 per monthYesYes
BetterHelp$240 to $360 per month†  NoNo
Talkspace$276 for initial psychiatry session;

$125 per follow-up visit

$276 to $516 per monthNoYes
MDLive$284 per initial psychiatry session;

$108 per follow-up visit

$108 per sessionNoYes
  • If paying out of pocket.

† Cost may be higher based on your preferences, location, and therapy availability.

In conclusion, while there are several online therapy platforms available, Cerebral offers a unique combination of medication management, therapy, and convenient services such as medication delivery and insurance acceptance, making it a compelling option for individuals seeking comprehensive mental health care. However, it’s important to consider your individual needs and preferences when choosing an online therapy platform, and compare the costs and services offered by different platforms to make an informed decision.


Cerebral Reviews: An Overview of User Feedback

User Reviews:

Cerebral, a telepsychiatry platform, has received mixed reviews from users. As of this writing, Cerebral is rated 4 out of 5 stars with 4,479 reviews on Trustpilot. However, on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website, Cerebral received only 1.08 out of 5 stars from 197 customer reviews, and has a BBB rating of B due to closing 533 complaints over the last three years. Notably, the business is not BBB-accredited.

  • Positive Reviews: Positive reviews were from users who had a good experience with the care they received and who enjoyed the convenience of receiving care from their homes.
  • Negative Reviews: Negative reviews mentioned unexpected charges and low provider availability. Users who used their insurance to pay noticed billing entries for more visits than they attended. Reviews also cited poor communication about changes to charges, such as when starting a new medication. Furthermore, reviewers described being charged even after they opted to cancel their accounts through the platform.


Cerebral in the Spotlight: Concerns and Investigations

In recent months, Cerebral, an online therapy platform, has been making headlines for various concerns related to its prescribing practices, as reported in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. Former employees and users have expressed concerns about the safety of the platform’s prescribing practices, including brief, 30-minute virtual visits with prescribers and internal company communications that allegedly encourage overprescribing of medication.

  • Shortcomings of Virtual Assessments

Jason Herrick, MD, the director of psychiatry for the Pediatric Behavioral Health Integration Program at Montefiore Medical Group in Bronx, New York, has pointed out that gathering all relevant information in a short period of time can be challenging. He highlighted that initial assessments or making diagnosis and treatment recommendations solely based on a questionnaire in less than 30 minutes should raise concerns. According to psychiatric practice guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), providers are advised to use their clinical judgment to tailor their psychiatric evaluations to the patient’s needs. However, there are often barriers to properly assessing certain conditions, such as substance use and suicidality, in just one visit.

  • Controlled Substance Prescribing Regulations

Prescribing and filling prescriptions for medications considered controlled substances are regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, which requires additional safety precautions from the prescriber, pharmacy, and patient due to the potential for abuse or addiction. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Drug Enforcement Administration (PDF) updated the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008, which previously required in-person evaluations by prescribers at least once every 24 months before prescribing a controlled substance. The update removed the in-person evaluation requirement, allowing telepsychiatry providers like Cerebral to prescribe controlled substances through its platform at that time.

  • Investigations and Allegations

In May 2022, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York served Cerebral with a grand jury subpoena related to an investigation into possible violations of the Controlled Substances Act, as reported by the American Bar Association. Following the subpoena, Cerebral stopped prescribing controlled substances, although the terms and conditions of the platform still outline the user’s agreement if they are prescribed a controlled substance.

In June 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly initiated an investigation into Cerebral for alleged “deceptive or unfair practices related to advertising or marketing,” according to a Wall Street Journal article. Similar to complaints from third-party reviews, the article described how users found it difficult to cancel their subscriptions. Documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal revealed the FTC’s intention to investigate instances where Cerebral “continued to bill customers a subscription fee until the customer cancels.”

  • Subscription Fees and Refund Policies

On a call with Cerebral on October 5, 2022, a customer service agent informed that a subscription fee would be charged on the day new users sign up and monthly on that day going forward. The agent also stated that the subscription would be charged regardless of whether users attended an appointment with a provider or not. While the platform warns users about the absence of refunds in its terms and conditions and checkout page, a subsequent call with Cerebral customer service a day later revealed that a refund may be possible if a user decides to cancel their subscription before utilizing any of the services on the platform.

  • Treatment of Minors and Suicide Risks

In September 2022, the Wall Street Journal published an article about Cerebral treating an underage teen without parental consent, who subsequently died by suicide, as ruled by authorities. It is worth noting that unless a platform specifically offers teen therapy, most online therapy platforms, including Cerebral, do not treat individuals younger than 18.


Our Experience With Cerebral

In our April 2022 survey of 1,000 online therapy users, 49 percent of Cerebral users indicated that they chose to use the platform because it had positive reviews online, and 42 percent of users indicated that they started using the platform because its plans were in their budget. Also, 67 percent of Cerebral users we surveyed agreed that they were satisfied with the care they received on the platform.

  • Inconsistencies in Information

When mystery-shopping the platform, our reviews team often noticed inconsistencies between the information on the Cerebral website and what customer service representatives told them about the availability of services offered, the actual costs of plans, and the ins and outs of the refund policy. Much of the information we found about Cerebral came from its FAQ page and calls with its customer service line. The customer service phone agents we spoke with were responsive and courteous.


Why You Can Trust Us

As a team committed to providing reliable and unbiased information, we independently investigate and recommend products and services that we believe will enrich the lives of our readers and meet their specific needs. Our online therapy reviews are conducted with a rigorous methodology that includes the following steps:

  1. Engaged in ongoing independent research: We continuously stay updated on the latest developments in the online therapy market by conducting thorough and up-to-date research to ensure that our reviews are based on the most current information available.
  2. Mystery-shopped each of the brands: To provide an authentic evaluation, we personally mystery-shop each of the online therapy brands we review. This involves going through the entire customer experience, from browsing the website to interacting with customer service representatives, to gain firsthand insights into the quality of service provided.
  3. Contacted brands’ customer service teams to ask questions and gauge responsiveness: We directly reach out to the customer service teams of the online therapy providers we review to ask questions and assess their responsiveness. This allows us to evaluate the level of customer service and support provided by each brand.
  4. Consulted six leading psychologists and psychiatrists: To ensure the accuracy and comprehensiveness of our reviews, we consult with six leading psychologists and psychiatrists who are experts in the field of mental health. Their professional insights and expertise add credibility to our evaluations.
  5. Became customers of online therapy providers ourselves: In order to thoroughly understand the user experience, we become customers of online therapy providers ourselves. This enables us to assess the quality of care, ease of use, and overall experience from a user’s perspective.
  6. Reviewed academic research about the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy: We thoroughly review academic research and scientific studies that compare the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy. This allows us to provide evidence-based insights into the effectiveness of online therapy.
  7. Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as the BBB and Trustpilot: We analyze and consider hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third-party sources, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot, to gather insights on real user experiences and satisfaction levels.

Our commitment to conducting comprehensive research and evaluating online therapy brands through various channels allows us to provide accurate, reliable, and unbiased reviews that you can trust.


The Bottom Line

Cerebral offers affordable monthly subscription plans that provide convenient online mental health support through a care team. While it’s priced lower than Brightside and Talkspace, we found the sign-up process to be confusing due to lack of information about services, availability, and refund policy.

Scrutiny and Concerns

Cerebral has faced scrutiny for unsafe prescribing practices and deceptive billing practices, as reported by some third-party reviews and Cerebral users we surveyed. It’s important to be aware of these concerns when considering using the platform.

In Emergency Situations

It’s crucial to prioritize your safety in emergency situations. If you are in crisis or have plans to harm yourself or others, calling 911 or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for immediate assistance is recommended. The SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) is also available 24/7 as a free, confidential treatment referral and information service for individuals facing mental or substance abuse disorders.

At a Glance

  • Cerebral offers monthly subscription plans for online mental health support.
  • Sign-up process can be confusing due to lack of information.
  • Scrutiny for unsafe prescribing and deceptive billing practices.
  • In emergency situations, call 911 or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for immediate assistance.
  • SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) is available 24/7 for mental health and substance abuse support.

Cerebral provides affordable online mental health support through monthly subscription plans. However, the sign-up process may be confusing and it has faced scrutiny for prescribing practices and billing practices. In case of emergency, prioritize your safety and call 911 or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for confidential support.

Author Dr. Serenity

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