Like most anyone reading this, I’ve had my share of trauma and woes in life: trouble with parents, abandonment issues, abusive family and romantic relationships, sexual assault, trust issues, and so much more. Only one other person knows the full extent of what I’ve endured because I’ve felt uncertain and shameful about sharing these things with anyone else.
I had therapy in my childhood when my parents divorced, therapy in my teens after I was thrown out and abandoned by my family, treatment in college after I suffered an abusive relationship, counseling in my early 20s after I escaped an abuser, and finally, BetterHelp on and off for the past three years to attempt to move on and grieve these issues.
I’ve been with male therapists, female therapists, old therapists, and new therapists —in-person and virtual. So I guess you can say I’ve had a decent sample of therapy strategies from different aspects and perspectives.
When I started my last (and current) relationship, I realized that many of the issues surrounding me were still unresolved: disruptive thoughts, negative talk, self-criticism, and so much more.
That’s when I decided to start therapy again. But what’s someone like me who lives in the middle of the forest supposed to do? In-person treatment was an hour away and cost $200 an hour. That’s when I started looking for virtual therapy and found BetterHelp.
At the time, I could secure therapy for $250/month, and it seemed reasonable for one video session per week.
The process is simple: you fill out your information and medical history, including emotional traumas, and then are shown a menu of therapists and their specialties. You then pick your therapist and introduce yourself. Then, you set up your first video chat. There is also an option for phone calls and texts, but I wanted something close to an actual therapy session.
BetterHelp Therapist Match #1: The Body Issues Therapist
I prepared for my first therapy call and set up a space in my living room for the video call. When I met my therapist, I felt relieved. She was a sweet, soft-spoken blonde who lived in Denver. I felt excited to open up to her and get some weight off my chest.
But things got weird fast. When I talked about my body image issues, she began to take it personally and tell me that I have no reason to feel the way I do. I’m not sure if it’s because she weighed more than me, but I immediately thought that I could not open up and share things that bothered me…in case I offended her again.
I decided it was time to find a new therapist. It’s easy enough on BetterHelp; you click a button to change therapists and are again shown a long list of therapists. So there I was again, ready to start over and tell my intro to someone brand new.
Therapist #2: The Angel from Heaven
I selected a woman in Denver who had some experience with most of the issues that were troubling me, and I sent her an introduction message and scheduled my first video chat.
On our first video call, I realized I had met my perfect therapist match. She was honest, brutal, and didn’t hold back from being totally honest with me. This therapist helped me break down and move on from family trauma, and learn to let go of what I cannot control and what I cannot change. She also helped me understand other abuse I had suffered, primarily emotional and verbal, since I did not recognize it, having been around it my entire life.
This therapist transformed me, shaped me, and helped me see the world from a different perspective. I was eager to chat with her each week, even though I knew she would scold my lifestyle, my disdain for relaxing, and my unsatisfied need for adrenaline.
And then, one day after five months, she was gone. She left BetterHelp. I felt so much sadness for myself, but I knew she had probably left for a few reasons.
- BetterHelp therapists are severely underpaid.
- BetterHelp therapists get overwhelmed and overscheduled.
- BetterHelp therapists only have a few opportunities to advance.
I knew I couldn’t blame her. I would have done the same thing in her shoes. I still think about all the advice she gave me, and I apply it daily. When she quit BetterHelp, I decided to leave as well.
My Experience with In-Person Therapy
I figured I should take her advice and stick to it daily. After all, she helped me resolve more trauma than ANY OTHER THERAPIST I had ever spoken to: in my childhood, teenage years, and 20s.
All of the therapy I received before her was a waste of time. When I was a kid, I met with a therapist who played Badminton with me and talked to me about my divorced parents. It didn’t stop the kids at school from hitting me and yelling at me all day about my broken family and avoiding me because of my “broken household” and “crazy dad.” It didn’t help me forge friendships with people whose parents told them to avoid me.
When I was a teenager, I met with a therapist who was supposed to talk to me about my family abandoning me and me almost ending up in foster care. She coldly started the conversation asking me how I did so poorly in life for my family to “not want me,” and I did not say a word to her for the rest of the session. I think about that therapy session every once in a while and how shameful she made me feel when I was already at my lowest.
My Grief Journey
Unfortunately, coupled with abandonment issues, sexual assault, and abuse, I found myself in a handful of abusive relationships. Never having a strong male figure, I had no idea what to look for in a romantic partner or the red flags. I chose to continue no matter what, unwavering in my passion for NEVER abandoning anyone so they never felt like I felt. This further damaged me, and yet somehow, I endured, soaring through college and continuing my “corporate” life that I knew was expected of me.
I wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to feel accepted. I wanted to feel like people saw me for me, not as an extension of my dad.
I hid the abuse because when I shared it in the past, I was told that I “should have known better” or was primarily ignored by family members. I learned to keep things to myself to protect myself from feeling even more hurt or shameful.
The therapy in my 20s was not totally unhelpful, but the first therapist (a college-aged male) was borderline inappropriate and flirted with me during a session. I decided to end it. Later, I met with a therapist to help me move on from an abusive relationship where my abuser went to jail. She was nonjudgmental and made me feel safe, but ultimately I decided my best move was to get as far as f*** away from Texas as possible, burn myself to the ground, and recreate myself. That therapy might have been more helpful if I felt comfortable sticking around in Texas for longer.
The Healing Process & Self-Healing Journey
I did move far as f*** away from Texas. But every time I return, I hit a wall of anger, resentment, and persistent sadness. There is so much hurt and pain I associate with that place. And I never feel comfortable or at home when visiting.
I recreated a version of myself that I am proud of. Fearless. Strong. Resilient. Independent.
And most importantly, I respect and love myself. That didn’t happen through therapy. It happened through finding alternative treatment: starting a new life, new hobbies, and finding new passions.
BetterHelp Therapy Subscription Plan: Meh.
I guess I’m saying that therapy can be so hit or miss. I know it’s cool to talk about therapy now, and I’m not discouraging you from seeking help and therapy. My only suggestion is to be careful who you share with and be VERY selective with your therapist. If you feel uncomfortable or judged, or it’s just not working out, move on, or you will suffer more trauma.
Jumping back into my later 20s…I decided to give BetterHelp another try after my dad pulled out a handgun at my grandmother’s funeral. It left me feeling pretty haunted, in addition to many other things he was doing to me, including threatening me and taunting me. So I bit the bullet and signed up again. It had been over a year, and I thought maybe the platform had improved.
I filled out all my info again and selected my therapist.
Better Help Therapist #3: The “How Was Your Day” Therapist
There I was again, reciting the elevator speech of my life woes and traumas to a totally new person. The therapist was a middle-aged woman living in Denver. In our first session, we mainly focused on my elevator speech and what I wanted to gain from therapy.
Long story short, when I shared some of my life stories, she was very judgmental and critical. I started to feel uncomfortable and unable to share openly anymore. Strike 1.
Then, she showed up 15 minutes late to a call. Strike 2.
Finally, she no-showed the last minute for a call. Strike 3.
Feeling defeated and having wasted my money, I reached out to BetterHelp support. They were understanding and did give me additional weeks to make up for the lost sessions.
I decided to fire my therapist and find another one. Here we go again…
BetterHelp Therapist #4: ESOL
I’ve got nothing against people who speak English as their second language. However, a language barrier was not something I even considered dealing with when I was signing up for therapy.
The therapist I chose was a college professor and not a licensed therapist. You don’t technically have to be a licensed therapist to be on BetterHelp.
In our first session, she cut the time to 15 minutes (BTW, it’s supposed to be 45 minutes).
In our second session, she taught me about my inner child. It was SUPER HELPFUL, but she asked me to study it again and cut our session short by 20 minutes.
I told her about some trauma in our third session, and began crying. She said she felt bad that she “made me cry” and would end the call early. 25 minutes.
In our fourth and final session, she ended the call within 10 minutes, not even a goodbye. It was so freaking weird.
I sent her a message and asked if we could please stick to the 45-minute session and that I felt I could only accomplish a little in 15-25 minutes. Her reply?
She canceled our next session and said I should find a new therapist because she “felt bad that she made me cry.”
BetterHelp Therapist #5: MIA
I’m sure you can imagine I was feeling pretty discouraged. I’d made no headway in months with any therapy and was tired of starting over.
So here I was again, begrudgingly picking another therapist. I sent the same spiel to her.
And looked at her calendar. She was BOOKED OUT FOR WEEKS. Meaning I would be wasting my money each week and not receiving any therapy.
I canceled immediately and picked my fifth and final therapist.
BetterHelp Therapist #6: Super cool but pretty unhelpful
Finding a therapist, telling your story, starting over, and doing it all over again became more stressful and traumatizing. But I was determined to work on myself and be better for myself and the world.
The fifth therapist I picked was super cool, and I felt a lot of myself reflected in her. I completely opened up to her about almost everything I’d endured.
The problem is that each week was more of a venting session than making headway. To be fair, we started in my busiest season of work.
She taught me something precious – how to set WORK boundaries. Following her advice, I fired a few clients and set firmer boundaries with others. I feel much better now, mainly due to her advice.
But on our last and final call, I divulged that I was a little tired and dehydrated. She said she wanted to end the call early. I felt very triggered because of my experience with BetterHelp therapists in the past. I talked with my boyfriend and decided that therapy wasn’t doing enough for me and was not worth the time, money, or energy. So I let her know that I was quitting therapy. In total, we had about 9 sessions.
So, that’s my experience with BetterHelp. I found a few valuable nuggets but ended up feeling even more stressed and scorned from the therapy turnover.
So was BetterHelp worth it?
I can’t say that it was worth it.
Between the unavailability, cancelations, or late shows, ending the call early, and generally feeling like the therapy was not very deep, I wasted lots of time, money, and effort on BetterHelp.
The week I quit BetterHelp, I went on four ski tours in Teton Pass. I reflected on everything, felt present, and talked to myself a lot.
For me, being in nature is the best therapy.
Outdoor sports make me feel alive and fulfilled.
Yes, I still have moments of negative self-talk, disruptive thoughts, and stress. I still sometimes worry about things out of my control.
I’ve resolved to accept that I am not perfect in that my thoughts are always excellent and cheerful. I’ve accepted when I am angry about something. I’ve learned to only bother with people a little and always to set firm boundaries.
Mountain towns are notorious for poor mental health.
The same people you see frolicking on the mountains and posting videos of powder days probably also suffer from depression.
Living in isolation is challenging, where the sun hardly comes out for months. I often feel lonely or unable to get out of bed. Sometimes I need help to get the motivation to go on a ski tour or even to the resort. I don’t have a strong group of friends I can vent to. I move around often, living a transient life and enjoying the awes of nature.
When I enjoy a powder day and the rush of my art flow through the mountains and snow, I sometimes feel upset the next day, wondering when the next day like that will come. It’s like a drug – absolutely bliss and ecstasy at the moment, and the comedown hurts.
It’s a bittersweet dance I enjoy. But I know I would rather deal with my demons in the mountains than in a concrete jungle. I’d instead be surrounded by like-minded people, even if we aren’t very close. We share much in common, a burning desire to do something extraordinary in life, dance in the mountains – a proper art form.
I’d rather scream in the forest than in a suburban house.
I’d instead revel in the beauty of the earth and all it has created, the abundance.
I don’t have any motivational advice for you. I don’t have any comforting final words. The truth is that I will struggle with trauma sometimes. I cannot start over and choose my family. I can’t undo the pain I’ve endured.
The best thing I did for myself was burn myself down and start over. Winter is my love. My art is snowboarding. I’ve created an entire lifestyle around this, and it’s been the best for my life and health. I met the love of my life, who shares similar passions, and now we travel and work together.
Couples “Therapy” that actually helped
My boyfriend and I started dating during Covid. That presented some issues and forced us into a severe relationship before we were ready.
Even though our problems were not terrible, our relationship meant the world to us. That’s why we decided to look into programs to help us communicate more effectively. We found a program called Our Relationship. Honestly, it felt very generic in the first few sessions, but halfway through, my boyfriend and I had our “breakthrough” moment. Now when we talk or have a disagreement, we understand our needs from the discussion, before and after. It’s seriously revolutionized how we talk to each other. Even if you don’t have problems in your relationship, it’s helpful to understand your partner as much as possible.
Take care of yourself and trust your gut.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope you heal, learn to love yourself more, and thrive in the best way for yourself. Whether trying out therapy or finding new passions, it may take some time, but you will find your path.
The rest of this article is an FAQ and “information.” It is not my personal take.