Around 18 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety or depression. That equates to around 60 million people – me being one of them. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re like me and you understand the pain that these mental illnesses cause in life.
And yet only a few years ago, I felt as though I was one of just a few. But as 2020 has repeatedly brought bad news to the world, a spotlight has been shined on mental illness and telemedicine companies have sprouted up to help those of us in need, I experienced this realization that I am not alone. Honestly, it’s been pretty cool.
Initially, people weren’t able to get the help they normally would (therapy, psychiatry, and basic doctor care). People were in dire need for help. And that’s exactly where telemedicine and telepsychiatry came into play. Companies like Brightside sprouted up to connect patients with the care they need. And Brightside is, undoubtedly, one of the leaders in the space. Today we’ll dig into what makes them unique (both the good and the bad).
What is Brightside?
One of Brightside’s three founders is Mimi Winsberg, a former Facebook psychiatrist with over 25 years of practice. Seeking to combine the worlds of technology, data, and psychiatry, Brightside was born and is now one of the more affordable online therapy + psychiatry providers out there.
Their patented Brightfinder™ and Your Path™ technologies empower Brightside Doctors with a data-driven approach to setting your care plan up for the highest chance of you feeling better, faster.
Virtual therapy platforms (like Talkspace and Betterhelp) have been around for a while, but it’s rarer to see companies offering both therapy AND prescription support at a fair price.
83% of Brightside’s patients report feeling better within 12 weeks. I’m generally skeptical of any sort of primary research that companies conduct to collect reviews, but as someone who’s dealt with mental problems for years, this is quite compelling.
So how does Brightside work?
- Similar to with other telepsychiatry companies, you’ll start out by filling out a quick set of questions. This will help you decide if you want to go the therapy route, the medication route, or both. (Both typically lead to better results, btw).
- Based on the results of this questionnaire, and your recommended treatment plan, you’ll be connected with a Doctor, a Therapist, or both. A comprehensive video evaluation will give your doctor and therapist a chance to understand the symptoms you feel and get you started on your personalized treatment plan.” This may or may not include prescription medication that can help you along the way.
- If you have been prescribed medication, it’ll be delivered straight to your home in just a few days.
- Follow your mental improvement with Brightside’s symptom tracker, called Your Path™, to help you along the way. I’ve tried several smartphone apps (like MoodPath and Aura) in the past, but Your Path™ does the best of actually quantifying things, which I love.
What medications does Brightside prescribe?
One thing I’ve learned in starting this blog is that a lot of telemedicine companies (particularly the most popular ones!) stick to prescribing the same few medications (brand name SSRIs and SNRIs) first, and resorting to lesser prescribed ones only if need be. But because Brightside doctors specialize in anxiety and depression, they have a better feel for patients’ symptoms and the medications that might work best for them.
With their Brightfinder™ technology, they review over 100 data points about you and clinical trial data to narrow in on the right FDA-approved medication for your specific situation. As a result, their arsenal of medications is far greater than competitors’. They still prescribe SSRIs and SNRIs most commonly, but their strong knowledge and toolkit are advantageous for patients with mental health problems.
Here’s a list of Brightside’s medications:
- Amitriptyline / Elavil
- Aripiprazole / Abilify
- Benztropine / Cogentin
- Bupropion / Wellbutrin
- Buspirone / Buspar
- Citalopram / Celexa
- Clomipramine / Anafranil
- Clonidine / Catapres
- Duloxetine / Cymbalta
- Escitalopram / Lexapro
- Fluoxetine / Prozac
- Gabapentin / Neurontin
- Hydroxyzine / Vistaril
- Lamotrigine / Lamictal
- Mirtazapine / Remeron
- Nortriptyline / Pamelor
- Paroxetine / Paxil
- Propranolol / Inderal
- Quetiapine / Seroquel
- Sertraline / Zoloft
- Topiramate / Topamax
- Trazodone / Desyrel
- Venlafaxine / Effexor
NOTE: Brightside does not currently prescribe controlled medications (like benzos or stimulants). I don’t fault them in the slightest because this is very much a regulatory thing. If you think you might have a condition that typically involves controlled medications, Brightside may refer you elsewhere. For example, controlled medicines like Adderall are often prescribed for ADHD, so you’d have to find a company like Ahead that is able to prescribe them.
How do Brightside's psychiatrists decide which medication is right for you?
Believe it or not, Brightside’s approach to prescribing medication is actually really innovative and tech-heavy. To maximize patient outcomes, they’ve developed Brightfinder™, their very own tech that looks at decades of research and patients’ individual health data to determine which medications are most likely to work.
Essentially, it’s a smarter way to prescribe, powered by more Rx options, research, and member data. While traditional care is driven by guess and check prescribing of antidepressant medication, every Brightside doctor uses the Brightfinder™ recommendation engine and their clinical assessment to make a data-driven determination of the right medication for each individual, helping Brightside members get on the right treatment, faster.
With traditional psychiatry (and even with other telepsychiatry companies out there), prescribing medication can be a multi-year guessing game of trial and error. Brightside’s team is cutting through a lot of the guesswork with tech. Pretty cool.
What sets Brightside apart from others?
Brightside is a team of doctors, therapists, and tech that’s been custom built for treating anxiety and depression. Their platform allows doctors and therapists to deliver specialized anxiety and depression care for patients. That’s really their bread-and-butter. Other leading teletherapy companies (like Talkspace) don’t specialize in these two conditions. And even other leading telemedicine companies (like Alpha Medical) may tout their ability to treat these conditions, but since their doctors also treat a whole slew of other health conditions, they’ll never be as in tune with anxiety and depression as Brightside’s doctors are.
Brightside Plans: Which plan is right for you?
Brightside has three plans: Medication, Therapy, and Medication + Therapy. I’ll cover each one briefly, and also compare pricing of their hybrid plan against two leading telemedicine companies: Cerebral and Talkspace.
The “Medication” plan
Brightside uses a proprietary technology, known as Brightfinder™, that combines decades of research and your health data to match you with FDA-approved medications that are more likely to work for you. Meet with your doctor, let them determine a diagnosis and care plan, then track symptoms over time on the Your Path™ app.
$95/mo, and $50 off your first month.
What's so special about it?
Brightside’s telepsychiatry has a leg up on traditional psychiatry, since their team is able to diagnose and prescribe you medication virtually, AND deliver it straight to your door in just a few days.
You’ll also get unlimited messaging with your doctor, which is not something that other major telemedicine providers offer. With Cerebral, for example, (head-to-head comparison later on in this article) you’ll only get unlimited messaging with a Care Counselor, who isn’t actually a doctor.
And they’ve got another two up on other telemedicine companies thanks to their Brightfinder™ technology and Your Path™ app. Your Path is a science-based symptom and side-effect tracker that’ll help you stay on top of your care plan. Based on what they see here, your Brightside Doctor proactively makes care recommendations for you. Remember, evidence-based therapy + data-driven recommendations and medication result in better patient outcomes.
The “Evidence-based Therapy” plan
Brightside’s team of licensed therapists are there to help and support you throughout your journey. With monthly video sessions, plus more as you need them, and unlimited messaging-based chat, you’ve got someone by you at all times. And since Brightside’s team uses evidence-based lessons to build a better you (sort of like homework that you’ll actually enjoy), it may just be the best therapy you’ve ever experienced.
$249, and $50 off your first month ($199 for your first month).
What’s so special about it?
Compare Brightside’s therapy offering to major players like Talkspace and you’ll find it’s infinitely cheaper. With Brightside, you’re looking at $240 per month for one monthly video session, unlimited daily messaging, interactive skill-building lessons, and regular progress tracking. You also have the ability to add additional video sessions on an a la carte basis for $59. This allows you to take control of your care, getting the support you need, when you need it–and never when you don’t. With the other guys that advertise all over Instagram, that’d set you back around $400 per month. And remember, Brightside’s therapists are all fully licensed and hold Master’s degrees (or higher). So you’re in really good hands.
The “Medication + Therapy” plan
The best of both worlds. Brightside’s Medication + Therapy plan includes everything in the above two plans and sets you up for ultimate success.
$299/mo which means you’re saving $45/month when you bundle. and in addition to that you get $100 off your first month.
What’s so special about it?
When used in combination, medication and therapy have up to a 60% higher chance of patient recovery than one treatment alone.
How much does Brightside cost?
Let’s compare Brightside’s Medication + Therapy plan to comparable ones from telemedicine provider, Cerebral, and popular teletherapy provider, Talkspace. Because each company offers different plans, I’ve standardized them to fit the following criteria:
- Initial video session with a licensed psychiatrist
- Offers virtual therapy sessions with a licensed therapist
- Ability to be prescribed non-controlled medication
(If you’re on mobile, tap the chart to enlarge it).
Does Brightside take insurance?
Brightside does not currently accept insurance for payment, but it is something they are working on offering. They do accept HSA/FSA payment if you have one of those accounts.
This is standard in today’s telemedicine landscape.
Brightside Reviews: What do some of their customers say?
Overall, Brightside members seem to love it. On popular customer ratings site Reviews.io, Brightside boasts a whopping 4.54/5 star rating, of 898 total reviews. Sites like this are a great place to get an unbiased glimpse into real customer reviews, so this is a great sign. In an effort to paint an even fuller picture, I also searched through Reddit to find customer experiences.
The Diagnosis: Is Brightside Health worth it?
Brightside is leading the charge in reinventing the way everyday people can seek professional help for anxiety and depression. Other competitors may offer more variety in the way of treatable health problems but no one beats Brightside’s suite of plans. Whether you’re looking for psychiatry, therapy, or both, they’ve got you covered at prices that I’ve been hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Their Brightfinder™ technology is also a huge plus, helping patients find the medication that is most likely to work for their unique selves. And through Your Path™, Brightside sets you up for success by enabling you and your doctor to track your individual symptoms over time and visually see how things are improving for you. With the lifelong battle that mental health brings, this is such a good motivation to keep your chin up every single day.
If you’re really ready to accept outside help to improve the way you feel, Brightside is absolutely worth giving a shot. Anxiety and depression suck, but Brightside was born specifically to make it suck a lot less. And all those promotions they have going on for new patients certainly don’t hurt, right?