Review: Cerebral Telemedicine for Anxiety and Depression


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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who deals with mental health problems like anxiety and depression, you know that navigating the worlds of psychiatry and therapy isn’t very fun. Sorting out doctor referrals, meeting new people who you hope will fix the way you feel, dealing with co-pays and insurance, and sitting in traffic to go to your next appointment. It’s a mess that a lot of the time, makes it that much more convincing to just stay home in bed and hope things get better on their own.

But for many people out there, those days are gone. Innovative new companies, like Cerebral, are sprouting up to give consumers a way to connect with expert psychiatrists and counselors from the comfort of their own homes.

At the heart of it, their vision is to make it easier for you to connect with the people who understand exactly what you’re going through, virtually, and to address the mental health problems that negatively impact your life.

It’s that simple.

And how about the fact that in many cases, using companies like Cerebral is actually cheaper than the current, in-person alternative? Besides the obvious factors like less travel and fewer copays, these companies will always prescribe generic medications, which saves you hundreds of dollars. So it’s more convenient, often cheaper, and you’re still getting access to board-certified psychiatrists. And on the off-chance that you don’t click with yours, it’s way easier to just contact their team and be introduced to a new one. If you’ve ever had a therapist or psychiatrist, you know this is huge, given how much of a pain it is to find a new one.

In this review, I’ll dive deeper into Cerebral as a company and also compare them to some other players in the telepsychiatry and teletherapy spaces.

 

What is Cerebral?

Cerebral is a mental health subscription that connects patients with comprehensive virtual care and prescription medication for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. They also take things a step further by teaching patients evidence-based therapeutic techniques that maximize the success of treatment plans. And as opposed to some other companies out there, their care model is designed specifically with long-term treatment in mind. That is to say: not only does Cerebral want to make it easier for consumers to get access to the mental health care they need, but they also want to make sure patients are taken care of throughout their entire lives.

Who is Cerebral a good fit for?

The most obvious candidate for someone who’d really benefit from using Cerebral is someone who suspects he or she has some mental health problems, but hasn’t dipped their feet into the world of psychiatry (or has, but doesn’t like the traditional way of doing things). They may or may not have health insurance coverage, a car, or even comfort in knowing how to address their problems.

Cerebral addresses all these things. 

The telemedicine model that Cerebral runs off gives you the ability to schedule virtual visits with your Provider, therapy, or counselor whenever your schedule allows. Since factors like cost, convenience, and fear of judgment often prevent people from accessing the mental health treatment they need, this model delivers a level of flexibility that’s perfect for most people out there. 

You also have to be over 18 years old, live in a state where Cerebral currently operates, and suffer from anxiety, depression, or insomnia. 

 

Who is Cerebral NOT for?

For starters, Cerebral is absolutely not a good fit for people with the following conditions or circumstances:

  1. Suicidal thoughts
  2. Substance abuse issues (try Monument, if this is you)
  3. Schizophrenia
  4. Pregnant or nursing

Cerebral is focused on long-term treatment plans to address mental health problems. If you are in serious emotional distress or have suicidal ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or the text Home to 741-741 (the Crisis Text Line).

Cerebral specializes in treating anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and unfortunately the tradeoff of any specialization is a despecialization in other areas — namely, the final three points in the above list.

 At the time of writing this article, I don’t have any recommendations for alternate telemedicine companies who can serve folks who do suffer from those three. But I will update it when I’m confident I’ve found a reputable company who does. 

 

How does Cerebral work?

  1. Fill out a short online questionnaire.
  2. From there, choose the subscription plan that fits best for you. There are three different subscription options (some are only available in certain states), each with different offerings and prices.
  3. Then just schedule your virtual visit with your Provider. Typically, you can book a meeting as soon as 7 days out, but some reviews mention booking something in just a few days.
  4. Meet your Provider. They’ll help you determine a treatment plan, and will check in periodically over video to ensure everything’s on track. And if your treatment plan involves you taking a prescription medication, they’ll ship it to your door at this time.
  5. Meet your Care Counselor. They’ll help you along the way by meeting with you once a month to discuss your progress and teach you new skills, like effective mindfulness and grounding. 
how does cerebral work

What types of plans does Cerebral offer?

First things first, let me make one thing clear: 

Cerebral has one core plan which connects you with a psychiatrist, a counselor, and ships prescriptions straight to your door. And it’s very fairly priced. I’ll focus on this plan in my review, because it’s what the vast majority of patients choose.

Cerebral also has two additional plans that include a therapy component, but since they’re only available in Texas, I’ll only briefly touch on them. If you’re a Texan and want to learn more, just jump on over to this page on Cerebral’s website to learn more. 

 

“Medication + Basic Care” plan - $45 for first month, $99/month thereafter

For the vast majority of folks, this is the plan to focus on. 

While it doesn’t include dedicated time with a licensed therapist, it does set you up with a psychiatrist (AKA the Provider) who will create your personalized treatment plan, as well as a Care Counselor who will be your guide along the way. Your prescribing Provider will help determine your treatment, and will be available for follow-up appointments to make sure everything is on track, but that Care Counselor is who you’ll be meeting with on a more regular basis. 

If you’re prescribed a medication, Cerebral will ship it to your door each month. The cost of most medications and their delivery to you is included in this price.

Around this point in time, you’ll meet your Care Counselor. Again, they’re here to support you along your journey with unlimited messaging and monthly video sessions to discuss progress and teach you new skills, like mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and grounding exercises. Studies show that using these techniques alongside medication is the most effective treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. You can read more about that on their site.

cerebral video call

“Therapy” plan - $259/month

In contrast to the previous plan, you’ll get access to a licensed therapist, who you’ll meet with each week. BUT you will not meet with a psychiatrist, or have medication delivered to you.

And the real kicker is that this plan and the next are only available in Texas, at the time of writing. For that reason, I won’t go too into detail on either in this review. 

If you live outside Texas and still want some recommendations for teletherapy services, read on. 

“Medication + Therapy” plan - $339/month

Everything you get in the “Medication + Basic Care” plan plus:

  • You’ll get matched with a list of the best licensed therapists, from which you can choose which one is right for you. And if you don’t click, you can always request another. You’ll meet with them weekly for therapy sessions. 
  • This licensed therapist takes the place of a Care Counselor, so they will be checking in on your medication treatment plan and working collaboratively with your prescribing Provider. 

So essentially, it’s the combination of the first two plans.  

What’s the difference between a Provider and a Care Counselor?

Think of your Provider as the psychiatrist who does your initial consult and helps you out with any treatment and medication plans. You’ll meet with them periodically, but less frequently than you’ll meet your Care Counselor. 

Your Care Counselor is who you’ll meet with each month to discuss how treatment is going, learn new skills, talk about how medication is working, and so on. They’ll also be in contact with your Provider to ensure treatment is working effectively. You’ll have a more personal relationship with your Care Counselor than you will with your Provider, just based on how often you meet. And as I mentioned before, they’ll be teaching you some pretty awesome behavioral health techniques and coping mechanisms. 

 

Are Care Counselors therapists?

Technically, no. Not all Cerebral Care Counselors are licensed therapists (hence why their therapy plans aren’t available everywhere yet), but they’re all trained in therapeutic techniques like behavioral activation, motivational interviewing, etc. And again — if you don’t vibe with your Care Counselor, you can reach out to their team and they’ll set you up with a new one. 

As far as I’m concerned, personally, a Cerebral Care Counselor plays the same role I’d hope a therapist would. 

Which prescriptions does Cerebral offer?

If your Cerebral Provider decides there’s a need to prescribe medication for your anxiety, depression, or insomnia, they most commonly go with an SSRI or SNRI. This is the most  typical treatment option across the board – whether you visit a psychiatrist in-person or use a different telepsychiatrist.

Any medications that you’re prescribed will be the generic version, which are just a cheaper version of the brand name. Essentially the same medication, but going the generic route is what enables Cerebral to give you such a low price for your subscription.

Providers usually start with non-controlled prescriptions, but if there is a need to try a controlled medication, they’re able to refer you to an in-person Provider who can take care of that. Remember that since telemedicine is still fairly early stage and controlled medications are regulated so harshly, not all companies can prescribe the same medications. I touched on that briefly in my review of Ahead, a telemedicine company that’s able to prescribe ADHD medications online to those in need.

Can you use insurance to pay for Cerebral?

Out of the box, no. Cerebral won’t work 1-on-1 with your insurance, and they’re not currently in-network for any insurers. But they’ll still help you get reimbursements through your insurance, which can actually add up. 

If you have insurance, though, Cerebral can provide you with invoices which you’ll submit directly to your insurance provider. These charges generally apply against your deductible, so they may qualify for reimbursement. 

You can also use HSA or FSA funds to cover the cost of your subscription, if that applies to you. So that’s like getting 30% off or so, since you’re using pre-tax dollars. 

 

How much does Cerebral cost?

If you decide to roll with the “Medication + Basic Care” plan, like most folks do, you’re looking at $99 per month. No hidden fees, even for prescriptions.

As I mentioned before, Cerebral’s subscription comes with generic versions of most routine medications. So if you have either the “Medication + Basic Care” or “Medication + Therapy” plan, you’re most likely covered there. You can request brand name drugs, but since they cost so much more, I’d strongly advise against doing that. At the end of the day, generic medications are basically the same, so why pay more?

If your Provider feels it’s appropriate to do so, they can prescribe additional, as-needed medication, which may come at an extra cost. But that’s atypical. 

Is there any long-term commitment?

Nope, signing up for Cerebral is just a month-to-month commitment and you can cancel whenever, if you’re not satisfied. But as always, remember that long-term treatment plans are generally most effective in psychiatry. We’re always on the search for a long-term treatment, not some magical pill that fixes our problems. Because that doesn’t exist. So unless you really don’t like your Provider or Care Counselors, try your best to stick things out and trust the system. But that’s just my two cents.

 

Does Cerebral operate in my state?

First off: in order to prescribe medication, a Provider has to be licensed in the state where the client is located. So if medication ends up being a factor in your personal treatment plan, it’s important that you’re set up with a Provider in your own state. But Cerebral will take care of that for you. 

Currently, Cerebral has prescribing Providers who are able to prescribe medications in the following states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Remember: the “Medication + Therapy” and “Therapy” plans are only available in Texas, at this time.

What sets Cerebral apart from other telemedicine providers?

Advantages

Cerebral, as a company, is led by mental health professionals. It’s clear that they take pride in the fact that they hand-select their team of board-certified psychiatrists, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Not all companies in the space do this. 

Their pricing is super reasonable. The fact that the “Medication + Basic Care” plan is just $99/mo month (including both medication and your virtual sessions with your Provider and Care Counselor) sort of blows my mind. 

They treat insomnia. This isn’t something I’ve seen explicitly mentioned by other telemedicine providers, which is strange because it’s quite a common condition that folks suffer from. And I suspect in many cases, it goes untreated. So to see Cerebral addressing insomnia and including it in their model is cool.

They’ve got short wait periods and a lot of availability. One thing about the current world of psychiatry is that it’s often difficult to find available time slots that fit your schedule. The beauty of Cerebral, and of telemedicine in general, is that since things are virtual, it’s infinitely easier to schedule visits.

Disadvantages

With the exception of Texas, Cerebral doesn’t currently offer dedicated therapy options. So if you’re someone who is adamant that you have a licensed therapist and that a Care Counselor won’t fly, you’re best off looking elsewhere. Talkspace and Betterhelp are a couple great options. For a more in-depth review of teletherapy options out there, check out this article I stumbled across: Betterhelp vs Regain vs Talkspace: Which Virtual Therapy App Is Best?

 

Get Cerebral Reviews: Is it legit?

If you jump on Cerebral’s website, you’ll see they showcase a bunch of five star customer testimonials on their homepage. But everyone does that nowadays – who wouldn’t? So I like to dig deeper and check out sites like Reviews.io and Trustpilot.

Impressively, Cerebral has a 4.87 star rating (84 reviews) on Reviews.io. (Not many reviews on Trustpilot). 

I dug around to get as broad a spectrum of reviews as possible, and I’m happy to say the vast majority truly are positive. Here are several that I think paint the most accurate picture of the full set I read. 

I’ll be completely honest here: I struggled to find unsatisfactory reviews. But of all 84 reviews on Reviews.io, the lowest rating was a four star — and even then, they only had great things to say about Cerebral. 

As a whole, patients highlighted

  • The simplicity of getting started with Cerebral compared to doing things in-person.
  • How kind and patient their Providers and Care Counselors were.
  • Gratitude in the “new way of doing things” that companies like Cerebral are bringing to the table.
  • And the single most important pattern I found is just how many people remarked how confident they feel about their long-term happiness, in my cases for the first time in their lives. 

What's the consensus: Is Cerebral a good option for treating anxiety, depression, and insomnia?

We recommend Cerebral for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, or insomnia and who is looking for a serious, long-term treatment plan that fits his or her lifestyle. Their subscription is super affordable, particularly for those who don’t already have great health insurance coverage. And even for those who do, the fact that their service is FSA and HSA eligible is just icing on the cake. 

Even if you’ve previously seen a psychiatrist and tried prescription medications to treat your anxiety or depression, there’s a tremendous value in being able to conveniently meet with a top-notch Provider or Care Counselor at home at a time that works for you. And using a service like Cerebral also means you’re saving serious cash by doing so. 

Have you signed up for Cerebral in the past, or plan to do so after reading this review? Let us know — we’d love it hear about your experience. 

Interested in signing up for Cerebral?

Comprehensive anxiety and depression treatment from the comfort of your own home.