BetterHelp therapist reportedly told a 22-year-old client to ‘turn straight’ in order to reunite with family

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BetterHelp therapy man taking notes on phone
BetterHelp therapy

BetterHelp therapist reportedly told a 22-year-old gay client to ‘turn straight’ in order to reunite with his conservative family

 

A 22-year-old using mental health app BetterHelp for counselling services has said he was advised to turn straight by one of the app’s therapists.

 

BetterHelp is an online service that links clients to digital therapy, provided through text messages and phone calls.

The app was one of many offering remote mental-health services to see rapid growth during the peak of the pandemic, when in-person treatment became difficult as simultaneously more people required support.

The company positions itself as a fix for people who live in areas without great service access, or who can’t afford therapy at market rates.

 

Caleb Hill, a 22-year-old gay man from Tennessee, claims he sought online therapy with the platform after his conservative parents threw him out of the house.

Caleb Hill. Image: WILLIAM DESHAZER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

According to Hill, the therapist that BetterHelp matched him with advised he would have to choose between being gay or having a relationship with his family.

Hill had specifically requested an LGBTQ+ therapist, but was instead matched with a Christian therapist, Jeffrey Lambert.

 

“He said either you sacrifice your family or you sacrifice being gay,” Hill told The Wall Street Journal. “I needed someone to tell me I was gay and that was OK. I got the exact opposite.”

 

The therapist then allegedly asked Hill if he had been with a man yet, to with Hill responded that he hadn’t.

“He said, ‘Good,’” Hill recounted. “He said if I did want to go back to my family, I should think hard about being physical with a man, because it would be a lot harder after that.”

Hill commented that he had worried at the time that the therapist might try conducting conversion therapy on him.

“He said if I chose to go back to who I was and deny those feelings, he could get me where I needed to be,” he said.

After the session, he sent the therapist an email explaining why he couldn’t continue engaging.

“I finally opened the door of the prison I built up inside, and the thought of going back kills me,” he wrote in the email. “Will kill me if I lock myself inside again.”

 

He went on to say that he avoided engaging with mental health services for a long time after that session, due to fears he may encounter a similar therapist.

 

Lambert said he couldn’t comment on the case, citing confidentiality rules. His website says he practices “Christian counseling.”

 

BetterHelp reportedly services more than three million clients, but there has been a fair bit of discourse over the trustworthiness of the app, with some online sharing negative experiences.

The app uses algorithms to match patients like Hill to therapists. However, many therapists on the platform aren’t accepting new clients or have left the platform entirely, people familiar with the service told the Journal.

However, the Journal reports that that the company’s process for training therapists is minimal. A former clinical director at the company told the outlet that therapists were “treated like Uber drivers.”

 

Betterhelp told the Journal it goes thorough background checks and also relies on state licensing boards, which certify therapists.

 

The approximately 29,900 therapists registered with the app are not employees, but rather independent contractors paid by the hour, the Journal further detailed.

 

While a spokesperson for BetterHelp told Business Insider by email: “We firmly stand behind the high-quality service provided at BetterHelp, both in successful therapist matching and ongoing care.” The company said 85% of its clients who do their first session continue on with other sessions.

 

Lambert, the Christian therapist who was assigned to Hill’s case, declined to discuss the issue with the Journal, citing patient confidentiality. BetterHelp also declined to comment to the Journal.