Although LifeStance Provided Great Therapy Services for My Family, the Sticker Shock Detracted From Our Otherwise Good Experience (2024)

For several months now, my husband and I have been thinking of talking to a therapist about our 6-year-old’s picky eating habits. We wanted to find out what was typical when it came to kids’ eating-related behaviors, as well as how to foster a healthy relationship with food.But as a working mom with a busy schedule, it can be difficult for me to find the time for everyone to visit a healthcare provider at once in person. Online therapy is more our speed, allowing us to work a session into our daily routine rather than dealing with the stress of a commute to a physical office.

My family and I tested LifeStance Health—a telehealth company that offers therapy and psychiatric care to children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families—for a month to see if it might work for us. We were looking for a caring, qualified mental healthcare provider who was experienced in working with children, as well as flexible scheduling and a user-friendly sign-up and billing process.

Throughout the month, we had a largely positive experience with LifeStance Health. In particular, we were impressed with our clinician’s expertise and therapeutic approach. Still, we ran into a few issues with provider availability and technical glitches. Here’s what we learned along the way.

Learning About Lifestance and Signing Up

I didn’t know much about LifeStance Health before signing up, except that it was a digital mental healthcare company that offered a wider variety of services than some of its competitors. There are many online therapy platforms available, but relatively few offer psychotherapy to couples, children, and families.

Plus, I was excited to learn that there were LifeStance Health providers available to work with my six-year-old, as some platforms provide therapy to teens and older kids but not younger children.

According to the company’s website, LifeStance Health aims to provide “evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.”

While exploring the website further, I learned that LifeStance Health provides mental health care in 34 states and 600 centers across the U.S. I didn’t try out the company’s psychiatry and medication management services, but they are also available for children, teens, and adults.

Although LifeStance Provided Great Therapy Services for My Family, the Sticker Shock Detracted From Our Otherwise Good Experience (1)

Scrolling down, I saw a summary of the services provided—care from psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed therapists, both in-person and online—and a few examples of the types of conditions treated. At the top of the homepage, I was able to explore LifeStance Health’s services more under the “Conditions” and “Services” tabs.

Right away, what stood out to me was the sheer variety of services offered.

Having received care from online therapy platforms in the past, I’m used to a somewhat limited menu of options. LifeStance Health treats many conditions that some of its competitors don’t, such as personality disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, and postpartum depression (PPD).

The company’s providers also employ a wide range of therapy styles, such as child-parent relationship therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. This made me feel like the available providers may be the “real deal,” for lack of a better phrase.

The sign-up process at LifeStance Health was fairly self-explanatory and straightforward.

To sign up for our first session, I clicked “Find a Provider” at the top right-hand corner of the screen and selected my state and city. I then chose to book a session online. You can also book a session by contacting the LifeStance Health intake department by phone or requesting a call back from a specific provider.

Although LifeStance Provided Great Therapy Services for My Family, the Sticker Shock Detracted From Our Otherwise Good Experience (2)

From there, I clicked “Find a match” under “I’m new here.” (Returning to this screen at later times allowed me to sign in to my patient portal.) To find a provider, I entered my ZIP code and picked “family therapy” from a drop-down menu as the type of care I was looking for. Then, I entered my date of birth and listed myself as a self-pay client. Finally, I saw a list of potential providers I could work with in my area, as well as their bios and available session times.

Scheduling Difficulties

This is where things got a bit more complicated. I had to go back and change my selections a few times as there weren’t many providers in my area who were available at times that worked for us. There weren’t many night or weekend times available either, and some clinicians didn’t have any availability for three weeks or more. I also found that some of the family therapists in my area weren’t experienced in child and adolescent therapy specifically.

After changing my preferred location to another city in my state and my preferred type of care to “child and adolescent therapy,” I was finally able to select my first session. However, it was for around two weeks later, which I thought was a bit far out for an online therapy platform. I’m sure that availability varies by location, so this may just have been an issue in our state (Ohio).

I continued the sign-up process by creating a “parent account” for both myself and my child. This required entering my contact details and verifying my email address. I didn’t have to enter much information about myself or what I wanted from therapy here. Some therapy seekers might enjoy a more thorough intake process upfront, but I didn’t mind this. I prefer to sign up quickly and get into more details later.

At this point, I was also asked to provide my credit card information, which was kept on file. It was a little jarring to be asked to provide my payment details before I had any idea of the potential cost of a session. I could see other users finding this off-putting as well.

Issues With Costs

Before signing up, I wasn’t sure how much a session would cost. I couldn’t find any pricing guides or estimates on the website. There was an “insurance and billing” section in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) tab, but it didn’t provide any information about specific prices or price ranges.

Cost and Insurance

Turns out, this is because LifeStance Health operates on a pay-per-session model. Prices vary widely, depending on the type of mental healthcare you need, your chosen provider, your location, and your insurance coverage.

The company’s providers work with many different insurance providers, including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and Tricare, as well as Medicaid and Medicare. You can see which insurance LifeStance Health accepts in your state by clicking “Insurance” at the top of the homepage and selecting your location.

I ended up paying out-of-pocket for each therapy session, as our insurance unfortunately doesn’t cover family therapy (most insurance plans don’t). Our family intake session cost $300, and our follow-up session cost $150. To me, this seemed to be on the pricey side.

I wouldn’t have minded as much if I had been informed of the cost upfront, but I didn’t know how much each session would cost out-of-pocket until I received the bill in my patient portal afterward.

This lack of price clarity was one of the most frustrating things about getting care through LifeStance Health.

I understand that it may be difficult to provide an estimated price range due to the wide range of locations and services offered, but it was still somewhat off-putting as a self-pay client.

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Selecting a Provider and Setting Up Our First Session

The providers at LifeStance Health include:

  • Psychologists
  • Board-certified psychiatrists, including child and adolescent psychiatrists
  • Licensed therapists and counselors
  • Mental health nurse practitioners
  • Family therapists
  • Couples therapists
  • Neuropsychologists

I selected a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) who listed experience in both family therapy and child and adolescent therapy in her bio. I was impressed with her qualifications, and they seemed to fit our family’s needs well. She had more flexible availability than some of the other providers listed and mentioned having worked with young children on behavioral concerns.

After setting our first therapy appointment, I got access to the patient portal, which is powered by third-party software (AdvancedMD).

From the patient portal, I could access bills, appointment times, medical records for both myself and my child, and a message center.

I received email notifications for anything that changed in the patient portal, such as new patient forms or messages from my therapist.

I messaged our chosen therapist directly to clarify some logistical details beforehand, and she responded in less than a day. This was nice to see, as some online platforms I’ve used make it complicated to contact your therapist.

Although LifeStance Provided Great Therapy Services for My Family, the Sticker Shock Detracted From Our Otherwise Good Experience (3)

That said, I encountered a few technical issues with the third-party patient portal. For example, I got a notification about a message from my therapist at one point, but when I signed in there was nothing there. Also, I often had to sign in several times in one sitting, as the portal frequently logged me out on its own. It would also frequently send me back to the previous page unexpectedly.

This happened on many different occasions, so it wasn’t just a one-off glitch. These issues could be quite frustrating, especially when I was trying to fill out lengthy forms.

How My Therapy Sessions Worked

Before starting our first therapy session at LifeStance Health, we had to fill out some basic patient information about our child (such as birthdate and what we were looking for help with) as well as several forms, including:

  • Credit card on file authorization
  • Child health history questionnaire
  • Demographics form
  • Patient services agreement
  • State-specific addendum
  • HIPAA notice
  • Caregiver policy announcement
  • Child questionnaire

While the sign-up process wasn’t very in-depth, these forms certainly were. They took time to fill out, but by the time we had our first session with our therapist, we felt the effort was worth it. Before even meeting us, she had a great deal of background information that informed our sessions.

At LifeStance Health, online therapy sessions are available via video. My husband and I entered a virtual “waiting room” at the scheduled time.

Our therapist arrived on time and had a warm, friendly demeanor. From the beginning, I felt that she took charge of the interaction positively. She was organized, clearly experienced, and ready to go.

Our 60-minute intake session was thorough and covered all the bases—from what we were looking for in therapy to our family dynamics, household environment, and general approach to parenting. While the initial intake session didn’t have to include our daughter, she did unexpectedly wander into the room at one point and asked a few questions. Our therapist was great on the fly. I could tell from her brief interactions with our daughter that she was great at getting kids to feel comfortable and open up.

After going through our background and basic intake questions, our therapist discussed our specific concerns with us in more detail.

By the end of the first session, she had provided us with several basic tips and valuable resources about picky eating, tailored to our daughter’s age range.

She also outlined what she would be looking for in her future conversations with our daughter. Finally, she asked us to set another appointment for the following week.

Our follow-up session was 45 minutes long and included more one-on-one time with our child, as well as a start and end to the session with all of us as a family.

Throughout both sessions, I was thoroughly impressed by our provider’s empathy, competency, and practical suggestions.

I felt that her recommendations were more detailed and actionable than those of several other therapists I’ve seen on my own.

Switching Providers

We liked our clinician at LifeStance Health so much that we didn’t feel the need to switch providers. But if you want a different therapist, you’ll simply need to cancel any outstanding appointment(s) you have with your current clinician. Then, just look for a new provider using the LifeStance directory and schedule a session with them. You can also request a new therapist over the phone by contacting the LifeStance Health customer service department.

Since it’s not a subscription-based service, you also don’t need to do anything to cancel services. All you have to do is stop making appointments for future sessions.

Pros and Cons

While LifeStance Health offers services with a wide range of qualified clinicians, the platform has a few downsides—like its lack of transparency about the potential cost of each session. Here are my pros and cons for working with LifeStance Health for kids’ and family therapy.

Pros

  • Offers both in-person and online care

  • All providers are licensed

  • Provides therapy to couples, families, and kids

  • Offers psychiatric care and medication management services

  • Accepts insurance

  • Easy to switch therapists or cancel services

Cons

  • No app

  • Limited or no providers in some states

  • Can take a while to schedule an appointment

  • Prices aren't clear before signing up

Final Thoughts

We had a generally good experience while testing kids’ and family therapy with LifeStance Health. The sign-up process was straightforward, and it was easy for us to find the right provider. Our provider was warm, engaging, and clearly experienced in working with kids. She gave us useful exercises and several helpful resources and tools that we could put to work immediately.

Still, not all aspects of our LifeStance Health trial were positive. Because the platform advertised an “expansive network” of clinicians, I thought there would be more options in my area in terms of both providers and appointment times. That may have been specific to my state, but it was still a bit frustrating when first trying to book an appointment.

I also found it frustrating not to be able to get even a general idea of the potential cost of a session before signing up.

The cost of care may also be prohibitive for some self-pay users. However, LifeStance Health accepts most major insurers. You may find it easier to access if you can find an in-network provider.

How Our Surveyed Users Felt About LifeStance

That said, the 101 users of LifeStance we surveyed largely agreed that the company offers high-quality care. In our survey, 95% of LifeStance Health users rated their experience as “good,” “very good,” or “excellent.” In particular, they were satisfied with the available therapists, with an impressive 96% of users reporting that their provider's qualifications were “good” to “excellent.” Additionally, 89% said they were “likely” or “very likely” to recommend the service to a friend or acquaintance and 86% said the service was a good to excellent value for the cost.

Despite a few challenges, I’d recommend LifeStance Health to other parents looking for therapy for themselves or their children. I was impressed with the breadth and range of the types of mental healthcare available, which made the platform stand out from many similar companies, and the quality of care was better than with therapists I’d used in the past.

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Although LifeStance Provided Great Therapy Services for My Family, the Sticker Shock Detracted From Our Otherwise Good Experience (2024)
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