Cerebral Review: 2024 Alternatives, Pros & Cons, Who It’s For

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr. Steve Kim, MD

About Dr. Steve Kim, MD

Physician Advisor

Dr. Kim received his BA in Human Biology at Stanford University, before receiving his M.D. degree (Primary Care Track) from UC Davis School of Medicine in 1989. Dr. Kim completed his Internship & Residency in Family Practice from Glendale Adventist Hospital and is Board-Certified in Family Medicine via the American Board of Family Medicine. He has re-certified multiple times; and is currently Board-Certified through December 2030. He has served as Sr Medical Editor for Healthline, and has held faculty appointments at Stanford & UCSF medical schools. He is also a decorated, retired Flight Surgeon from the US Air Force Reserves.

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who deal with mental health problems like anxiety and depression, you know that navigating the worlds of psychiatry and therapy isn’t very fun.

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 the reality is, things won’t improve if you just stay in bed all day. 

Fortunately, telemedicine companies, like Cerebral, have sprouted up to give people a way to connect with expert psychiatrists and counselors from the comfort of their own homes.

The focus of this article is to take a deep dive into how Cerebral compares to alternatives in the virtual therapy and psychiatry spaces. To cut to the chase and see pricing comparisons, click here.

 

Table of Contents

What is Cerebral?

Cerebral is an affordable mental health subscription that connects patients with comprehensive virtual care and prescription medication for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and insomnia. They teach patients evidence-based therapeutic techniques that aim to maximize the success of treatment plans. 

Cerebral is around the middle of the pack, when it comes to price. But their status as a market leader with over $400b in funding has enabled them to build up a massive team of medical practitioners who treat a wider variety of conditions than their competitors. 

cerebral homepage
What We Like
  • Offers at-home prescription delivery
  • Their Prescriber team is great
  • Their in-house video call platform works well, and offers a seamless way for sharing helpful links and resources that won’t get lost
  • Pricing is competitive (if not better) than alternatives
What We Don't Like
  • Notoriously unethical prescription practices around controlled substances – though these have since been addressed.
  • No option to pause your plan
  • Limited insurance coverage
  • Unable to directly message your Provider
  • Therapists are licensed, but must still be under clinical supervision
  • If you miss a session, you’ll have to wait until the next month to meet with your Care Counselor

How does Cerebral work?

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.

Schedule your virtual visit with your Provider. Typically, you can book a meeting as soon as 5 days out, but some reviews mention booking something in just a few days.

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.

Regardless of the plan you choose, you’ll also have access to Cerebral’s app, which contains wellness exercises utilized by our therapists and care team messaging for any questions. Some of these exercises help with mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and grounding exercises.

Studies show that using these techniques alongside medication is the most effective treatment for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and insomnia. You can read more about that on their site.

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.

Cerebral app screenshot showing current prescription
A screenshot from the Cerebral iOS app, showing an active prescription.

Who is Cerebral a Good Fit for?

Good Fit for People who
  • Want the flexibility of switching between plans that do/don’t offer both therapy and medication management
  • Suffer from more common mental illnesses, like anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, and/or insomnia
  • Are over 18 years old
Not a Good Fit for People who
  • Want the absolute cheapest telepsychiatry option
  • Are looking for online ADHD treatment with stimulant-based meds. Cerebral no longer prescribes controlled substances
  • Have been diagnosed with schizophrenia
  • Are experiencing suicidal thoughts and/or need more immediate care
  • Are suffering from substance abuse issues. Check out alternatives like Monument or Bicycle Health for this

IMPORTANT

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).

Is Cerebral good for therapy?

To see how the costs of Cerebral’s Therapy plans compare to alternatives, click here to skip ahead. 

Like other telepsychiatry companies, Cerebral’s specialized therapists use proven psychotherapy techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy, grief therapy, introspective psychotherapy, and more, to help you with your mental health goals and treat any of the previously mentioned struggles.

Both of Cerebral’s therapy plans, Therapy and Therapy + Medication, offer weekly virtual therapy sessions, access to a secure messaging platform with your care team, and progress tracking from your therapist. 

You’ll get matched with a list of the best-licensed therapists, from which you can choose which one is right for you. You’ll meet with them weekly for therapy sessions. And if you don’t initially click with your therapist, you have every option to switch to a new one – it’s like online dating, but for your mental health. 

This licensed therapist will be checking in on your medication treatment plan and working collaboratively with your prescribing Provider. 

Which prescriptions does Cerebral offer?

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

Cerebral Providers also provides medication for the following conditions (with a few exceptions, which we’ll get into):

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Postpartum depression
  • Menopausal depression
  • ADHD*
  • Bipolar disorder*
  • Trauma and PTSD*
  • Alcohol dependence*
  • Chronic obesity*
  • Opioid Use Disorder*
  • Schizophrenia**

*in select states | **coming soon to select states

Keep in Mind

As of May 17, 2022, Cerebral no longer prescribes controlled substances, like Adderall or Xanax. 
While they do still aim to treat ADHD and other conditions with non-stimulant medications, available treatment options are limited.

  • Any medications that you’re prescribed will be the generic version
  • Some patients report the cost of prescriptions being included in their overall monthly cost. But others report having to pay out-of-pocket for medication.
  • Providers begin treatment with non-controlled prescriptions, but if there is a need for a patient to try a controlled medication, they are able to refer you to an in-person Provider who can take care of that.
  • Patients that know, from experience, that stimulant medications are better at treating their ADHD symptoms may be better off looking at alternative options, like Klarity or Done, to receive their preferred medication.

How much does Cerebral cost?

Cerebral offers three plans to choose from:

Online Therapy: $99 for first month, $295/month thereafter

  • Weekly video/phone sessions with a licensed therapist
  • Access to your care team (via secure messaging) between sessions
  • Regular progress tracking via health assessments. Simple post-session questionnaires enable patients to track how they’re feeling month-over-month. 

Compare to: Talkspace $516/mo | BetterHelp $240-$360/mo | Brightside $299/mo

Cerebral Customer Reviews

If you jump on Cerebral’s website, you’ll see they showcase a bunch of five-star customer reviews on their homepage. But everyone does that nowadays – who wouldn’t? So our team prefers to dig deeper and check out sites like Reddit, Trustpilot, and Trustpilot, too. At the time of writing, here’s how Cerebral reviews look:

Apple App Store: 4.6 star | 27k+ reviews 

Google Play Store: 4.2 star | 10.9k+ reviews

Trustpilot: 4.0 star | 4.6k+ reviews

Reviews.io: 4.5 star | 500+ reviews

After extensively reading through customer reviews, here are some patterns in customer sentiment: 

What customers like
  • Cerebral makes it very easy to meet with a therapist or psychiatric provider – especially compared to doing things in-person.
  • Providers are kind and helpful
  • Fast response from team members
  • Having everything in one place (therapy, medication, etc.)
What customers dislike
  • Both iOS and Android apps are buggy
  • Prescribers change all the time – often with little-to-no-notice
  • Unable to directly message your Provider
  • Difficulty in canceling your subscription on mobile. Easy on desktop.

Cerebral in the Media

Many people’s first time hearing about Cerebral was, unfortunately, in a negative light. Around March 2022, leaks from former and current Cerebral employees revealed highly controversial (and borderline unethical) prescribing practices. Namely, Cerebral was accused of overprescribing controlled medications, like Adderall, without properly diagnosing patients for the underlying conditions.

The next month, Cerebral’s former VP of Product and Engineering Matthew Truebe, filed a complaint against the company; once again, citing shady overprescription of stimulant medications and focusing on profits, rather than patients’ health. 

Shortly thereafter, in May, Cerebral announced they’d no longer prescribe controlled medications. To this day, the company does not prescribe Schedule II substances – even for the treatment of ADHD. 

What's the consensus: Is Cerebral a good option for virtual therapy and psychiatry?

We recommend Cerebral for anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, 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. 

Cerebral’s Therapy plans look expensive at first glance, but when you do the research you find that therapy, as a service, is not cheap. Their plans are priced well against other teletherapy companies, and are way more convenient / COVID-proof than in-person therapy. 

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 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an online psychiatrist prescribe medication?

Yes. Online psychiatrist are able to meet with patients via video, phone, or chat. If applicable, they’re also able to prescribe medication virtually. Take note, however, that regulations around which medications can be prescribed virtually vary by state – most commonly around controlled substance like Adderall.

Can you use insurance to pay for Cerebral?

Cerebral partners with several insurance providers across multiple states. If you don’t see your provider listed, they’ll still help you get reimbursements through your insurance, which can really add up.

  • Anthem: GA, CA, ME, NH, CT
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield: TX, PA, WV, CA, AR, IA, SD, NE, WY, MT, VT
  • Cigna: CA, NY, AZ, WA, TX, FL, GA, IL, VA, PA
  • Magellan Health: CA, TX
  • United Healthcare / Optum: GA, CA, TX, NY, AZ, FL, PA, VA, WA

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

Is there any long-term commitment?

There are no long-term commitments when you sign up with Cerebral. Every Cerebral plan is a month-to-month commitment. The cancellation process online is straightforward, and they make it easy to share your health information with future Prescribers.

Does Cerebral operate in my state?

Cerebral is available and operating in all 50 states. However, availability is dependent on capacity.

Does Cerebral prescribe Adderall or other controlled substances?
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