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 the reality is, things will not improve if you just stay in bed all day. 

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, like Brightside.

 

What is Cerebral?

cerebral homepage

Cerebral is a mental health subscription that connects patients with comprehensive virtual care and prescription medication for anxiety, depression, ADHD, 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 gives you the ability to schedule virtual visits with your Provider, therapist, 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 and live in a state where Cerebral currently operates. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, ADHD, or insomnia, you’re a candidate for amazing care through Cerebral. They also understand that people can come in looking for help with stress, burnout, relationship issues, work issues, and more.

Cerebral’s care teams are able to guide and help those looking for mental health care wherever they are in their journey.

 

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 Cerebral’s OUD plan or 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 5 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.

Can an online psychiatrist prescribe medication?

Yes, no problem. If your online psychiatrist deems it appropriate to prescribe you a medication for your anxiety or depression, they are fully able to do so. It gets trickier for controlled substances, but for anxiety and depression you shouldn’t run into any issues.

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.

The middle tier is a dedicated Therapy plan that competes with teletherapy companies like Talkspace and Betterhelp. And third, Cerebral offers a combo of the two for folks who are looking for psychiatric care AND therapy. 

 

“Medication + Care Management” plan

For the vast majority of folks, this is the plan to focus on. The prices vary by state, but we saw it listed as $30 for the first month and $85 every month thereafter.

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. Your prescribing Provider will help determine your treatment and will be available for follow-up appointments to make sure everything is on track. 

The plan includes diagnosis and meetings with a licensed prescriber. The plan also still includes 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 video call

“Therapy” plan - $99 for first month, $259/month thereafter

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.

Cerebral has really stepped up their Therapy team since I originally published this article. They now support all 50 states, and depending on how often you want support, may be a great option. Pricing is competitive with all the Betterhelps and Talkspaces of the world. 

“Medication + Therapy” plan - $139 for first month, $325/month thereafter

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 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.  

Is Cerebral good for therapy?

Cerebral can treat anxiety, insomnia, depression, trauma, and PTSD. In certain states, the platform also offers treatment for ADHD, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence, and opioid use disorder. 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. 

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. Not everybody will match in the same way, and you want to find someone that will help you the most.

Which prescriptions does Cerebral offer?

If your Cerebral Provider decides there’s a need to prescribe medication for your anxiety, depression, ADHD, 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.

For the foreseeable future, Cerebral is not able to offer stimulant ADHD medications like Ritalin. Cerebral often starts out new patients with non-controlled treatment options, so it’s possible that some Cerebral users won’t have their ADHD treatment altered. However, patients that already receive stimulant medication for ADHD, or know that stimulant medications are better at treating their ADHD symptoms, will have to look for alternative methods to receive their preferred medication.

Can you use insurance to pay for Cerebral?

Another huge improvement since I originally posted this piece, Cerebral now 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 actually add up. 

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

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?

We want to start with a disclaimer that prices vary by state, but these are the prices that we encountered from our searches:

If you decide to roll with the “Medication + Basic Care” plan, like most folks do, you’re looking at $85 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, 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. 

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

 The list of states where you can choose the “Medication + Therapy” and “Therapy” plans is a biiit shorter, but way longer than it was when I originally published this article. Cerebral is expanding their support fast

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 + Care Management” plan is just $85/mo month (including both medication and your virtual sessions with your Provider) 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

As with any telemedicine provider, you’re limited to virtual visits with your care team. If you think you’d benefit for from physically going to a doctor or therapist’s office, you might be better off not going the telemedicine route.  

While some Cerebral users won’t have their treatment affected by the service’s inability to prescribe stimulant ADHD medications, it does limit the number of patients with ADHD that Cerebral will be able to treat effectively.

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 4.5 star rating (443 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. 

As a whole, patients highlighted

  • The simplicity of getting started with Cerebral compared to doing things in-person.
  • How kind and patient their Providers 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, 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. 

Interested in signing up for Cerebral?

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