Review: PlushCare for Anxiety, Depression, Online Therapy, and more

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As the pandemic rages on, interest in telemedicine and teletherapy is rising. The truth is that it’s likely here to stay, too. The challenge is finding which teletherapy models and apps deliver best on their promises. 

Generally, whether or not you come away with a helpful mental health experience usually comes down to the individual therapist or doctor. Personally, I’ll always take a therapist’s or psychiatrist’s online reviews as well as recommendations in my personal network the most seriously. 

That said, the PlushCare app is an interesting case that combines online therapy and mental health services with both urgent and everyday PCP services. If only for its general convenience, this seemed like an interesting option to investigate.  

Who is PlushCare?

Born out of frustration with a sluggish and cost-prohibitive healthcare system, PlushCare is an online service created for quick and affordable access to physicians on an app that aspires to feel like ordering an Uber ride. The founders, Dr. James Wantuck and Ryan McQuaid, started the business by spearheading their own telemedicine system, with Wantuck conducting video appointments while McQuaid handled the booking. 

Their telemedicine business has since exploded, now employing more than 100 employees and physicians. All of their doctors are U.S. board certified, while their app and website offer healthcare access to people who would otherwise be stuck in waiting rooms, denied timely prescriptions, or simply avoiding the doctor’s office altogether due to time, cost, or safety concerns.  

The PlushCare system extends to mental health services, especially important given almost 2 in 3 adults say national uncertainty causes them stress while roughly 60 percent say national issues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, are overwhelming them.   

How does PlushCare Work for mental health and therapy?

If you’re exploring online mental health options, PlushCare offers two separate monthly subscriptions within its mental health offering: an on-going therapy package and a physician appointment package with added medication delivery. 

It’s important to note that these are bundled separately even though they are interconnected, so be aware of that before you select anything. PlushCare’s online therapists are not qualified to prescribe you medications, but they can still connect you to PlushCare’s doctors who have the necessary qualifications. 

First off, see how PlushCare compares to two leaders in the virtual therapy and psychiatry space: Brightside and Cerebral. (We’ll cover pricing further down in the article). 

Offering comparison: PlushCare vs Brightside vs Cerebral

PlushCare logoBrightside logoCerebral logo
Online Therapy
Prescription Medications
Prescription Delivery
Unlimited messaging and ongoing care
Everyday Care (General wellness)
Urgent Medical Conditions

PlushCare Therapy

If you’re looking for therapy options, PlushCare offers these benefits as part of its therapy subscription:

  • Weekly 45 minute online therapy sessions
  • Unlimited messaging with therapists through the app
  • Access to PlushCare’s physician network 
PlushCare therapy icon

Their team of therapists are multi-disciplinary and not one-size-fits-all types, so you can expect them to use different therapeutic techniques and models (i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness therapy, etc.) tailored to your individual situation. If you’re unsure about whether or not PlushCare would be a good fit, they offer brief phone consultations that could give you some added clarity about online therapy if you need it.  

PlushCare Psychiatric Medication and Delivery

If you’re seeking a diagnosis and/or medication for depression, anxiety, insomnia, or another mental health condition, PlushCare’s medication delivery package offers these benefits: 

  • Same-day doctor’s visits
  • Medical prescriptions
  • Medication delivery 
plushcare brain icon

However, you may or may not be able to receive your medication depending on whether or not it’s offered.  

❓ What Medications Are Available Through PlushCare?

PlushCare’s psychiatrists generally prescribe the most common SSRIs and SNRIs, which are used to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Nothing too crazy here. And as with other telemedicine providers, you can always request a generic version of your prescription to save money. 

Important disclaimer: PlushCare does not offer access to several controlled medications, such as stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse for the treatment of ADHD. If the medication you need isn’t offered through their services, you can ask PlushCare physicians for referrals or use alternative services, such as Ahead, that offer what you need.

Anxiety medications

  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Hydroxyzine (Vistaril,Atarax)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine
  • (Cymbalta)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Buspirone (Buspar)

Depression Medications

  • Buproprion (Wellbutrin)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Doxepin
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • Milnacipran (Savella)

Insomnia medications

  • Hydroxyzine (Vistaril,Atarax)
  • Trazodone
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Doxepin

Fibromyalgia medications

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Milnacipran (Savella)

What sets PlushCare apart from other telemedicine providers?

Generally speaking, PlushCare mental health services are similar to their competitors, such as Brightside and Cerebral. The advantage of PlushCare is that it’s not exclusively a mental health app, but also a PCP in your pocket. One really helpful advantage is that you can typically expect to get a same-day appointment, which makes it an extremely responsive choice. Like the other teletherapy apps, you can also contact your therapist at any time directly through the app.  

If your goal is finding an app that covers most of your general wellness needs, mental health included, PlushCare offers a capable all-in-one option. If you’re exclusively looking for mental health resources, it’s worth comparing costs and available packages. Cerebral, for instance, offers a low-cost package that includes shipped medication, but also care counseling (read: not therapy) for less, but its therapy and medication offering is comparable in price to the PlushCare model.    

❓ What states does PlushCare support?

Currently, online therapy is only available in the following states (but they’re growing fast):

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio

❓ Does PlushCare take insurance?

Therapy through PlushCare does not accept insurance, but this tends to be standard in the telemedicine space (for now). It is FSA / HSA eligible, though. 

For a detailed comparison of PlushCare and some of its primary competitors in the online mental health space, here’s a chart that also takes a look at the cost of each package by service. Apologies about how dense it is, but I do think this is the clearest way of breaking things down. 🙂 

Pricing / Plan Comparison: PlushCare vs Brightside vs Cerebral

PlushCare logoBrightside logoCerebral logo
Online Therapy pricing$129/month for first month, $259/month afterwards$249/month for first month, $299/month afterwards$100/month for first month, $260/month afterwards
...what do you get?Weekly therapy sessions, unlimited messaging, access to PlushCare physicians4 video sessions/month, unlimited messagingWeekly therapy sessions
Appointments, medication, and delivery$49/month for first month, $99/month afterwards$45/month for first month, $95/month afterwards$48/month for first month, $88/month afterwards
...what do you get?Same-day doctor’s visits as needed, diagnosis, medication deliveryEvaluation, diagnosis, and personalized treatment plans with monthly deliveryMonthly meetings with a care counselor (not therapist), meetup with a “prescribing provider” to help determine treatment needs, prescription delivery
Medication and therapy$178/month for first month, $358/month afterwards$249/month for first month, $349/month afterwards$140/month for first month, $328/month afterwards
...what do you get?Weekly therapy sessions, unlimited messaging, same-day access to PlushCare physicians, diagnosis, medication deliveryThe full therapy package plus evaluation, diagnosis, and personalized treatment plans with monthly deliveryWeekly therapy sessions, therapist works with a prescription provider to create a medication treatment plan as necessary

PlushCare Reviews: What are their customers saying?

4.87 stars (out of 38,222 reviews)

I sifted through customers’ PlushCare reviews on the app stores, Yelp, Trustpilot, Reddit, and Google Reviews. (Yes, it took a while). If we aggregate all those scores, PlushCare nets a whopping 4.87 stars out of 5! But as always, it’s important to dig deeper and see what people are actually saying. 

Most of PlushCare’s reviews revolve around its prescription medication and PCP offering, which has generally been received positively as a way to get around some of the worst parts of the current healthcare situation. Most reviews of the app, good or bad, tend to praise or critique logistics, insurance, or billing concerns. 

Starting with a couple Reddit comments I dug up:

And jumping over to Yelp and Trustpilot, we find a bunch more reviews – generally more detailed. There was no followup from the customer who gave them a 3 star rating, but it’s always nice to see a company (PlushCare, in this case) responding. Based on all the reviews out there, it seems more than likely that this was a one-off problem. 

More useful, in my opinion, are the reviews of the actual therapists available on the platform. When I tried booking, there was only one option available for my area, though the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I kind of wish I had more options to compare, but I also know PlushCare is still trying to expand its mental health resources. 

The Consensus: Is PlushCare a viable choice among telemedicine providers?

Ultimately, if you value the convenience of an all-in-one app that seamlessly combines therapy and prescription options with PCP care, PlushCare does appear well-networked and at least as convenient as many of its competitors. Additionally, one advantage is that you’ll receive weekly meetings with therapists through the subscription alone, which differs from a service like Brightside which only offers monthly meetings with a therapist unless you pay a la carte for a therapist in addition to the subscription. (Whether or not you think you’d NEED weekly meetings is completely up to you, though).

While I wish I had more therapist options for my area and that there were offerings for therapy in more states, it’s still worth checking out the in-house therapists and psychologists to see if there’s a good fit. Right now, the places that PlushCare offers its mental health services is relatively limited, which is definitely a downside compared to other services that have expanded their offerings to most of the U.S. But as we’ve seen with others, it doesn’t take long for telemedicine providers to begin offering their services nationwide, once they navigate all the legal red tape. 

Further, the value of their subscription packages is highly competitive, especially when you consider the added convenience of having a PCP in your pocket.