Should You Try 7 Cups? Read Our Online Therapy Review First
When you search “free online therapy,” 7 Cups is one of the results that may appear on your screen, even though therapy is not free though the platform. At this writing, the search result reads: “7 Cups: Free Online Therapist & Counseling.” But 7 Cups does not offer free online therapy. Instead, it provides limited text therapy services for a monthly fee and a gateway to chat rooms.
In these chat rooms, users can connect with “caring listeners,” according to the company’s website. It says nearly half a million trained listeners are available in 189 countries and more than 140 languages.
As our reviews team dug deeper into the platform, however, we discovered many concerning details. As a result, we cannot recommend 7 Cups for online therapy services or peer support. Read on to learn everything you need to know, plus how to find reputable mental health resources.
Compare 7 Cups With Other Text Therapy Platforms
Why You Can Trust Our 7 Cups Review
We independently investigate and recommend products and services we believe will enrich the lives of our readers and meet their specific needs. We’ve spent many hours carrying out in-depth research on the online therapy market. You can trust our review because we did the legwork for you in these specific ways:
- Engaged in ongoing independent research
- Spent over 245 hours testing eight brands, deployed surveys that included more than 200 participants each, and interviewed focus groups
- Went behind the paywall for two months with eight brands to mystery shop our best online therapy choices
- Contacted customer service teams to ask questions and gauge responsiveness
- Consulted six leading psychologists and psychiatrists
- Became customers of online therapy providers ourselves
- Reviewed academic research about the efficacy of online therapy versus in-person therapy
- Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot
What Is 7 Cups?
7 Cups, also known as 7 Cups of Tea, is a mental health platform created by the psychologist Glen Moriarty. His mission was to ensure everyone had someone to listen to them. Users can access text therapy and counseling on the 7 Cups website and app.
7 Cups also advertises the platform as a place to chat online with strangers.
How Does 7 Cups Work?
7 Cups provides a platform for many mental health support services, like text therapy, chat rooms, discussion forums, and self-help activities the company calls “growth paths." Chats with listeners and therapists are generally not monitored, according to the company.
7 Cups offers asynchronous text therapy, meaning you do not meet with your text therapist for an appointment. You send messages anytime and hear back from your text therapist once or twice during weekdays. A study published in June 2020 in BMC Psychiatry found that text therapy may improve depression and anxiety symptoms in patients at the same rate as in-person therapy. Still, more research is needed to establish its full capabilities.
On 7 Cups, text therapy is only available for adults. Teens ages 13 and older can only access online community forums and chat rooms. The company's so-called growth paths are open to all users.
7 Cups Enrollment Process
There are a few ways to get started on 7 Cups. You can sign up for a free account to find a community or try the growth paths.
If you’re interested in text therapy, you must become a member or begin with a therapist search. You don’t need to fill out an intake questionnaire typical of other online therapy services like BetterHelp or Talkspace. You sign up as a member, choose a therapist, and fill out your contact information.
The therapist search tool allows you to seek a provider within miles of a particular city, state, zip code, or country.
If your search for a therapist isn’t precise enough, you risk being paired with a therapist who is not licensed to practice in your state. Though our tester selected Atlanta as their location, they were matched with a therapist who was only licensed to practice in Alabama.
When our tester began searching for therapists by location, they discovered the following 34 states had no licensed therapists available:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
In the states that did have licensed therapists, availability was extremely limited. California had four therapists. Alabama and Michigan had two each. Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia each had one.
According to the American Psychological Association, we are experiencing a shortage of mental health care providers in the United States. As such, limited availability may not be unique to the 7 Cups counseling platform. When our tester asked about this issue, the 7 Cups Support Team said they continuously add to their network of therapists. For now, due to limited provider availability, 7 Cups is not a viable text therapy option for many people.
Types of Services Offered
7 Cups offers several other services beyond text therapy.
One of the first chat options presented to users is an AI chatbot named Noni. Noni shares simple prompts, such as advice to take a mental health assessment or start a specific growth path.
If you prefer to talk to a person, 7 Cups offers a 24/7 anonymous chat. You can ask Noni to connect you with a live listener or press a button on the sidebar to find someone.
7 Cups is home to many discussion forums and group chats. Categories include Newbies, Fun, Health & Wellbeing, and Peer Groups, among others. Within these categories are a variety of smaller communities to explore, like Hobbies, Personality Disorders Support, 20 & Over Community, and Young People of Color.
7 Cups users can also access self-guided exercises called growth paths to learn coping skills.
7 Cups Therapy Cost and Payment Options
7 Cups online therapy is $150 per month for adults. Many features on 7 Cups are free with a general membership, but most growth paths are available only with a premium membership.
7 Cups Therapy Reviews
7 Cups has 4.7 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot with 439 reviews. On Better Business Bureau (BBB), the platform has 2.79 out of 5 stars with 14 customer reviews. The 7 Cups app has 4.5 out of 5 stars on the App Store with over 5,900 ratings. On Google Play, the app has 3.9 out of 5 stars with more than 22,200 reviews.
Positive reviews highlight helpful listeners and the joy of serving as a volunteer. Negative reviews mention issues with scammers and trolls, poor customer service, and listeners who aren’t equipped to support users. On Trustpilot, there are also serious accusations of inappropriate behavior and abuse on the platform.
Our Experience With 7 Cups Listener Training
In light of these reviews, our tester decided to complete listener training for 7 Cups. They finished the active listening training — a series of multiple-choice questions — in less than 10 minutes. A potential listener must answer 33 out of 46 questions correctly to pass.
After finishing the initial training course, they completed a quiz in the form of a test chat in about five minutes. According to the 7 Cups website, listeners must pass this quiz with a perfect score. Our tester typed in unprofessional responses and gibberish to investigate the vetting process. They passed the quiz and were approved.
Guidelines advised listeners to follow a strict confidentiality agreement and handle serious issues by sending referrals to therapists or crisis support services.
While more research is needed on virtual peer support programs, one report published in Psychiatric Services found that peer coaching showed promise. But the peer coaches in this research study had specialist training and certification from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, plus at least four years of experience working as peer specialists in outpatient mental health settings.
7 Cups listener training took about 15 minutes. After completing these steps, our tester was immediately allowed to begin working as a volunteer listener. The 7 Cups FAQ page notes that some listeners may be subject to a background check “to ensure they are friendly, considerate, and competent.”
Our Experience With 7 Cups Listeners and Community Groups
After becoming a volunteer listener, our tester also signed up for a free user account. They verified their email and landed on the 7 Cups dashboard.
They then opened a chat. At first, no listeners were available. But a few minutes later, a notification popped up to let them know a listener was ready for them.
Before entering a chat, users can choose three topics they want to discuss with their listener. The topics range from depression and anxiety to domestic violence, eating disorders, and sexual issues.
Our tester spoke with listeners located in India, Pakistan, and Estonia. While the Estonia listener’s profile said they were located in the United States, they confirmed to our tester that they were working from Estonia.
Our reviews team also checked out various discussion forums and groups. Like the chat rooms, they provided little support and lacked adequate moderation.
In one post in Self-Harm Recovery, for example, a user expressed despair over a relapse and suicidal thoughts. The only response was from another user, who offered them a hug.
Finally, we tested out Noni, the AI chatbot. Noni gave limited responses and did not adjust to user questions seeking resources.
7 Cups notes that Noni is unequipped to support users in crisis. Chatbots aren’t currently considered appropriate mental health care providers, according to an article published in June 2023 in Scientific American.
Our reviews team contacted 7 Cups for comment. When asked about unprofessional or abusive listeners, the 7 Cups Support Team said listeners have trust scores. They lose points when they are blocked by members or behave in negative ways. Certain actions result in immediate removal.
Is 7 Cups Right for You?
Based on our tester’s experience as a volunteer listener and user on the platform, 7 Cups is not an adequate or safe mental wellness resource for anyone, especially teens.
If you are interested in online counseling, you have options. Read our reviews of the best platforms for affordable online therapy, online therapy for teens, and text therapy. You may also benefit from our guide to mental health apps.
How We Research and Evaluate Online Therapy
Our reviews team extensively scrutinizes online therapy platforms and apps to make sure we only recommend those we believe will make a difference to our readers. Together, we’ve researched prominent brands by mystery shopping online therapy, understanding the experiences of real customers, and consulting with independent experts to better understand why people seek out therapy. Our method includes going past the paywall to test online therapy for ourselves, conducting in-depth interviews with focus groups, and deploying surveys to gain real customer insights.
We used our collected data to develop a scorecard to evaluate the platforms we tested ourselves. Read more about how we researched and tested online therapy platforms in our online therapy review methodology.
The Bottom Line
Our research found that 7 Cups isn’t a safe place for people who need mental health support. Because of a shortage of available text therapists, poor vetting and training for listeners, and poor moderation, we cannot recommend this platform. If 7 Cups addresses these issues, we will update this review accordingly.
In Case of Emergencies
If you are in crisis, waiting for an online therapy appointment may not be safe. In case of an emergency, call 911. That includes plans to harm yourself or others. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. Help is available 24/7. You can also send a text message to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. A crisis counselor will respond via text to help you stay calm and make sure you’re safe.
You can also reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). The SAMHSA helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-days-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals facing mental or substance use disorders.