Ever had one of those really bad days where you thought, “I need to talk with someone” – but you didn’t have anyone to call? Now you do: Thousands of “active listeners” are waiting to talk with you free of charge at 7 Cups, an online therapy website.
Online therapy sites are popping up all over. You can read about our Top Online Therapy Platforms for 2020.
What makes 7 Cups different is those active listeners: people who act as an emotional support hotline. You can sign on at any hour of the day or night and a listener will connect with you to start a conversation. If you’ve made a previous connection with a specific person at 7 Cups, you can visit the listener’s profile to contact them that way.
Obviously not every issue can be solved by a compassionate listener. Some people will need professional counseling, which is why 7 Cups offers the option of treatment with experienced therapists.
The company was named “7 Cups of Tea,” and was formerly called, 7Cupsoftea, referring to a Chinese poem that talked about the healing powers of tea. According to the website, it wants people who visit to feel that they could have several cups of tea with a friend who cares: “It isn’t just a one-time meeting. You can touch base as much as you like.”
Here’s what you need to know about 7 Cups …
What is 7 Cups?
The site calls itself an “online emotional support service.” It provides anonymous connections with people who have been trained in the art of active listening – focusing completely on the speaker and making sure they are being heard.
These sessions are private. This isn’t a chat room where everyone can follow along. Your e-conversations are completely anonymous.
People contact the site for all sorts of reasons: anxiety, stress, depression, grief, addiction, substance abuse, health problems, workplace issues, relationship problems, loneliness, etc.
Sometimes you don’t have anyone you can talk to in real life, or you’re embarrassed to talk about certain topics with friends and family. The anonymity of 7 Cups communities means that you can truly unburden yourself, feel connected and heard among kind people who are committed to the value of active listening.
Active listening is an important part of emotional support, and used by clinically trained and certified thearpist — though active listening is often not recommended in and of itself as a way to work through larger issues.
Says Elizabeth Brokamp, MA, EDM, LPC, a therapist in Burke, V., a Washington, D.C. suburb: “Active listening is an important part of therapy but is not synonymous with therapy. I would call it a therapeutic technique: one arrow in a quiver of skills that a therapist must possess in order to do good work with clients.”
What are 7 Cups active listeners?
In order to volunteer for 7 Cups, people have to take an online course to learn those active listening skills. Before they can start, they’re tested – and they have to get a perfect score in order to become part of the active listening community.
One of the most important things 7 Cups volunteers learn: knowing when to refer someone to a licensed counselor or, if need be, to emergency services.
According to the website, some of the active listeners are actually professional counselors and therapists. However, they don’t counsel or offer medical advice in this capacity.
One of the best things about the active listener program is that it’s a 24/7 community. When you want to talk to someone, you visit the website or use the app (available for Android and iPhone) and someone will reply. You can check the active listener’s virtual street cred through their cumulative scores and the badges they’ve earned from clients.
Does talking to a stranger online still sound weird to you? Well, think of it this way: If you use social media – or dating apps – then you’re already talking to strangers online. The difference here is that you’ll never have to face your 7 Cups listener(s) in real life, so you can be completely blunt and honest.
Does 7 Cups have online therapy?
In addition to the active listeners community, which is free, 7 Cups also offers online therapy with licensed therapists, which costs $150 month.
For this fee you and a licensed therapist will have an ongoing chat thread. For paid memberships, interaction is unlimited. However, therapists only log in Monday through Friday, and will check once or twice per day.
How does 7 Cups online therapy work?
- Go to 7cups.com and click on the therapy button.
- The assessment starts with a friendly bot named Sophia. You’ll be asked stuff like whether you’ve been in therapy before, how long your current problem has bothered you, and whether or not you have much emotional support in your life.
- The site gives you the option of creating a user name or having one assigned – but you’re also required to give your real name, address and phone number. (This info will be used only if at some point your therapist believes you are in immediate danger.)
- Based on the information you provide, 7 Cups will put you together with an experienced counselor. Or, you can opt to look through the site’s therapist directory and choose your own provider. No need to schedule an appointment — instead, you and the counselor will have a private chat room, where you can message as often as you like.
This is super-convenient for single moms and other busy people, who might have trouble finding the time to make (or keep!) appointments. Online therapy is also helpful if you want to keep your sessions private from your romantic partner, or other people in your life.
You can message your therapist first thing in the morning, before your kids wake up, or late at night, once they’re finally asleep. Or you can message during your lunch break, your carpool (as long as you’re not driving!), or while the children are watching TV or using their smartphones or tablets.
Again: Although you can message as much (or as little) as you like, the counselor will check in and reply one to two times a day, Monday through Friday.
Again, 7 Cups online therapy is completely confidential.
Can 7 Cups counselors prescribe medication?
The 7 Cups therapists do not write prescriptions. However, if they feel medication is warranted they will suggest the client talk with their primary care physician.
That’s the way it happens offline, too: A counselor will work with your medical doctor (or maybe with a psychiatric nurse practitioner) to decide what medication might best suits your needs.
Is 7 Cups worth it?
In general: Yes, 7 Cups is a good deal.
Everybody needs someone to talk to now and then – or maybe even daily. You can reach out to an active listener any time you have a problem, whether it’s big or little.
Here’s an example: Recently I was having a really rough day. Several freelance assignments were stalled, I got last-minute “fix this now” notes from a couple of clients, and a part-time contracting gig had become a serious hassle. Working for yourself is already plenty isolating, and that day I felt completely at sea. So I joined 7 Cups and sent out a “help meeee!” request.
Within 30 seconds an active listener was on the app, allowing me to vent and offering some anxiety-relieving tips. After a few more back-and-forth messages, I felt ready to jump back into working. Would I have managed on my own, without the active listener? Probably. Would I have been miserable? Almost certainly. Venting to a supportive stranger changed the course of my day.
Too often, women think their problems aren’t important enough to warrant asking for help. In particular, single moms too often prioritize their kids’ needs over their own. But you have to practice self-care if you’re going to care for others – and you should also practice self-care because your health and happiness matter.
If you’re having a problem, reach out to one of those active listeners at 7 Cups. You won’t be judged. You’ll be helped.
Does 7 Cups offer free online therapy?
The website’s active listener service is completely free. But sometimes a sympathetic ear isn’t enough. Some issues require trained counseling from a professional counselor. 7 Cups can help you there, too, for $150 per month.
BetterHelp is another online therapy site, rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, and 10% discount for new users — plus financial. Learn more about BetterHelp now >>
Does 7 Cups online counseling cost money?
If you work with a 7 Cups therapist, you’ll be charged $150 per month. Again: You can message as much as you like, without being charged more than the $150 base rate.
Given that traditional, face-to-face therapy will run you anywhere from $60 to $200 per hour, $150 per month for unlimited sessions is very affordable therapy.
Is 7 Cups covered by insurance?
7 Cups does not accept health insurance. BetterHelp works with some insurance providers.
Is 7 Cups legit?
As noted, I was having a supremely stressful day but it turned out that what I needed was not a good stiff drink or a nervous breakdown – it was a sympathetic e-voice to help get me back on track. It was fast, it was effective and it was free.
Not every issue can be solved that way, which is why 7 Cups has a directory of licensed professional counselor. If you need more help than an active listener can provide, the site will help you find a therapist who will work with you to find a better way to live.
The fact that online counseling can be done at any time makes it a good bet for busy single moms. The site’s ease of use and its free active-listener element earned it the 2016 Stanford Medicine X Prize in the “Health Care Systems Design” category.
7 Cups has a B rating with the Better Business Bureau.
7 Cups claims to have helped 25 million users since its 2013 inception ±— making it the largest online therapy platform, though it refers to itself as an “online emotional support platform” since the paid counseling service was added later.
Is 7 Cups safe? Is it confidential?
7cups.com uses an encrypted site, an allows users to reveal their personal identity, or remain totally anonymous at their choice to the listening community, or therapist, though your real name is collected securely by 7 Cups.
In other words: When you talk to someone, or in a group, you can be anonymous or not — it is up to you.
7 Cups vs. BetterHelp: Which is better for therapy?
Both BetterHelp and 7 Cups are quality platforms with their own advantages and disadvantages. If what you mostly need is a compassionate, anonymous friend, then 7 Cups has you covered ‚ 100% free. No matter what time you sign on, you’ll likely find an active listener.
Again: The active listener stuff is free. Hard to beat that. And if you need more than a sounding board or a safe place to vent, you can get online therapy for $150 a month.
BetterHelp doesn’t have the free active listeners, but it does have a directory of 9,000 licensed, credentialed therapists to help you via unlimited private messaging, and weekly live video or telephone therapy sessions.
7 Cups does not offer these options — just the chat thread with your paid therapist. 7 Cups reports it offers just 300 therapists, so the choice of counselors is fewer, as 7 Cups is less focused on professional mental health care, and more on its free listening community.
BetterHelp’s services start at $35 a week— about $10 more per month than 7 Cups charges. However, BetterHelp offers a 10% discount for new members, and financial aid of about 25% off for those in need. So if you wind up realizing that online therapy isn’t a good fit, you won’t be out the $150 that 7 Cups would charge for that first month.
Plus, some health insurances pay for BetterHelp, while 7 Cups does not work with insurers.
BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, while 7 Cups is rated a B by the BBB.
BetterHelp specifically specializes in online counseling, including couples and teen counseling, which gives it an advantage for paid therapy options.
Learn more about BetterHelp with our BetterHelp review >>
Check out 7 Cups >>
The bottom line
Asking for help – even admitting that you need help – isn’t easy. We’re taught to play with pain, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and generally just to tough things out. That’s not a healthy way to live.
Anxiety or depression are not character flaws – they’re illnesses. Merely escaping a bad marriage doesn’t magically make things all better. Neither does ignoring the very real grief that can follow divorce (even if you were the one who filed). Money problems, the challenges of single parenthood, wondering whether you’ll find a new love – these and other issues can bring even a strong woman to her knees, emotionally speaking.
Don’t deny yourself the chance to make life better. If you’re having tough times, do yourself a solid and reach out for help. Active listeners are standing by, waiting for the chance to connect.
Ready to get started with online counseling for free? Get started with BetterHelp now >>
- Online emotional support service
- Sessions are private
- Completely anonymous
- Beautiful, altruistic free social support network, free training on how to be a better listener
- B rating with the Better Business Bureau
- Actual online therapy is limited, and more expensive than competitors
Longtime personal finance journalist Donna Freedman created the Smart Spending blog for MSN Money and has written for dozens of other publications, including The New York Times Review of Books, NerdWallet, Magnify Money, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Vox, Get Rich Slowly, All You, The Simple Dollar, the Chicago Tribune and Wise Bread. Her work has won regional and national awards. She is a member of Mensa, but people are much more impressed by the fact that she was once on the game show “Jeopardy!” Donna lives and writes in Anchorage, Alaska.