Best online therapy sites for 2021

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Today millions of people receive the benefit of therapy online. There are several quality online therapy platforms, including free online therapy apps, as well as online therapy paid for by your insurance.

Online therapy is what it sounds like: Counseling services that are delivered through digital mediums, instead of in-person, like traditional therapy. Online therapists through reputable sites, are licensed and certified, and provide sessions through video, phone calls, text or email—depending on the client's preferences.

The best online therapy apps help individuals, couples, teens and families with anxiety, depression, addiction, mommy issues, daddy issues, trauma, grief, divorce, parenting, loneliness, career, family, parenting, mental health, relationship and dating challenges — and are low-cost, convenient, and private.

How we analyzed the best online therapy sites:

There are several important factors we used to vet the top online therapy sites to make our recommendations:

Rating and reviewsHow does this online therapy company rate with Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and client reviews?
Ease of useIs the online therapy company's technology up-to-date with a great app, multiple modes of communication and otherwise great user experience?
Price Which sites are a) most price competitive, b) transparent in pricing, c) offer financial aid
Honesty and transparencyHow is customer service? Are there hidden fees? Is it easy to change therapists? Is canceling straight-forward?

No. 1 Best online therapy site and app: BetterHelp

Our #1 online therapy platform choice is BetterHelp, the most widely used online therapy app that offers therapy via phone, text and video, for fees starting at $65/week. Financial assistance available. A+ BBB rating. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>

Unlike other top sites like TalkSpace, which also offer quality therapy, all BetterHelp packages include one-on-one therapy — and not just ongoing messaging. Other sites require you pay extra for those sessions.

BetterHelp is also very open and clear about its pricing, and makes it easy to cancel, change therapists, and otherwise manage your account. Here is one of the first emails our editor, Emma Johnson, received from BetterHelp when she first signed up for the service:

How to cancel BetterHelp, change therapists.

We like that the upcoming charge was announced well in advance, and the site proactively offered ways to change therapists, cancel and apply for financial assistance. No need to go hunting for this information — much less get a customer service runaround. This made us feel like BetterHelp truly aims to help clients, and offer quality service.

BetterHelp's secure app is just as dynamic as its desktop website, and helps make therapy even more accessible, since you can conduct live sessions from your office, car, on walks — wherever works for you.

To get started, you can browse a list of BetterHelp's therapists, read client reviews, and start the process of feeling better.

One of the features that many users like about online therapy company BetterHelp is how much control you have over choosing a therapist, and how often you interact with your therapist.

The onboarding process allows you to choose a BetterHelp therapist's qualifications and attributes, including:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • LGBTQ
  • Teens
  • Specialists in various needs, including addiction, eating disorders, trauma, grief, sexuality, anxiety, depression, couples and relationship therapy
  • Therapy types, including Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Client- or Person-Centered Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, etc.
  • Experience working with various personal, family and mental health issues
  • Communication and personality style

BetterHelp's process starts with a text exchange with an online matchmaker, who will ask you about your therapy history, reasons for seeking therapy, and if there are any special considerations you'd prefer (here's where you'll want to disclose your preference for, say, a female counselor or a therapist specializing in panic disorders, etc.).

You receive a form, similar to a traditional office's intake form, to fill out and send back, and then you're paired with your “primary therapist.”

Because this is all happening in real-time, you will be matched with a therapist within 24 hours.

The timeliness of the process is an especially helpful aspect of BetterHelp — especially for busy moms, or those who struggle with anxiety or depression, or otherwise are eager to start working with a therapist.

BetterHelp members also have access to group therapy sessions for 20 specialty topics — included in your fee.

BetterHelp is less expensive than its competitors with prices starting at $65/week for unlimited texting and one live session per week — and a 10% discount for new clients. Financial assistance is available.

Read Wealthy Single Mommy editor Emma Johnson's BetterHelp review, including her own personal experience with the app, or get connected with a BetterHelp therapist now and get 10% off >>

Here is her video review:

Our #1 pick for online counseling is BetterHelp. Your regular therapist, or a counselor near you, likely also offers online sessions.

BetterHelp offers a large database of more than 11,000 online therapists that it may match you with. The site states:

“We have found that we are able to provide a successful match most of the time; however, if you start the process and you feel your counselor isn't a good fit for you, you may elect to be matched to a different therapist.”

Each counselor is verified via:

  • Licensing
  • Good standing with their licensing board
  • Video review
  • 100% BetterHelp therapists have a Master's or Doctorate degree
  • Minimum 3 years and 2,000 hours of training.

“The result of this rigorous 4-5 week process is that only about 15% of the therapists who apply to work through BetterHelp are accepted to the platform,” BetterHelp's site states. 

BetterHelp worked with Berkeley Well-Being Institute on a study that found BetterHelp to be as effective as face-to-face therapy.  The study found:

  • 98% of BetterHelp users made significant progress
  • 94% of BetterHelp users preferred the service over traditional, face-to-face therapy
  • 70% users reported reduced depression

Listen to Wealthy Single Mommy founder Emma Johnson interview BetterHelp therapist Haesue Jo about anxiety, depression, isolation — and how to find joy, relief and beauty — during the COVID-19 pandemic, on her Like a Mother podcast:

Does BetterHelp offer free online therapy?

BetterHelp does not offer free therapy, but does offer a 10% discount for new clients — as well as financial assistance to those who cannot otherwise afford counseling.

How much does online therapy cost with BetterHelp?

Online therapy offered through BetterHelp costs $65 per week for unlimited messaging with your therapist, as well as weekly phone or video live therapy sessions. The cost of counseling is billed every four weeks.

You can cancel your BetterHelp subscription at any time, and canceling is easy and straight-forward.

Does my insurance cover online therapy with BetterHelp?

BetterHelp states that their online therapy services are not covered through insurance. However, you may receive some coverage depending on the plan you have.

Specifically, BetterHelp shares that you may have to be diagnosed by your therapist with an issue before you can expect reimbursement from your insurance company. Your therapist may also have to send proof of your disorder to your insurance company, including your copies of your medical records.

Does BetterHelp accept Medicaid?

Because each state Medicaid program has its own rules as to what is and is not covered, it can be difficult to answer this question with 100% certainty. That being said, BetterHelp states in their FAQs that most of their services are not typically covered by Medicaid or Medicare. You should check with your state’s Medicaid fee-for-service program to see whether or not services provided by BetterHelp are covered. 

Still, starting at $65 per week, BetterHelp is an affordable option even without Medicaid coverage. In fact, that is comparable to what you might pay as a copay under most common private insurance plans. 

Does BetterHelp have an app for online therapy?

BetterHelp works equally on its desktop site, as well as apps for Android and iOS/Apple products. You can choose a therapist (or switch therapists), manage your account, schedule and engage in live video, phone, message or chat sessions with your therapist through BetterHelp's secure website or app. Your choice!

How to find a therapist with BetterHelp

To get started with BetterHelp, you can browse the online directory, or start by:

  1. Go to BetterHelp.com, create a profile, and fill out your preferences and needs.
  2. You will be matched with a therapist within 24 hours.
  3. Start messaging with your therapist immediately.

BetterHelp has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

Start counseling with BetterHelp now >>

2. Second best site for online therapy: Online-Therapy.com

Online-Therapy.com's programs are based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has been developed on the idea that your thoughts are what cause your feelings and behaviors, not external stimuli like people, situations and events.

Unlike other online therapy apps that are really traditional therapy, but online, Online-therapy.com is an online worksheet and video tutorial program, with therapist support and sessions offered on a tiered-basis.

Online-Therapy.com provides a complete toolbox of resources built on the success of CBT:

  • An online, self-directed, 8-module Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course
  • Worksheets — with daily feedback from your personal therapist
  • Journal
  • Live chat, video or phone sessions with your personal certified and licensed therapist
  • Action plan — where you add activities that bring meaning and joy to your life
  • Meditation videos
  • Yoga videos

Online-Therapy.com: Online therapy review

Online-Therapy.com is a dedicated online-based team of consultant therapists, cognitive behavioral therapists, practitioners and support staff that collaboratively works to help people in need of emotional support.

This online therapy company gives you full access to an online therapy program designed for your specific needs with easy-to-follow information and hands-on tools, your daily journal and activity plan, including daily contact with your therapist (Monday-Friday), tests to monitor your progress and access to the forum.

Online-Therapy.com's website is easy to navigate, and with prices that start at $31.96/week.

Read the Online-Therapy.com review or get started now with a 20% off discount to Online-Therapy.com >>

Does Online-Therapy.com offer free online therapy?

No, Online-Therapy.com does not offer free online therapy, but the app does have a 14-day money-back guarantee.

Does Online-therapy.com have an app for online therapy?

Online-Therapy.com does not have an app. Instead, clients log in directly to their accounts via smartphones or tablets.

The online portal allows for text, phone or video appointments.

How much does online therapy cost with Online-Therapy.com?    

Therapy offered through Online-Therapy.com starts at just $31.96 per week when you factor in the initial 20% discount you get the first month. This monthly payment includes access to the firm’s online therapy program plus daily contact with your therapist — but no live chats or video sessions. (BetterHelp's fees are similar, but with all live phone, video, messaging or chat sessions, more like traditional therapy.)

If you want a more robust online therapy program, with more one-on-one sessions with a therapist, there are also two alternate subscription services to choose from that cost $47.96 per month or $63.96 per month.

Does my insurance cover online therapy with Online-Therapy.com?

Online-Therapy.com does not accept insurance as a form of payment, although they state “it may be a good idea to reach out to your insurance company to see if they will cover online therapy.”

If your insurance company covers online therapy sessions, you may be able to submit your bill to them for reimbursement after your sessions.

How to find a therapist with Online-Therapy.com

  1. Go to Online-Therapy.com and create an account.
  2. Start working through the video and worksheet modules.
  3. Schedule your first 30-minute chat, video or call — your choice — with the therapist assigned to you. You also have 24/7 access to the video and guided meditation and yoga videos immediately.
  4. you can ask questions and interact with your therapist, who will also give feedback to the corresponding worksheets daily Monday-Friday.

Check out Online-Therapy.com now, and 20% off, no discount code needed >>

3. Third best site for online therapy: Talkspace

For Talkspace users, a therapist is chosen for you by a shrink matchmaker of sorts.

Like BetterHelp, TalkSpace allows you to remain anonymous with your therapist, opting for a nickname or a random username instead.

Talkspace: Online therapy review

During an initial text exchange, a virtual matchmaker will ask you about your therapy history, reasons for seeking therapy, and if there are any special considerations you'd prefer (here's where you'll want to disclose your preference for, say, a female counselor or a psychotherapist specializing in panic disorders, etc.).

You receive a form, similar to a traditional office's intake form, to fill out and send back, and then you're paired with your “primary therapist.”

The speed of registering is an especially helpful aspect of Talkspace — especially for busy moms, or those immobilized with anxiety or depression.

Does Talkspace offer free online therapy?

TalkSpace does not offer a free trial, or any free online counseling. By comparison, BetterHelp offers similar services, but for a lower price.

Does Talkspace have an app for online therapy?

Earlier versions of Talkspace app had several bugs, including crashing at start-up. Updates in February 2020 have addressed these issues.

You can use the app to connect with a licensed therapist via unlimited messaging. Live video is also an option.

The Talkspace app has a 3-star rating on Android and a 4.2-star rating on Apple.

How much does online therapy cost with TalkSpace?

TalkSpace online therapy starts at $65 per week, or $260 per month, for messaging-only therapy, with live therapy is $65 per 30-minute session. A plan with four live talk therapy sessions is $396 per month.

Couples therapy is also offered for $396 per month, with four live sessions.

By comparison BetterHelp's plan with four live sessions and unlimited messaging is $260 per four weeks — compared with Talkspace's $396 for the same service. BetterHelp also offers a 10% discount for new users and financial aid.

Does my insurance cover online therapy with TalkSpace?

TalkSpace partners with several U.S. health insurance plans, although individual insurance plan participation varies. In other words, you’ll need to check with your insurance provider to see if online therapy is covered and what you’re expected to pay out-of-pocket — and which online therapy companies your insurance works with.

Talkspace also shares that many of their customers pay for their therapy with a credit card or Paypal then submit their bills for reimbursement through a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

Read: Talkspace online therapy review

Does Medicaid cover Talkspace?

Talkspace does not currently accept Medicaid or Medicare. This means that if you do not have private insurance, you’ll need to pay for your online therapy through Talkspace out of your own pocket. At approximately $60 per week ($260 per month) for message-only therapy through Talkspace, you can likely find less expensive alternatives. 

One option is BetterHelp, whose services start at $65 per week and include the same unlimited messaging as Talkspace but with the added benefit of one live session per week.

How to find a therapist with Talkspace

  1. Go to TalkSpace.com and set up an account
  2. Share your preferences and needs via a chat session
  3. Get matched with a counselor within 24 hours and start communicating via chat, message, email, video or phone.

TalkSpace has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. It is HIPAA complaint.

Start counseling now with Talkspace >>

4. Calmerry: Online therapy review

Calmerry is another popular online therapy platform. Getting started is easy: Just fill out a quick self-assessment, choose how you want to receive therapy, get matched with a therapist on the platform, and begin therapy.

Calmerry currently offers two types of therapy: Text therapy and live video therapy. All Calmerry therapists are required to hold licenses in the states in which they practice.

Therapists on the Calmerry platform are experienced in working with patients experiencing a variety of conditions or concerns, including:

  • Anger management
  • Anxiety
  • Childhood abuse
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional abuse
  • Family conflict
  • Grief and trauma
  • LGBTQIA+
  • PTSD
  • OCD
  • and more

How much does online therapy cost with Calmerry?

Calmerry is a subscription-based online therapy service. This means that you'll need to select either a weekly or monthly subscription plan. The most inexpensive plan currently offered is $42 per week.

Does Calmerry offer free online therapy?

No, Calmerry does not offer free online therapy. That being said, with plans starting as low as $42 per week, Calmerry is one of the more inexpensive online therapy options.

Does Calmerry have an app for online therapy?

Yes, Calmerry offers an app for both Android and iPhone users. If you prefer, you also sign onto the platform directly through your desktop computer instead of using the app.

Does my insurance cover online therapy with Calmerry?

This will ultimately depend on your insurance plan.

Calmerry states that their services are not typically covered by Medicare or Medicaid. If you have a private insurance plan that covers online therapy (also called teletherapy) then Calmerry should be covered. You should review your policy or call your insurance company to determine exactly what is covered.

How to find a therapist with Calmerry

To find a therapist and get started with Calmerry, all you need to do is complete a 3-minute survey. Your answers to the survey questions will be used to match you with a therapist on the platform, typically within 24 hours of signing up. If you decide that you would prefer a different therapist, you can request a switch completely free of charge.

How to create a Calmerry account

Getting started with Calmerry is as simple as navigating to their website and clicking “Get Started” at the top of the screen. This will bring you to a quick onboarding survey that is designed to both create your account and get a sense of what you are looking for in a therapist. Your answer to these questions will help Calmerry match you with a therapist on their platform.

calmerry create an account screen

To open a Calmerry account, you'll need to:

  • Enter your email and create a password.
  • Check your email for a verification code, and enter that code.
  • Enter your name, phone number, gender, current state of residence, employment status, and relationship status.
  • Evaluate your current physical health as either good, fair, or poor.
  • State whether you have ever tried counseling in the past.
  • Answer questions about your current mood and mental status, including whether you are feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, or sad.
  • State whether you currently do (or previously did) have issues regarding eating or eating disorders.
  • Evaluate the status of your relationships and whether or not you have worries about intimacy.
  • State whether or not you have experienced trauma in the past that negatively impacts your life today.
  • Identify what specialties you are looking for in a therapist, including: Depression, anxiety, self-esteem, relationships, trauma, LGBTQA+, anger management, eating disorders, sexuality, grief, or “other”.
  • Explain if you have any other preferences for a therapist.
  • Describe yourself in a few sentences.

All in all, it'll take no more than 5 minutes to answer these questions. Once you're done, the site will score your “emotional wellbeing” based on the answers that you provided, and give you a projected score that you can expect to achieve after 2-3 months of therapy.

calmerry emotional wellness score example

Finally, you'll select your preferred plan, and the system will match you with a therapist. This will usually take no more than 24 hours.

Start counseling now with Calmerry>>

5. Online therapy UK: My Online Therapy

My Online Therapy is a popular service based in the United Kingdom. Psychologists found on the site specialize in one (or more) of 13 therapies, including:

  • Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
  • Cognitive Analytic Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy
  • Mentalization Based Therapy
  • Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Schema Therapy
  • Systemic Therapy

My Online Therapy: Online therapy review

My Online Therapy works simply: When you create an account on the website, you will be required to answer a series of questions that are designed to help the site match you with the best possible therapists for your needs. 

Once you have chosen a therapist, you can then book an appointment directly through the website. My Online Therapy offers two formats of therapy: Video and live chat. Video appointments can be 30 minutes long or 50 minutes long, and live chat appointments will be 30 minutes long. 

The site is popular, with a 4.7-star score on Trustpilot based on more than 90 reviews. 

Does My Online Therapy offer free online therapy?

No, My Online Therapy is a paid therapy service and does not offer free treatment. 

Does My Online Therapy have an app for online therapy?

Yes, a My Online Therapy app exists for both Android and Apple Devices. 

How much does online therapy cost with My Online Therapy?    

The cost varies depending on which format you choose and the length of your session. Video appointments cost £49 for a 30-minute appointment and £99 for a 50-minute appointment. Live chat appointments cost £49 and are only available for 30-minute time slots.

Daily coaching services are also available for £75 per week, which allow you to message your therapist anytime without an appointment.

Appointments can be cancelled without penalty with 48 hours’ notice, but any appointment cancelled with less notice will result in a full charge.

Does my insurance cover online therapy with My Online Therapy?

My Online Therapy accepts private insurance for video sessions, but does not accept private insurance for live-chat sessions. Because the company is based in the UK, the specific insurance plans which are accepted may not include popular U.S.-based plans. 

How to find a therapist with My Online Therapy

  1. Go to MyOnlineTherapy.com or download the app to create an account
  2. Answer an introductory questionnaire designed to help the service understand your needs and match you with qualified therapists. 
  3. Select a therapist, and book your first appointment. 
  4. Decide if you would like to continue with this therapist or choose a different professional.

My Online Therapy serves users worldwide.

6. MDLive Counseling review

In 2014, MDLive, a leader in online medical care, bought online therapy giant Breakthrough. Today, the service is branded “MDLive Counseling.”

The site's process is different from its competitors. For starters, the therapy site doesn't pair you with a therapist.

Instead, you choose your own counselor by criteria like their location, what insurance they accept, or their specialties (anxiety, depression, family issues, etc.). Perfect for those of us who like a bit more control.

To sign up, pick a date and time that works for your schedule and your therapist either confirms the appointment or sends a “counteroffer” for a different date and time.

MDLive Counseling is available through phone calls or video chats using your computer or smartphone. Most states require an initial video assessment, but after that you can discuss whether phone or video are appropriate for your counseling needs.

As of July, 2021, MDLive Counseling costs $108 per session for therapists, $284 for a first psychiatrist session, and $108 for follow-up sessions.

MDLive has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau.

MDLIVE Counseling reviews

Here are some recent reviews from MDLive Counseling from TrustPilot. The online telehealth and online therapy industry saw a huge influx of new clients during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MDLive counseling reviews - is it worth it?
MDLive counseling reviews - is it worth it?
MDLive counseling reviews - is it worth it?
MDLive counseling reviews - is it worth it?

7. ReGain: Online couples counseling review

Whether you are working on your first, second or third marriage, another romantic relationship, or trying to improve your co-parenting relationship with your child's other parent, online relationship therapy can be an affordable, convenient, and productive tool.

Bonus: You don't have to be in the same room with the person, since you communicate with the counselor via chat, text, email, voice or video!

If your relationship is in trouble, couples counseling could be the answer. Enter ReGain, an online platform that helps couples find counselors to help them get their relationships back on track — or save it.

ReGain is a sister site to BetterHelp, our favorite online therapy source, which earned an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

ReGain starts at $65 a week for unlimited messaging and one weekly live video or phone session.

8. 7 Cups

7 Cups was originally named “7 Cups of Tea,” referring to a Chinese poem that celebrates tea as a means to tranquility. 7 Cups is unique among online therapy sites.

7 Cups offers free 24/7 connections with “active listeners” as well as paid online messaging with licensed professional therapists.

According to the 7 Cups website, it is an “online emotional support service.” Its active listeners are volunteers who've been trained to listen deeply and to reflect what you're saying when offering feedback, to let you know that you're being heard — all through an easy-to-use chat thread platform.

You can connect with an active listener at any time, day or night. The live chats are anonymous and private. No one will know it's you, and no one except the active listener will be privy to the conversation. This service is 100% free.

It's easy to create a free account at 7 Cups, and to get in touch with an active listener. You ask, and within a short time (sometimes literally seconds), a listener will “pick up” and begin the e-chat.

If you want therapy with a professional rather than simply active listening, you'll be matched with one of 300 counselors (or allowed to pick your own, from the 7 Cups therapist directory) and given a private chat room. From there you can message the therapist as often as you want, though counselors respond once or twice each day, and only Monday through Friday. This service costs $150/month..

7 Cups does not offer live text, video or phone therapy options.

Read more in our 7 Cups online therapy review

9. Faithful Counseling 

Faithful Counseling brings together licensed therapists who are practicing Christians and clients who are seeking faith-based mental health care.

“By combining Biblical wisdom with clinical expertise in mental health, our counselors do their best to invite God into the conversation and formulate actionable plans that best address the unique challenges their clients face,” the website states.

Faithful Counseling clients can access both pre-scheduled sessions with their therapist as well as have unlimited messaging with counselors any time they are available. You can also pick your preferred method of discussion for each session, either by phone, video call, or messaging. Because of the unlimited contact, costs for Faithful Counseling can be much lower than a traditional, per-session charge.

Faithful Counseling is one of the services offered under the umbrella company BetterHelp, which has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.

10. Teen Counseling

Teen Counseling is an online therapy platform to help meet the mental and emotional needs of teens aged 13 to 19.

The site also caters to parents, with parents or guardians having access to the same therapist (though the discussions are confidential at all times, unless the therapist has a concern about serious risk). Each can have unlimited contact with the counselor, via whatever digital method is preferred: video call, phone call, or messaging.

Teen Counseling is aimed at teens ages 13 to 19, though either a parent/guardian or a teen can initiate the sign-up process. The online counseling for teens website has an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau, via its parent company BetterHelp.

What do you tell a child whose father is not involved?

12. Pride Counseling

Help should always be accessible to anyone who needs it.

The LGBTQ community members suffer from mental health challenges at a twice the rate of the general population — with suicide rates at twice that of straight people, and nearly half of transgender adults attempting suicide within the past 12 months, compared with just 4% of the general public, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

Additionally, depression, anxiety and PTSD are experienced at a much higher rate among those who identify as LGBTQ. Pride Counseling set out to be a catalyst to getting the help to those who need it with LGBTQ therapists.

Pride Counseling does offer financial assistance. Otherwise, rates start at $65 per week for unlimited messaging and weekly sessions, no coupon code required.

Best online doctor platforms and apps — reviews, cost and tech

Best online therapy platform for therapists

GlassDoor reports that BetterHelp pays its contract therapists $29-31 per hour, and is having a “hiring surge.”

The benefits of working with a site like BetterHelp as an online therapist include:

  • Work at home or any other location
  • Flexible hours
  • Built-in technology — you interact with clients via the online counseling platform, so no need to set up or troubleshoot Zoom, Facetime, Skype or other tech
  • 100% HIPAA compliant
  • The therapy site manages billing, bookkeeping and other admin tasks, so you can focus on serving clients
  • High and increasing demand from clients around the country — no need to market your services

Learn more about becoming an online therapist with BetterHelp >>

Frequently asked questions about online therapy

Here are your answers to questions about online therapy pricing, insurance, how it works, and whether online therapy platforms are worth it.

How does online therapy work?

First, consider your personality type and preferred method of communication.

Would you rather video conference with your therapist, or have a phone call? Text or instant message? Post intermittently on an online message board?

Most services provide at least a couple of these options, but it's still good to keep in mind which ones are most effective for you.

If online therapy is new to you, be open to trying different communication modes.

Typically, online therapy works like this:

  1. After you are matched with a counselor, there will be an in-take session. This might be over the phone or video, and you may be asked to provide information over email or an online portal.
  2. If you prefer phone or email, that is up to you! You never have to use video (for example) if you don't want to.
  3. From there, depending on what you agree to with your therapist, you can schedule weekly calls of 30-50 minutes each — very much like a traditional, in-person session.
  4. Most of the online therapy sites offer an option for unlimited email or text communications, to account for unexpected events that arise, or questions or concerns that come up between regular sessions.

How and why to have an amicable divorce

Is online counseling safe?

One of the benefits of online therapy is that a quality site makes counseling safe and anonymous — after all, there is no risk of bumping into your neighbor like you might with traditional, in-person sessions.

Some things to look for in an online therapy site if security is a concern:

  • Is the site secure (with an https in the URL)?
  • Up-to-date encryption
  • Compliance with HIPAA requirements
  • Compliance with recommendations for therapists to use secure devices and connections. The National Board for Certified Counselors adheres to strict distance services policies for therapists.

What do you need for teletherapy?

Most telecounseling platforms give you the option to communicate by audio or video — typically a smartphone is enough for either. BetterHelp also gives you the option to connect by laptop or desktop, which not all companies do.

Is online therapy legit? Is teletherapy as effective as in-person therapy?

Online therapy includes a local therapist who offers telephone or Zoom.

While multiple studies find that therapy helps clients improve depression, relationships, and quality of life, one study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that online therapy is just as effective as in-person traditional therapy:

is online therapy effective? research and studies show yes

If you are researching online therapy platforms, check their Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot ratings, and read review websites for the pros and cons of the different apps.

Does online therapy work? Is online therapy any good?

Again, online therapy, when done well, is just as effective as in-person therapy, studies find.

Advantages of online therapy include:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Access to a wide variety of specialists which may not be available in your area
  • Option to easily switch counselors if the first one is not a match.
  • Convenient — no need to drive anywhere

What are the benefits of teletherapy or online therapy?

Therapy is increasingly acceptable, in part, because the benefits can be so great. There are many reasons why therapy is right for you. These include:

  • You are depressed and don't know how to stop being depressed
  • You find yourself stuck in your career, relationships, or life challenges, and can't get unstuck
  • There is turmoil in your relationships, and you want help finding resolve
  • You feel overwhelmed and don't know how to get a grip
  • Rage. You are angry all the time, for reasons that do not equate with the issues at hand
  • General apathy and fatigue (signs of depression)
  • A sense of guilt or shame colors your life
  • General apathy, sense of unfulfilling relationships, loneliness

Parents can also seek out in-person for children and teens, as well as online therapy for teens aged 13 and older.

Phebe Brako-Owusu, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Tacoma, Wa., says that teens can benefit from therapy for both specific traumas, as well as a vehicle for helping a teen express themselves. “A teen or child could benefit from therapy if they have experienced a change or trauma in their life and there are noticeable behavioral or emotional changes observed by the parent,” Brako-Owusu continues. “Or, if the parent is noticing the child is not being themselves and they're reluctant to talk to them about it, they could use a session.”

The only difference between online therapy and traditional, in-person counseling, is that with online counseling, you communicate with your therapist by phone, text or video, depending on your preference.

Differences between face-to-face therapy and online therapy

Online psychotherapy is fast becoming a solid alternative to face-to-face therapy. A study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute determined that online therapy for adult depression from online therapy leader BetterHelp was as effective as face-to-face counseling.

Online therapy sites hire a variety of mental health professionals who are rigorously vetted, but certain professionals are better suited to help you than others.

For instance, do you need a psychiatrist (an M.D. or D.O.), who can prescribe medication? Maybe you only need talk therapy through a licensed psychologist (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.), licensed psychological associate or (L.P.A.) licensed professional therapist (L.P.C.). For specific issues and specialized family or relationship help, licensed clinical social workers (L.C.S.W.), or licensed marriage and family therapists (L.M.F.T.) may work best.

CallonDoc is a secure online psychiatry service that connects you to a psychiatrist by phone, where you can get the prescriptions and other care you need for issues including depression, anxiety and panic disorder. Virtual sessions and prescription refills start at $39.99.

If you aren't sure which professional is a good fit, there's a good chance that the online therapy platform will help you choose.

Make sure any site you choose is HIPAA compliant, meaning they abide by federally mandated health care privacy standards.

This safeguards your information and transcripts of your sessions against any data breaches, hackers, etc.

Top therapy sites BetterHelp, Talkspace, and MDLive therapy all boast HIPAA compliance in easy-to-find spots on their sites, so finding out whether your site is covered shouldn't be difficult. 

Once you've figured out whether online or face-to-face therapy is right for you, how you'd like to communicate with them, and whether or not they're qualified, it's time to sign up!

Our choice for online therapy is BetterHelp, which lets you choose from thousands of licensed, certified counselors, starting at $65/week for unlimited text, voice, video or email sessions. Better Business Bureau A+ rating. Financial aid available Learn more about low-cost online therapy with BetterHelp >>

Advantages of face-to-face therapy

Face-to-face therapy provides a personal experience and additional benefits such as:

  • Predictability – An office visit secures a designated time and place to receive therapy and may help with establishing a routine for care. 
  • Visual cues – Clients experience the therapist’s body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. If you lean toward sensory interaction or are extroverted, this may help.
  • Safety – Mental health conditions in which a person may be in crisis or a danger to themselves or others may benefit from face-to-face counseling.
  • Variety – Some therapeutic approaches require in-person meetings such as animal-assisted therapy, expressive arts therapy and music therapy. 

Disadvantages of face-to-face therapy

Therapists must protect your privacy, but there is the very real possibility that you could run into someone you know while walking into, or out of your appointment. This may be especially troubling when dealing with custody issues if your ex-spouse is looking for fuel to deny or limit access to your child.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Expense – According to GoodTherapy, an online therapy resource site, an in-person session can cost $65 – $250 per hour. Online options tend to be much more affordable. 
  • Waiting – Instead of getting therapy right away, you must wait until your scheduled appointment time. Depending on the client load of a therapist, that could be weeks or even months in the future.
  • Scheduling – Typically in-person counseling requires scheduling an appointment during business hours, or otherwise working around the counselor’s availability. This may mean taking off work early, or otherwise creating inconvenience for you.
  • Travel time – Traditional therapy requires you commute to the appointment, which adds time on either end of the session. Most of us are busy! 

Is counseling online as good as face-to-face therapy? Which one is better?

Online therapy is great for moms because it provides coveted flexibility, is very affordable, and has all the other benefits that come with traditional, face-to-face, in-person counseling.

Your comfort level with technology, individual needs and session expectations will play a huge part in determining if online therapy fits.

Technology gives us more options to heal. The flexibility of online therapy, stability of face-to-face counseling or a carefully timed mix may be the answer. 

But sometimes you prefer face-to-face, in-person interaction, and that is great, too!

If you are unsure, thankfully online therapy is very affordable, and our partner BetterHelp offers a 10% discount for new clients.

Frequently asked questions about online therapists

Are online therapists legit?

Each platform has its own criteria, but check to see whether an online therapy site requires of its therapists:

  • Advanced, relevant degree such as a master's or doctorate
  • Licensure in their state
  • Advanced hours of practice (BetterHelp requires a minimum of 2,000 hours)
  • An internal review process — and not just automatic enrollment

Often, a therapist promotes that their services are available via phone or Zoom, which may be fine — but check to make sure the person is certified and credentialed in their state, and has relevant education and training.

How to choose an online therapist

If you’re looking into online therapy, grappling with your personal preferences is the first step. Being confident in your choice is crucial to establish trust and build a positive relationship with a professional counselor.

Share in the comments:  Have you used online therapy sites? What has been your experience?

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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