Are you considering therapy? Sometimes getting to an on-site therapist isn’t possible, but that’s no longer an excuse for not getting the help you need — and deserve.
According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of people who knowingly suffer from mental illness don't seek treatment.
If you suffer depression, anxiety, overwhelm, relationship or career challenges because of someone in your life is narcissistic, working towards or through a divorce, or you simply need some guidance and support, counseling can help.
Reasons people do not get the counseling they need include chronic pain, agoraphobia, a busy schedule, lack of money, or the embarrassment and shame of seeking help (especially if you live in a small community).
If you are seeking couple's therapy, coordinating schedules with your husband, wife or partner can also be a challenge, as can budgeting time to drive to and from counseling is also a major barrier — especially for busy moms. (Read: 8 reasons why online therapy is great for single moms)
Cost is also a huge factor — as health insurance often does not cover therapy sessions, and the price can be $100 to $200 per traditional, in-person therapy session.
If any of these reasons sound familiar, online therapy might be right for you.
As a viable treatment option, cognitive behavior and other types of therapy online can help treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Studies find that counseling and therapy can relieve mild to severe mental health challenges — and may even save your life.
Benefits of online therapy include:
- Convenience — you connect with a counselor via video, chat, email or phone, from anywhere, any place.
- Saves time, as there is no commute to appointments.
- Anonymous. None of your neighbors, school moms or colleagues will see you going into a therapist office, or spot your car parked out front.
- Affordable — with flat for as little as $40 per week for unlimited therapy, online counseling is incredibly low-cost compared with traditional, in-person appointments.
- Plus, all the benefits of regular, in-person therapy. The process is the same, simply virtual. In other words: Online therapy really works.
You might have to pay out-of-pocket for help, but check with your insurance since more providers are getting on board. In fact, one of the most recognized names in healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, now covers virtual therapy.
The growing acceptance by insurance companies shows that meeting with psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors online is as effective as in-person.
To help you start on the right foot, here are the best questions to ask before paying for online therapy.
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.
How do you know what questions to ask?
Finding an online therapist can seem like a daunting task. There are several leading online therapy websites, and literally tens thousands of counselors. Plus, it is a big investment in terms of time, emotion, money and even spirit in terms of sharing your personal history and very intimate feelings and experiences — only to realize that the therapist is not the right fit, and you must start your search all over.
However, in this guide, we will help you ask the right questions before you commit to a therapist, to increase the likelihood of a quality match with someone who can be an important part of your journey for as long as you need them.
First step: Online search.
Think of finding a therapist like dating: You wouldn’t dream of going on a first date without Googling the person’s name or looking them up on Facebook. This same approach can help you pick a therapist.
All the major online therapy sites have a directory of online profiles. Spend some time reviewing those first.
BetterHelp is one of the top online therapy apps, and they have a dynamic directory of all of their counselors.
Note their credentials, style, communication method, pricing, and whether your insurance will help pay for costs. Do you have a preference in terms of age, gender, race when it comes to a therapist? There is no shame in that. A directory is a great way to sort by these and other preferences.
For the best online therapist match, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends you talk to more than one potential therapist. Interviewing potential candidates makes sense, considering the vast array of personalities and varying approaches to treatment options.
While you’re reviewing the practitioner’s website, spend time on reviews left by previous patients. Online therapy reviews can be food for thought, and can provide further insight into your prospective counselor.
Keep in mind that dissatisfied clients are more likely to leave negative comments. Don't judge the therapist solely by the opinion of someone else since each patient has unique needs.
In the case of online therapy, you will also be the client of the platform itself, so make sure the site has solid online reviews. You can see customer reviews for BetterHelp here and you can read my BetterHelp review here.
Also, take time to ask about licensing and look them up to uncover potential infractions or disciplinary actions. A state licensing board like this one in Indiana will have this information readily available.
Questions to ask a potential online therapist
Asking about what qualifies a person to work in their profession can be awkward. Still, knowing this information is important. You want to make sure the person you’re trusting your treatment to has the right credentials.
Look at this initial interview like a date. Make a note of how comfortable the therapist is when responding to your questions.
Asking about the counselor’s experience with online therapy can provide insight into their process.
A therapist will recognize that concerns are common when approaching online counseling. Understanding what you can expect during a therapy session can help you feel more comfortable, and a quality therapist will have no trouble discussing their answers with you.
To help you gain trust in your provider and the process, consider these questions to start:
- Do you have a specialty in (your specific issue)?
- Are you more direct in your approach to therapy? Or do you guide patients to uncover their own solutions?
- What type of therapy do you offer? Do the treatment options match what I would like to pursue (cognitive behavioral therapy, client-centered therapy, Gestalt or psychoanalysis)?
- What are your strongest and weakest areas as a counselor?
- What times are you available for online therapy sessions?
- Is there one thing you enjoy most about counseling?
- What certifications and licenses do you have and when do they expire?
- Do you have any specialty areas of practice?
- How long have you been a practicing therapist working online?
- Have you used online therapy yourself?
- Who is an ideal patient for online therapy?
- How many clients have you worked with in online therapy who have similar concerns I have?
- Do you have many long-time clients?
- How often do you anticipate seeing someone for online therapy sessions?
- What is a typical online therapy session like?
- Do I need a specific computer or computer program for online therapy? What’s required for a successful session
This last question is an important consideration. A few methods include live chats, telephone conversations, using video conferencing technology, and exchanging messages with your counselor in a format similar to an old-school chat room.
Some therapists prefer a particular path of communication. As the patient, priority should be given to whichever channel you’re most comfortable with. After all, you aren’t likely to enjoy online therapy if you can’t easily communicate your struggles.
Questions to ask about the financial side of online therapy
Finances impact everything in life, and this is especially true when deciding about healthcare. Rising costs and confusing insurance policies can be tough obstacles to overcome when seeking online therapy.
Asking the right questions about the financial side of therapy can open the door to treatment options you might not have thought about. An obvious question to start with is does my insurance cover online therapy?
You might be surprised to know that more than 19 states require insurance policies to pay for online therapy, according to leading online counseling provider iTherapy.
Being aware of what your insurance covers and how much you’re expected to pay out of pocket can make the decision easier.
Don’t feel shy about addressing these questions with a potential online therapist. Your healing might be hindered unless you understand the process, and that includes knowing how you’ll pay for treatment.
Any professional therapist worth considering won’t hesitate to disclose the financial side of treatment options.
To know what coverage and costs you’re getting into, consider asking these questions.
- Is online therapy covered by insurance?
- How much does online therapy cost without insurance?
- How can I get my insurance to pay for online therapy?
- Is online therapy worth the money and does treatment really work?
Overall, the growth in online therapy trends is overwhelmingly positive. The American Psychological Association reports that more than a dozen new online therapy clinics have opened in the past few years.
But that doesn’t mean online therapy is for everyone.
As great as it is, you’ll want to take a hard look to determine if virtual counseling is worth your time and money. You’re not a failure if online treatment doesn’t work for you. Other solutions exist, and online therapy is only one option on your journey to mental well-being.
Questions to help set goals for online therapy
If you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve determined that online therapy might be best for you. Seeking help is a huge accomplishment in itself. But your work is just beginning. The driving purpose behind cognitive behavior therapy online is to help you live a better life.
Getting to a point where you can turn something negative into something positive is an excellent way to overcome personal issues.
To do that, you’ll set and work to achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Thinking about how your life could improve can get you on the right track. Once you have an idea of what you want your life to look like, setting benchmarks can help you accomplish your objectives and make your vision a reality.
Working with your counselor is nonnegotiable with this step. They’ll direct and guide you on the path to mental wellness.
No matter where you’re at in life, the best online therapy includes discussions about goal-setting.
Questions to ask your new therapist:
- What are counseling goals for my online therapy?
- Will we discuss goals right away?
- Do I have a say in the goals that are set as part of my treatment plan?
- How will you measure progress toward my goals?
- How often will we check in on my improvement?
- How should I prepare for my first online therapy session?
- How often do your clients meet their goals?
To find optimal mental health, you don’t always walk a straight line. You’ll have times of growth and your share of setbacks. Spend some time preparing for each session, including your first, to increase the mileage of your online therapy sessions.
Online therapy is a solid option when it comes to improving your mental health. The cost might not be as much as you think. Plus, insurance companies are increasing their coverage, and it could be a benefit on your policy.
Taking your time to find the right therapist is crucial, and reading online therapy reviews can help. Your personality and preferences are just as important as the qualifications and strengths of the counselor.
When you’re ready to take the next step, creating goals and working through hurdles with online therapy can help you live a better life.
Related: Best online therapy companies
Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.