Low cost, convenient anonymous, and effectiveness are reasons online counseling is growing in popularity — and works great for parents

You're stressed.

Feel like you're doing it 100% alone.

Likely lonely.

Maybe depressed.

“When you find yourself running into the same mental or emotional roadblocks over time and can't seem to get on top of them, it may be
time to see a therapist,” says Michelle Croyle, MA, LPC, CCTSI, a counselor and psychotherapist in Monroeville, Pa. “When you find yourself sad, down, irritable, anxious, or angry to a degree that it is out of proportion to the circumstances or events in your life, and of a duration that is longer than what one would expect in relation to your circumstances or events, it may be time to seek out therapy.”

Therapy might sound good — but who has the time or money?

Plus, depending on where you live, and your situation, it might be embarrassing if your friends, colleagues, neighbors knew you went to therapy.

Thankfully, technology is changing these very real challenges that stand between moms and the counseling the need and deserve (online).

Benefits of therapy: Why parents should consider 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 more than one of 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 of 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.

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. Aside the change or the trauma,
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.

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, Owusu says. “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.

That difference can be life-changing. Online therapy reviews confirm that some of the best sessions can happen on your lunch break, or from the comfort of home. But there are other, major benefits, too.

CostInsurance?BBB ratingFeatures
HealthSapiens$149/monthSometimesA-Unlimited, 24/7 immediate access to a therapist. Not for ongoing counseling.
$35-70/week for unlimited sessions
10% off for WSM readers
Financial aid available
SometimesA+Get matched with one of 11,000 Master's- or PhD-level therapists for unlimited text, video, phone or messaging sessions.
Talkspace$65-99/weekMaybeA+Combination of text, optional live audio or video sessions.

Where to find therapy

Where to find therapy

Our #1 pick for online counseling is BetterHelp, but you can read about all the top online therapy sites and apps in our post here. Your regular therapist, or a counselor near you, likely also offers online sessions.

Benefits of online therapy?

If you’re wondering whether you should go to a therapist’s office or look for online therapy options, here are eight reasons cognitive behavior therapy online might be right for you.

1. Online therapy is more affordable than in-person treatment.

With the best online therapy at your fingertips, you’ll pay less than you would for traditional therapy.

Traditional therapy, paid for out-of-pocket, typically costs at least $60 per hour, or up to $200 per hour in larger cities.

Online therapy with a company like BetterHelp could start at $35 per week for unlimited counseling on some therapy apps. (Read: BetterHelp review)

Most platforms provide different plans to make the service affordable for all price ranges. For instance, chatting back and forth with your therapist in a way that’s like email messaging is less expensive than a phone call or streaming video session.

But some insurance companies, including this plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, include coverage of online treatment programs. Even if the online therapy service doesn’t submit the bill on your behalf, contact your insurance provider to find out about reimbursement. This option means you may get a refund for the funds you pay out-of-pocket, even if some leg work is required on your part.

2. Online therapy sessions can be done anywhere.

Juggling work, school, and daycare schedules is exhausting. Sometimes you can’t find time to stop and take a breath. When that happens, carving out time to drive to a physical location can seem impossible.

Remote therapy can save time. Rather than worrying about how you’ll get to your appointment, your online session can be at the dining room table, while lying in bed, during your lunch break at work, or while you wait in the car during your kids' soccer practice.

Here is our list of top online therapy sites, as well as a breakdown of all the leading online counseling, and help understanding whether you need behavioral health services.

3. You don’t have to wait to start online therapy.

The sooner you start online therapy, the sooner you could see the benefits.

If you're thinking of therapy, you likely feel like you need help NOW.

The trouble with traditional counselors is that you often wind up waiting weeks or even a month or more to get in for an appointment.

With the best online therapy, full access to the program can occur as soon as your account is set up. The flexibility to begin right away can help you get closer to recovery — ASAP.

4. It's anonymous.

Getting mental health care can feel embarrassing — even shameful. You and I know that it shouldn't, but that doesn't change how you feel.

One of the things that often get in moms' way of seeking therapy is that people you know might find out. A friend or neighbor might see you walk into the counselor's office, or see your car parked in front of their clinic.

Unfortunately, in some cases, parents' custody arrangements can be at risk if their kids' other parent can document they attend therapy.

Online therapy is completely confidential. No one will know you receive the benefits of counseling if you don't tell them.

5. Your information is confidential.

When sharing private details of your life over the internet, confidentiality always comes up. You’ve heard of HIPAA? Short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, HIPAA sets rules and limits on who can access your personal information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states doctors, psychologists, and most other healthcare providers must follow HIPAA regulations.

6. You get access to better mental health care.

Not everyone has access to top-notch mental health care in their community. If you live in a rural area, the treatment options aren’t as plentiful. But living in a larger city doesn’t guarantee ease of access since the drive across town could take up to an hour or more.

With online therapy, you’re still getting treatment from certified and licensed therapists. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access mental health treatment from a laptop, desktop computer, or your smartphone.

Plus, since there is less of a financial or time commitment, it is easier to switch therapists if the first or second online counselor is not a good fit.

In other words: Online therapy makes it easier to shop around to find the best therapist for you.

Find an online therapist through BetterHelp >>

7. You don’t have to worry about a babysitter.

With an in-person counseling session, childcare while you attend your appointment is essential. But even the most reliable babysitter might need to cancel at the last minute. And what if your child becomes ill?

Part of the beauty of online therapy is there’s no need to worry about childcare. Your treatment can happen while your kids are at school, while they’re taking a nap, or after they’ve gone to bed for the night.

Or, let's get real: While you put them in front of a screen. We've all been there!

8. Treatment is comprehensive and successful.

Remote counseling is known for using cognitive behavior therapy as a main form of treatment. According to the American Psychological Association, this method restructures thought patterns for more successful long-term results.

Cognitive behavior therapy is proven to effectively treat mental illnesses and issues such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and eating disorders.

FAQs 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.

What is online therapy?

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.

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.

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 HIPPA 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.

Is online therapy legit?

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.

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.

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

Online couples therapy?

Whether you are seeking marriage counseling, couple's therapy or relationship therapy, online therapy can help. Couple's counseling is a very specialized practice, and experts disagree about how effective it can be. What they do agree on is that it takes a highly trained and experienced therapist to be effective—which can be hard to find. Online therapy sites help, since you have access to thousands of licensed professionals around the country, and are not limited to therapists near you.

How to find a good relationship therapist, and when you need couple's counseling

FAQs about the cost of online therapy

Understandably, the pricing of online counseling is often a major consideration for whether you use the service, and which one you choose.

How much does online therapy cost?

Where traditional therapy can cost hundreds of dollars each session (and God forbid you have multiple sessions in a week!), online therapy can be drastically cheaper.

Talkspace's unlimited sessions cost between $128-$396 per month, depending on the tiered program you choose.

BetterHelp charges a flat fee of $35-$70 per week for unlimited access to your counselor. It's also worth noting that BetterHelp offers new clients a 10% discount, as well as financial aid for those who cannot afford to pay. MDLive therapy is the priciest online provider because their network of professionals operates on a name-your-price basis according to experience and specialty.

An in-person live session with traditional therapy costs between $50 to $400, with the average session about $145.

Online therapy sites that take insurance?

Talkspace and MDLive both work with major insurance plans.

Online therapy sites with free therapy?

Sorry, there is no free online therapy (unless you count watching old Oprah episodes on YouTube). 7 Cups is a free peer-listening site, but its therapy sessions are fee-based.

Is therapy worth the money?

A quality therapist who is a good match for the client, and a client dedicated to growth and change can be a wonderful experience. There are never guarantees with therapy.

Is online therapy cheap?

Online counseling platform BetterHelp is the most affordable online therapy provides therapy for pricing at $35-70 per week for unlimited access, which is far below a typical in-person traditional therapy session, which costs $80-$200+. Other online therapy apps pricing is also typically lower than traditional therapy — though a local counselor may offer online sessions for the same price as their in-office fee.

What do I do if I can’t afford therapy?

If money prohibits you from paying full-price for therapy, consider these options:

  • Check with your insurer. Private health insurance, as well as Medicaid and Medicare sometimes cover behavioral health benefits.
  • As your therapist for a discount, or if they offer a sliding scale fee. Online therapy site BetterHelp offers financial aid.
  • Use therapist training sessions at a local university.
  • Find a support group, or group therapy. These may be free or much less expensive than one-on-one counseling.
  • Seek out community therapy services through a local Google search or the Department of Human Services.

Is there any free online therapy?

While some of the online therapy platforms mentioned in this post occasionally offer a free trial, quality therapy typically costs money.

Sliding fee scales for therapy: Do I qualify?

Each therapist, clinic, therapy or counseling center or online therapy platform has its own policy about whether it offers a sliding fee scale, and what the qualifications are.

How does a sliding scale work? How are sliding scale fees calculated?

A sliding scale for a therapist can be considered based on criteria including thresholds for income, whether you are a student or senior citizen, if you are on TANF or Medicaid, or otherwise struggle financially. Ask your behavioral health provider about whether they have a sliding fee scale, and how to qualify.

Do I qualify for a sliding scale fee?

It helps to start with your therapist's website, but don't stop there — call and ask about any discounts, sliding scale, free trial session, as well as group therapy. Again, each therapy resource has its own criteria, and often considers clients' needs on a case-by-case basis.

Online therapy platform BetterHelp typically offers a 15% discount for those who feel they otherwise cannot afford therapy.

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.

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 $35/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 >>

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.

Not sure where to start? Here is Wealthysinglemommy's list of Top 3 online therapy sites.

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!

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! 

Advantages of online therapy

There are many benefits of going online to help you sort things out. First, it is often less expensive than traditional face-to-face therapy. 

Here is an interview with a therapist who sees clients online:

Besides cost-effectiveness, other benefits of online, and over-the-phone therapy include:

  • Affordable – Online therapy companies typically charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited access to counseling, starting at $35 per week with BetterHelp. This is far, far less expensive than traditional in-person therapy which can start at $70 per 50-minute session, and go up to $200 per hour or more.
  • Convenient – Instead of spending time commuting to your therapy session, an advantage of online therapy is that it includes text, chat, video or over-the-phone therapy session at your kitchen table after your kids’ bedtime, on your lunch break in the car, or waiting for the clothes to dry in the basement. No driving or travel required. 
  • Immediacy of access – With 24/7 access to your account, online therapy allows you to get help now, instead of waiting several weeks to get an in-person appointment through traditional therapy. Inquire about real-time chat or over-the-phone therapy availability if you favor back and forth interaction. 
  • Control – If you have social anxiety or agoraphobia, online therapy means you don’t have to feel trapped in a physical place to get help. You decide what place feels right and can access your account at any time. 
  • Anonymity – A great benefit of online therapy is that one will know that you’ve used online counseling unless you share. There is no risk of running into anyone you know inside or outside of a therapist’s office.
  • Normalizes mental health care – Historically, mental health care has been stigmatized. Lately, though, the tide is turning and online therapy services are playing a role in that change.
  • Unlimited access anytime (for some platforms) – Because so many online therapists offer unlimited plans, you don't have to wait weeks or months for your next visit.
  • Privacy – Reputable sites adhere to regulations set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA protects how your personal information may be accessed or shared. 
  • Expanded choices – Access to the Internet and a desktop, laptop or smartphone gives you your pick of thousands of licensed professionals — no matter where you live. This is especially helpful if you live in a small or rural community, where there may not be a lot of counselors to choose from. Online and over-the-phone therapy benefits include wide access to specialists for different issues, as well as the demographic of your therapist, such as if you prefer a counselor of a certain race, gender, religion or LGBT.
  • Flexibility – Switch online therapists easily if the first one isn’t a match (it often isn’t). 
  • Convenient. Whether you are a busy mom, teen, or are using couple's counseling, online therapy is far easier to schedule.

Finally, some online counseling services focus on proven techniques such as cognitive behavior therapy or CBT, which is recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA).

CBT treats a range of mental issues such as depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and anxiety by restructuring thoughts and yields long-term, positive results. Check with your online provider to inquire if CBT is offered. 

Disadvantages of online and over-the-phone therapy

Some studies laud the effectiveness of online therapy, but the technology is relatively new and may not be suited to every situation, and depends on the person and the level of care needed. 

Another consideration is that health insurance may not cover online therapy platforms — though your local therapist who is covered likely offers over-the-phone and video therapy sessions, which can be a big advantage. Costs may be out-of-pocket, but this is increasingly true for all therapy (clearly a disadvantage!).  

As online therapy choices increase, some states like California, Georgia and Texas are requiring insurance companies to cover online counseling services according to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). The ATA is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit focused on advancing the reach and changing the perception of telehealth services, such as online therapy.

Some online therapy companies that work with insurance providers include:

  • Breakthrough
  • Amwell
  • Thriveworks

While online counseling companies like BetterHelp, Faithful Counseling, iTherapy, and Online-Therapy.com don’t take insurance directly, you can still check with your insurance provider about reimbursement for sessions or consider using a flexible spending account.

To determine access to insurance coverage of online and over-the-phone therapy, sometimes referred to as telehealth or online mental health services, contact your insurance provider. If you are covered by Medicaid you may have access to WellCare — a portal to access free, online therapy.

If you require documentation from court to show completion of therapy, you must check to see if the online counseling site will comply and whether the court will accept it. 

And, since anyone can set up shop on the Internet, be sure the service verifies the licensure of participating psychotherapists, and complies with federal HIPAA laws.

Reputable companies including BetterHelp, TalkSpace, Amwell, and Online-Therapy.com screen the credentials of therapists they partner with. You can view their information and do your own verification. One good resource is the Psychology Today therapist lookup tool

Ready to get started with online therapy? BetterHelp, which gives you access to thousands of certified counselors for the convenient, secure, and affordable help you deserve, starting at $35/week for unlimited access to text, phone, video or email therapy. 10% discount for Wealthy Single Mommy readers, and financial aid available.

Connect with a BetterHelp online counselor >>

Is online therapy right for me?

As a single mom, your children depend on you — and that can be a big weight to carry. Emotional setbacks are nothing to feel ashamed of. Nearly 60% of adults know someone suffering from mental illness, based on a survey by the American Psychological Association.

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

CostInsurance?BBB ratingFeatures
HealthSapiens$149/monthSometimesA-Unlimited, 24/7 immediate access to a therapist. Not for ongoing counseling.
$35-70/week for unlimited sessions
10% off for WSM readers
Financial aid available
SometimesA+Get matched with one of 11,000 Master's- or PhD-level therapists for unlimited text, video, phone or messaging sessions.
Talkspace$65-99/weekMaybeA+Combination of text, optional live audio or video sessions.

When to consider family therapy

With the help of cognitive behavior therapy online, you can improve your mental well-being and find balance in everyday life.

Give online therapy a try today >>

Related: What is group therapy, and how can you find a group?

About Emma Johnson

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder  Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist and author. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, MONEY, 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. A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Emma's Top Single Mom Resources.

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