Online therapy is a way to communicate with a licensed mental health professional over the phone or computer. Common means of treatment include messaging (similar to text or email), live chat, phone calls, or video chat. Online therapy differs from in-person therapy in several ways.
Online therapists typically do not provide a mental health diagnosis, like “generalized anxiety disorder” or “ADHD.” Online treatment also may not meet the requirements for “court-mandated therapy” in certain cases.Otherwise, online therapists are licensed mental health professionals, and most provide similar treatments online as they do in-person.
Online Therapy Programs
Founded in 2012, Talkspace boasts that they’ve already helped more than one million people feel happier, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps serves as their popular spokesperson, talking about how therapy helped him become stronger.1
Here’s how it works: During the sign-up process, you’ll be asked to complete an online questionnaire. Then, a human will match you to the best therapist for your specific needs.
Once you’re matched to a therapist, you’ll continue working with that same therapist throughout treatment (unless you request to change to a different professional). You can also get matched via an AI chat system if you prefer that method.2
There are more than 3,000 licensed therapists who have been through a background check. Therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, sleep problems, trauma, LGBTQ struggles, or even veteran-related difficulties.
Basically, with so many therapists available, you’ll likely find someone who is well-equipped to help you deal with almost every issue. And some of their treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and psychodynamic therapy.3
Talkspace offers three different plans:
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: $65 per week for text, video, and audio messaging. A therapist will respond to messages five days a week.
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: $79 per week for text, video, and audio messaging plus one live session per month. A therapist responds to messages daily, five days per week.
- LiveTalk Therapy Unlimited: $99 per week for text, video and audio messaging and four live sessions per month. A therapist responds to your messages daily, five days per week.
Live video sessions can be added for $49 for additional 30-minute sessions if the therapist is agreeable. In addition to their regular services,Talkspace offers specific services for teens and for couples. Services for teens start at $65 per week and counseling for couples starts at $99 per week. All services for HIPPA compliant and are available via desktop or mobile devices.
Betterhelp has more than 4,000 licensed professionals on their site and they report they’ve helped more than one million people on their platform. All therapists have at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience. Counselors are psychologists, family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors and they have a broad range of expertise.5
To start, you can sign up using a “nickname” as opposed to your real name, and you’ll be asked to provide emergency contact information, which is kept in the system and only used if the counselor believes you or someone else might be in danger.
Users are then matched with a licensed mental health professional based on the results of a quick assessment. It may take 24 hours or longer to connect you with a therapist, and if you are not happy with the therapist assigned to you, you can always request a new one. Therapists offer a full range of areas of expertise, ranging from career issues to life transitions.
You’ll be assigned to a secure and dedicated chat room that only you and your therapist can access. Most chats are not in real-time, however. Instead, you can leave a message and your therapist will reply in a timely fashion (they usually reply to messages one or two times each day).6
As for cost, Betterhelp starts at $65 a week for the first month. Afterward, the fee ranges from $35 to $80 per week depending on the subscription length. You can schedule live chats with your therapist in advance as well, but there may be an additional fee for phone and video sessions.
Regain specializes in online counseling for couples, and they address a variety of relationship challenges, ranging from infidelity to communication problems. The sign-up process allows you to identify your goals and any preferences you have for a counselor. For example, you can state if you prefer a male or female provider or a younger or older therapist. Regain then matches therapists directly with couples.
All counselors are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors. All possess at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience, and every counselor has a specific interest and expertise in relationship counseling.
If you sign up for Regain, you and your partner will share a joint account so you can communicate with the therapist together. All written communication will be visible to you, your partner, and your therapist. If you want to speak to the therapist privately—without your partner present—you can do so. You just have simply request to schedule a private session.
It’s important to note that the chats aren’t in real time. Instead, you can leave messages and the therapist will respond. The speed of the counselor’s response varies and the frequency of sessions is based on the interaction between you and your counselor. Sessions can also include phone calls and video.
The cost of counseling ranges from $40 to $70 each week depending on the plan. It’s a subscription service that can be canceled at any time. Since it is a subscription service, there aren’t a set number of appointments. Instead, couples can determine whether they’d like frequent short sessions or longer sessions less often.
Teen Counseling is an online platform specifically made for individuals between the ages of 13 and 19. The company’s professional therapists are equipped to discuss issues such as anxiety, stress, coping skills, self-esteem, bullying, depression, eating disorders, self-esteem and other mental health issues.
Counselors are all licensed mental health professionals. The app does not offer teens with an official diagnosis, so if you are interested in getting your child diagnosed with ADHD or another mental health condition, this app won’t do so.
If you’re a parent and interested in signing up your adolescent up for Teen Counseling, you will have to complete the sign-up paperwork. It’s here you can discuss your teen’s issues and situations with the therapist first and then they’re connected to your child.
The counseling sessions are confidential but therapists will alert the parents if there’s a safety issue that should be made known.Teens may exchange messages, chat live, speak over the phone, or use video conferencing to chat with the counselor. It is a subscription service and there are no limits on how many sessions or messages can be exchanged each week.
In fact, each teen gets their own “room” with a counselor where messages can be exchanged at any time. There is no need to schedule appointments and they will speak to the same counselor each time.The cost ranges between $40 and $70 each week depending on the plan. Teens get unlimited access to a counselor.
One thing to note is that the site/app is also clear that they don’t fulfill court orders. So if your teen has been mandated to receive counseling by a court, this won’t fulfill the requirement.
Pride Counseling offers online therapy to individuals in the LGBTQ community, and their goal is to offer discreet, affordable, and accessible treatment. Whether you have a mental health issue, like depression, or you are experiencing LGBTQ-related issues, their professional counselors can help.
They have counselors who are trained in specific issues, such as anxiety, stress, parenting, depression, grief, sleeping, trauma, family conflicts, religion, relationships, self-esteem, and eating.
Not only are the counselors on Pride Counseling either licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or professional counselors (all with either a master’s or doctoral degree), they are all specialists in the LGBTQ community as well.
In most cases, you will be matched with your personal counselor within 24 hours. You will schedule sessions that work within your own time frame, but you can also message your counselor whenever an issue arises.
While they do their best to match you to someone you’ll connect well with, you can change counselors at any time if you’d prefer to work with someone else.You can communicate with your counselor in four different ways:
- Exchanging messages in a secure room
- Chatting live
- Speaking over the phone
- Video conferencing
The cost ranges between $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly). You can cancel your membership at any time for any reason.Pride Counseling considers your privacy and confidentiality a top priority. You can use a nickname when communicating with your counselor if you don’t want to reveal your real name.
Amwell is a comprehensive telemedicine site that offers access to doctors, therapists, and specialists. Their mobile app offers access to professionals any time of day, 365 days a year. Once you set up an account, you can choose which type of service you’d like to have (they even cover services other than therapy, including urgent care, breastfeeding support, dermatology, cardiology, etc.).
Then, you will be offered the opportunity to set up an appointment with different therapists. You can review the photograph and biography of each therapist before selecting the one you’d like to work with. The cost of each visit varies from $59 to $99 based on the experience and credentials of the therapist.
If your employer or health plan provides coverage (the company touts more than 80 million people are covered), you may be eligible for a lower price. During the pre-visit process, you can enter your insurance information to learn more about your out-of-pocket costs.
7 Cups of Tea offers something most sites don’t—the opportunity to speak to trained listeners for free. If you’re looking for emotional support but can’t afford counseling or you aren’t sure you want to see a therapist, you can speak to a trained volunteer listener via online chat. Best of all, it’s anonymous.
There are also scheduled group support sessions and chat rooms that address specific issues, such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and LGBTQ+ Another unique feature is that 7 Cups of Tea has listeners available especially for teens between 13 and 17 as well. And there are teen community forums and chat rooms available, too, for anyone looking for more support.
If you prefer to speak to a licensed therapist, you can also pay to do so. Prices start at $33 per week, and you can get a free three-day trial to test the service and see if it works for you. You are assigned a chat room where you can speak with your therapist any time of day. You and your therapist will eventually establish a routine, and they may respond back to your messages once or twice per day.
Seven Cups of Tea works on mobile as well as desktop. To ensure confidentiality, the website does not retain any data from your correspondence with your listener or your therapist.
Doctor on Demand offers a variety of physical and mental health services. They have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists who can provide emotional support and medication management. And what we like most about this company is that they offer a free mental health assessment. This free screening tool can help determine if you should speak with a mental health professional for anxiety or depression, and consists of two sets of questions and takes less than two minutes to complete.
The top issues their psychologists and psychiatrists treat include depression, anxiety and stress, trauma and loss, and addictions. Doctor on Demand is best for short-term consultations and prescriptions for emotional and mental health concerns. If you have a condition that requires close monitoring, you should see your physician.
You’ll need to schedule a live chat session with a mental health professional, and the fee for the chat depends on the type of treatment you receive. To find one, you can view a list of available licensed therapists in your state, and then read their biographies and choose who you want to work with. And, of course, you choose to work with the same therapist in subsequent visits.
MDLive allows you to meet with a counselor or psychiatrist via mobile app, video or phone to talk through common issues including anxiety, grief and loss, relationship issues, sadness, stress, sexuality, and intimacy.
For $99, you can have a single session with a therapist, and psychiatrist sessions are available for $259 for the first visit, with each follow-up being $99. And it’s worth checking to see if your insurance can help foot some of the bills.
Psychiatrists typically don’t provide therapy but they can prescribe medication to treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, Trauma, PTSD, and more. This is a popular service, so you may not be able to see a therapist/psychiatrist immediately. Instead, you can schedule an appointment.
Amy Morin, LCSW