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Best Online Therapy Providers in 2022

If you’re looking to seek therapy on your own time and in the comfort of your own space, you’re not alone. More than two-thirds of Americans don’t have access to traditional, in-person therapy. Luckily for you and millions of Americans, online therapy is increasingly becoming the go-to choice for people seeking mental health help.

Online therapy encompasses web-based counseling and therapy sessions you can receive via email, live chat platforms, video calls, or phone. Online mental health providers offer an array of plans, which include subscription-based services and one-off therapy sessions. Essentially, you can now access mental health care wherever you’re connected to the internet.

Telehealth or virtual therapy has made it more affordable, hassle-free, and easier to seek mental health services, even if you have no insurance, live in a remote area, or have a busy work-family life. This form of digital-driven therapy and counseling is effective for a wide range of mental health situations and conditions.

More crucial, perhaps, its convenience means greater opportunity, as you don’t need to go anywhere, and you can get help in a familiar, comfortable setting. Teletherapy also lets you access mental health experts that might otherwise not be available in your local area.

Whether you’re interested in knowing how web-based therapy works or new to online counseling, it pays to research what’s available. However, with so many providers today, finding the right online therapy platform for you can be tricky. Based on the kind of therapy you’re seeking, some online therapists may be more suitable for you than others, and different platforms provide an array of choices.

To help you get started, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to help you find and choose the right online therapist for you. We’ve also done the legwork and sifted through hundreds of options to zero in on the best online therapy providers in 2022. If you’d rather skip the research part, feel free to reach out to one of our top picks below.

1- BetterHelp

better help logo

Website Link: www.betterhelp.com

Why We Picked Them:

BetterHelp is a top-tier online therapy provider and our best pick overall for its convenience and scale. The platform is highly rated with glowing customer reviews on Google, Trustpilot, and BBB. A top-notch level of privacy is the provider’s biggest bargaining chip, as users can choose to keep their identities totally anonymous.

BetterHelp’s teletherapy service is vast yet easy to browse and poised to work for many people, and it has a stellar customer satisfaction rating. Subscribers expect to find more affordable plans than other close rivals like Talkspace and MD Live.

Therapy at BetterHelp is available through multiple communication methods, including video conferencing, phone sessions, live chats, and text messaging. The icing on the cake is the re-read feature that allows clients to access written messages from past sessions.

Pros

  • Patients can use nicknames to keep their identities anonymous
  • Easy-to-navigate mobile apps and website
  • All mental health providers are licensed
  • Patients can access financial aid
  • Choose between multiple therapy methods

Cons

  • The provider is selected for you
  • Not covered by most insurers
  • Therapists offer neither medication management nor condition diagnoses service.

Our verdict: BetterHelp boasts an easy-to-use platform, excellent customer satisfaction, and the most comprehensive network of licensed and highly qualified clinical social workers, marriage counselors, and accredited therapists, all with a doctorate or master’s degrees. Additionally, the company extends financial aid to eligible patients.

2- Talkspace

talk space logo

Website Link: www.talkspace.com

Why We Picked Them:

With well over 3000 accredited therapists and a great choice of subscription plans, Talkspace is our runner-up top pick overall, and with good reason. The company has the best network of psychotherapy professionals out there, backed by multiple communication options. It’s one of the only teletherapy providers that accept health insurance, making it an ideal choice for insured people with low deductibles for mental health care.

Talkspace is an easy-to-navigate, subscription-based, e-therapy platform that provides numerous mental health services, including medication management. Although it’s not as affordable as BetterHelp, it offers discounts to clients opting to be billed quarterly and biannually. New customers will enjoy a 10-minute initial free trial consultation.

Talkspace apps integrate progress reports, helping patients stay on top of their therapy goals. The HIPAA-compliant company also takes payments from FSA and HSA cards. Unlike BetterHelp, you can choose your provider from those recommended by the Talkspace algorithm.

Pros

  • Talkspace therapists can make diagnoses and prescribe medication
  • Some insurance plans are accepted
  • Many flexible subscription plans are available
  • All therapists are licensed
  • Clients get constant access to their therapists

Cons

  • No phone sessions are available
  • Short sessions up to 30 minutes long
  • The website doesn’t list therapist bios
  • Additional psychiatric visits can be pricey

Our verdict: Talkspace offers multiple therapy options through several communication avenues and a sea of flexible monthly subscription plans with varying price tiers. Moreover, the platform accepts insurance and offers medication management services.

3- Calmerry

calmery logo

Website Link: www.calmerry.com

Why We Picked Them:

If you’re seeking budget-friendly e-therapy and don’t prefer opening up directly to a therapist, Calmerry might be more your speed. Your subscription allows unlimited messaging therapy with your provider for just $42 a week. That’s by far the most affordable online therapy platform.

According to bestonlinetherapy.com, Calmerry takes a time-delayed approach to online therapy, as therapists don’t respond instantly. Live video therapy sessions are available but at a higher price. The Cody, Wyoming-based company offers hassle-free sign-ups and matching with a therapist within 24 hours. You can also choose your own therapist later; the subscription plans are flexible.

Pros

  • The registration process is simple
  • Hands down the most affordable top-tier online therapy provider
  • Easy to use mobile apps
  • Get matched with the right therapist within 24 hours
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Calmerry therapists cannot make diagnoses or prescribe medication
  • No phone sessions
  • No real-time responses from therapists
  • Doesn’t accept most insurance plans

Our verdict: Calmerry has made it its mission to circumvent the stigma of seeking mental health help by making teletherapy incredibly accessible and affordable. Signing up for a new client account is a cinch, and you can expect to be matched with your therapists in a matter of hours.

4- ReGain

regain logo

Website Link: www.regain.us

Why We Picked Them:

ReGain is an online therapy service focused exclusively on couple’s therapy, which makes it stand out in a sea of competition. All therapists on the platform are highly trained and licensed, specializing in helping couples with their mental health and relationship issues. Past clients have rave reviews for the provider, with 90% saying they’d recommend it to friends.

The ReGain website is easy to navigate and highly informative, with a wide catalog of relationship resources and tools. It offers decent subscription pricing, coupled with unlimited messaging and 24/7 live chat for both partners at any time. Financial aid and discounts are available, as well.

Pros

  • Focuses exclusively on couples or relationship counseling
  • All therapists are credentialed and licensed
  • Offers 1-week free trial consultation
  • Both partners or an individual can sign up at no extra cost

Cons

  • Therapists are selected for couples
  • Insurance not accepted
  • Couples must be in the same location for counseling sessions
  • Both partners can see therapy logs

Our verdict: ReGain is an exclusively couples counseling and therapy platform with many happy clients. It’s a top pick for couples therapy, plus fair subscription plans

5- Amwell

amwell logo

Website Link: www.amwell.com

Why We Picked Them:

Amwell is a telehealth company that offers psychotherapy and psychiatric sessions with licensed psychiatrists and therapists. They have pay-as-you-go online therapy services, offering flexibility in pricing and scheduling that appeals to most people. Sessions are 45 minutes and can be booked for holidays, weekends, or nights, based on the provider’s availability.

The company offers help and support for various mental health conditions, including grief, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma and PTSD, depression, stress management, and anxiety. Couples can also seek relationship counseling. Beyond therapy, the platform also includes doctors available to treat other health issues.

Pros

  • Your insurance may cover it
  • Offers teen and couples therapy in addition to traditional counseling services
  • Choose between a therapist and a psychiatrist, depending on your needs
  • Providers are flexible, with some available on weekends, nights, and holidays
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Cons

  • No free trials
  • No bundled or subscription plans
  • Fewer communication options than the competition

Our verdict: With a user-friendly service, Amwell offers live flexible therapy sessions with licensed psychiatrists and therapists on weekends, evenings, and weekdays. You can choose your provider, and most insurance plans are accepted.

6- Pride Counseling

Website Link: www.pridecounseling.com

Why We Picked Them:

If you’re LGBTQIA+, you might feel more comfortable opening up to a therapist who consistently works with people from your community. That’s exactly the mission of Pride Counseling – it specializes exclusively in offering high-quality, accessible counseling and therapy to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Pride Counseling services are offered by board-certified, licensed therapists through multiple channels, including messaging via a private portal, phone therapy, and live video conferencing. Financial aid is available to eligible clients. Plus, patients can change their therapists at any time.

Pros

  • You can message your provider 24/7
  • All therapists are licensed and focus exclusively on the LGBTQIA+ community
  • The subscription package comes with weekly live counseling sessions and unlimited messaging
  • Confidential, highly private portals for communication
  • Financial assistance is available to those who qualify
  • The website and app are easy to navigate

Cons

  • Services only available to 18+ (not suitable for minors)
  • Doesn’t accept insurance
  • No medication management and diagnoses are available

Our verdict: Pride Counseling provides a supportive, safe, and confidential environment for LGBTQIA+ members to seek mental health care. All therapists are licensed and available for messaging 24/7.

7- Teladoc

Website Link: www.teladoc.com

Why We Picked Them:

Teladoc can be an excellent choice for anyone looking for non-emergency online counseling and therapy. It boasts a large network of credentialed mental health providers available 24/7. Once you have signed up, the Teladoc app will ask you about your preference for a therapist, along with questions about your specific situation and needs.

Teladoc’s cutting-edge algorithm will generate a curated list that shows mental health professionals that match your profile. Patients can choose from the recommended suggestions. If you’re overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or experiencing mood swings, you can talk to a therapist via live phone session or see one via video conferencing.

Teladoc psychiatrists can prescribe medication on the side, although persons with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder don’t qualify for medication management services.

Pros

  • Fully licensed psychiatrists and therapists serving more than 130 countries
  • Counseling and therapy services for both adults and teens
  • Psychiatrists at Teladoc can prescribe medication
  • Accepts many in-network insurance plans

Cons

  • It can be pricey without insurance coverage
  • Provider bios are only visible to clients who have signed up

Our verdict: Teladoc provides a vast range of online therapy treatments with psychiatrists and therapists in over 130 countries. The platform lets you choose your provider from a list of recommendations.

8- Online-Therapy

online therapy

Website Link: www.online-therapy.com

Why We Picked Them:

With Online-Therapy, you will access highly trained therapists who specialize in offering top-notch cognitive behavioral therapy, supplemented by a host of self-care tools and resources. The user-centric website and app provide services for behavioral and mental health issues, such as agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, OCD, relationship issues, and postpartum.

Patients signing up with Online-Therapy will receive an online course in cognitive behavioral therapy. You’ll be provided with worksheets that include daily feedback from your provider, as well. While the base price for a monthly subscription is $160, people who need more from their therapy sessions can go for the $300-a-month plan, which includes two thirty-minute live sessions a week, instant responses, and messaging with your therapist at any time.

Pros

  • The website and app are user-friendly
  • Patients receive an online CBT course
  • All providers focus exclusively on cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Additional self-care tools

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept insurance
  • Providers cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe medication

Our verdict: Online-Therapy employs a variety of cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to treat many different health behaviors and conditions. Treatment includes worksheets, meditation, and yoga, making it a good choice for self-improvement.

Guide to Selecting the Best Online Therapy Platform for You

Defining Online Therapy

What’s online therapy? It’s a web-based form of therapy and counseling that involves receiving mental health support and services over the internet. Online therapy is sometimes called live therapy, Teletherapy, e-counseling, e-therapy, cyber-counseling, or tele-mental health service.

No matter what you call it, online therapy is essentially a digital avenue, way, or platform on which you can communicate with and seek help from a licensed mental health expert over a tablet, computer, or phone rather than in an office. It can serve as a complimentary service or a convenient alternative to face-to-face counseling.

Teletherapy can take place in real-time, such as in online chat rooms, text messaging, video conferencing, and live telephone calls. They can also occur in time-delayed arrangements, such as through recorded videos and email messages.

An online therapist can offer a convenient, private, and typically inexpensive way to access mental health care without needing to go to their practice office or a counseling center. Of course, not all e-counseling platforms are created the same, but most offer text, phone, or video therapy sessions, along with digital tools you can use to communicate with your provider between virtual appointments.

Although online therapy has shortcomings and may not be the perfect solution for everyone, it’s increasingly becoming a crucial resource for many people. It provides a safe, convenient space where people can address a variety of mental health issues, such as grief, life transitions, relationship problems, trauma, eating disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, anger management, stress, anxiety, and of course, depression – just to name a few.

Some online therapy providers allow you to pay for a single therapy session at a time, while other platforms provide subscription-based mental health services. A monthly subscription typically covers a once-a-month counseling service, as well as access to unlimited email and/or text messaging with your provider. If you’re dealing with a temporary issue, such as anxiety over an upcoming interview, you might be better off purchasing one therapy session.

If you plan to seek ongoing counseling, consider a provider that offers subscription-based mental health services. It’s important to remember that your therapist may respond only a few times during virtual office hours.

How is Online Therapy Different from In-Person Counseling?

Depending on the platform, teletherapy can differ from face-to-face counseling in multiple ways, which may include:

  • Visits – As the name suggests, online platforms offer virtual, web-based visits via phone, text, or video. Sometimes, online sessions may lead to in-person visits with your provider if needed.
  • Specialized diagnosis – Most online therapy platforms don’t offer complete mental health diagnoses, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and generalized anxiety disorder. This may change soon, as the online therapy industry is always evolving, along with psychiatric medication management.
  • Legal threshold – In most cases, online counseling and treatments might not qualify as court-mandated therapy. For instance, if you’ve been asked to take an anger management course by a court of law, you may not meet this requirement at an online platform.

All in all, online therapy providers are typically state-licensed mental health professionals, and the vast majority of them also offer in-person treatments. The communications tools and techniques for online therapy may include:

  • Mobile applications (usually available for download from the provider’s website and leading app stores, such as Google Play and Apple App Store)
  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Video conferencing
  • Real-time instant messaging
  • Text-based chat rooms

You can access these services via a laptop or desktop computer. Apps for tablets and mobile devices are increasingly gaining traction. Either way, the services must have FDA clearance, Health Level Seven (HL7) Integration, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) compliance.

Effectiveness – Does Online Counseling Work?

Recent research suggests that telepsychiatry or e-counseling may be as effective as traditional, in-office therapy. In fact, a 2021 peer-reviewed study published in the journal Cureus found that online therapy may be more effective than face-to-face counseling in certain situations, such as during pandemics, in remote areas, and for busy people. Researchers recommended the standardization of online practice to mitigate some of the shortcomings of this type of therapy.

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In another study appearing in an earlier issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), investigators discovered that online cognitive behavioral therapy, especially when coupled with clinical care, can be quite effective in treating anxiety, depression, and emotional distress induced by trauma or illness.

Teletherapy may even trump face-to-face, in-office counseling, as noted by some researchers. For instance, a 2020 comprehensive review study covering 17 pieces of research found that online cognitive behavioral therapy might be more effective than in-person therapy when it comes to reducing the symptoms of depression, such as anxiety, mood swings, sadness, and apathy.

No one can deny that e-therapy comes with its own set of challenges and drawbacks. But it has garnered great reviews and support from many people who have used online mental health services. In a review of multiple psychiatry-related studies, patients reported high satisfaction levels after receiving help for their mental health issues through video conferencing.

And that’s just scratching the surface regarding the effectiveness of online mental health treatments. Other major studies that back the utilization of online therapy include:

  • A study in the 2014 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders concluded that online mental health services were equally as effective as face-to-face therapy, especially for treating symptoms of major depressive disorder.
  • Research published in 2014 in Behavior Research and Therapy found that online cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective in anxiety disorder treatment.
  • A 2018 study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders noted that e-therapy was as effective as a face-to-face treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and depression.

Benefits – Why Opt for Online Therapy?

As with face-to-face counseling, online therapy provides you with a way to have a virtual session with a licensed psychiatrist or therapist. However, your sessions will occur virtually, and you can communicate with the provider from the comfort of your home instead of meeting in a practice office or counseling center.

This type of therapy offers myriad benefits, including:

– Unbeatable Accessibility and Flexibility

Accessibility is undoubtedly one of the many reasons e-therapy is a great fit for some people. After all, 7 out of 10 people don’t have access to traditional, face-to-face therapy.

You may face numerous physical hurdles and barriers trying to get to therapy. For example, you may have a disability and can’t get to a therapist’s office without help. Or perhaps you live in a rural or remote area of the country, where the closest practice is hundreds of miles away.

Some areas across the country don’t have adequate transportation, so you must depend on family, friends, or well-wishers to get around. You may not be able to travel safely during inclement weather, or your work or personal demands may make it impossible to visit a therapist’s office in person.

In all these instances, online mental health treatment can be an excellent alternative. Thanks to technologies like video conferencing, mobile apps, text-based messaging, and email, you can access therapy services, no matter your mobility, time, or transportation issues.

No matter how you look at it, online therapy is just easier and more convenient to access than face-to-face, in-office mental health care for most folks. Many individuals cannot take time off from their jobs for in-office appointments, which is why mental telehealth services can particularly benefit patients with disabilities and older adults.

Flexibility is also the name of the game in teletherapy. It’s up to you to decide how your online therapist should conduct the therapy session. Text messaging, telephone sessions, and video conferencing are some of the most common delivery techniques.

Best of all, many online providers are available throughout the day and week, including weekends, evenings, and nights. You can choose to visit with your mental health professional at the most convenient time for you, making therapy and counseling more accessible than ever.

To recap, most patients appreciate that they don’t have to brave the dreadful commute to a therapy appointment. Parents, in particular, enjoy not having to find childcare or ask for leave from work every time they have an appointment. It’s really tough to beat that level of flexibility and accessibility.

– Online Therapy is Generally Cost-Effective

This is a big one. Telehealth, which includes online counseling and therapy, does away with much of the classic costs associated with operating a land-based mental health practice. In a lot of cases, online-exclusive therapists don’t have to rent a brick-and-mortar office, pay a secretary, buy furniture, or deal with other overheads like electricity, complimentary magazines, etc.

By embracing telehealth technologies, mental health professionals can deeply cut costs, allowing them to pass on these savings to their clients. Unsurprisingly, most online therapists offer more affordable mental health services than their office-based counterparts.

And let’s not forget, you don’t have to incur any transportation costs often associated with traveling to and from an on-the-ground mental health care facility.

While most online therapy patients pay out of pocket, there are many ways to cover the costs of e-counseling. Many states nowadays require health insurers to cover web-based therapy just as they do traditional, in-office sessions. Get in touch with your medical insurance company to inquire more about how your policy will reimburse online mental health treatments.

– A Great Option for People Living with Disabilities

Individuals with physical limitations have a tough time getting the mental health services they need without help from caregivers. Fortunately, e-therapy offers accessibility to people who are housebound, bed-ridden, or have another disability.

Patients need not face the issues of getting assistance, finding transportation, or dealing with the physical barriers posed by an in-office visit. Persons who cannot leave their homes for various reasons, such as mental or physical illness, might find e-therapy a helpful substitute for traditional, face-to-face environments.

– Convenience at Its Best

Online therapy in and of itself is a product of necessity and convenience. It gained much of the popularity and traction it now enjoys almost exclusively because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit, most countries instituted mandatory social distancing protocols and lockdowns.

These mandates forced many people to stay indoors, and they were unable to seek health care services. Mental health professionals had to find another way to see patients, and telehealth proved to be the silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than two years into the pandemic, most states and countries have eased their social distancing regulations after vaccination campaigns. Even so, e-counseling has maintained its momentum, largely thanks to its convenience.

Internet-driven mental health platforms make it easy for patients to schedule therapy sessions that fit their lives. They can book virtual appointments around family obligations, social life, and work schedules.

– More Approachable Treatment

Internet-enabled technologies make therapy more approachable. For instance, many individuals might feel comfortable talking to family and friends about issues with their physical health. The same is usually not true when it comes to talking about mental health concerns.

Online platforms make it easier for them to overcome the stigma often associated with seeking help for mental health issues. Internet-based therapy can be a vital resource to help people get support and learn more about mental health.

Online therapy can be a wonderful tool for growing mentally and psychologically, even if you think you have solid mental well-being. More specifically, you can learn about coping strategies and health behaviors that will strengthen your psychological well-being.

The good news is that you can benefit from therapy even if you don’t have a clinically diagnosed mental health condition. And teletherapy can create a safe and convenient platform for you to get started on your journey to robust mental health.

– Increased Privacy

No matter how slight, there’s a chance that you might bump into someone you know – be it a friend, coworker, or relative – at a mental health practice or therapist’s office. This can cause some people concern, especially if they seek ongoing therapy for a sensitive condition.

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With teletherapy, you can expect to enjoy complete privacy. You can book appointments when you are sure you will be home alone. Don’t forget that all licensed online therapy platforms must be HIPAA-compliant, meaning they have to put in place measures to ensure privacy and security for their patients and data online.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Therapy

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic catapulting telehealth to the front-burner, the online therapy industry is still in its infancy. Benefits are being realized by providers and patients alike as more e-counseling platforms enter the fray. That’s not to say this form of therapy is unflawed.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of internet-driven therapy.

Advantages of Online Therapy

Added safety and convenience – If you cannot take time off work or cannot travel safely to and from a therapist’s office during inclement weather, an online therapy session can work for you.

Breaking down mental health stigma – The pandemic has done its fair share of removing the stigma associated with mental health. Thankfully, online therapy can help circumvent whatever stigma remains. Teletherapy platforms can protect your confidentiality and privacy in ways that in-office therapy simply cannot.

May be equally as effective as in-person visits – As mentioned, research has found that online therapy may be as effective as face-to-face counseling for many different mental health symptoms and conditions, most notably depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. In fact, according to mental health experts, video visits and live telephone sessions can hold the same potential as in-person therapy in delivering patient outcomes.

Some therapists have witnessed notable improvement in patient outcomes in the teletherapy environment. When you compare online therapy to in-office counseling apples to apples, there are few to no differences between the two in terms of effectiveness.

In one review of multiple studies, investigators found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was as effective as in-person treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. E-counseling may even be more effective in tackling gambling addiction.

Teletherapy creates a more intimate environment for discussing mental health issues – Patients who have sought online mental health services say they enjoy the familiar surroundings and intimacy of their own homes. Live chats and video conferencing may offer more intimacy than the “artificial office setting” because the patient and the therapist feel that they’re in each other’s space.

No waiting room jitters – Seekers of online therapy don’t have to deal with long wait times at the practice’s office. Their video, phone, or text sessions can start on time, unlike in-person visits that may be delayed by commutes, paperwork, and other bureaucratic processes.

More access and flexibility – Teletherapy provides access to mental health care to persons with physical mobility issues or those who live in remote areas. If you live in a rural area, you simply may not have access to any other kind of therapy apart from e-counseling.

Taking a huge chunk of time out of your busy workday and commuting long distances for face-to-face therapy can be a nightmare for persons in need of mental health care. If you can access a reliable internet connection, teletherapy can provide you with reasonably easy and quick access to mental health treatment that would otherwise have not been available to you.

Accessibility is one of the most prominent pros of online therapy for those who live far from the closest mental health practice or counseling center.

Teletherapy is more approachable – the Internet has made everything more available mental health care is no exception. People who might not feel comfortable sharing their mental health issues with family, friends, and coworkers may find online therapy more suitable for their situations. It makes it easier to get past the stigma that has historically been associated with mental illnesses.

More than that, online therapy can be an essential tool to help you learn more about mental health, even if you have not been clinically diagnosed. It can strengthen your mental well-being even if you feel your mental health is strong enough.

Get therapy your own way – With online therapy, you can choose how the therapist will lead the sessions. You also have many different ways of getting counseling online, including video, text, and phone therapy.

Enjoy extra perks – Therapy online provides a variety of bonuses for people seeking it. Extra perks that come with teletherapy include virtual journals, video courses, and much more.

Disadvantages of Online Therapy

While teletherapy can be incredibly beneficial to people in certain circumstances, it does come with a few shortcomings and risks, including:

Not all online therapists are covered by health insurance companies – Inadequate insurance coverage is undoubtedly the most significant downside of seeking mental health treatment online. Despite the federal and state governments’ best efforts to ensure coverage, most health insurers simply might not cover online therapy.

In some instances, your health insurance plan may offer coverage for face-to-face counseling sessions, but it might not cover online visits. The good news is that insurance policies are fast-evolving regarding mental health coverage. Be sure to talk to your insurance provider to verify what your policy might cover.

Generally, insurance coverage for online therapy depends on the insurance plan that you have and the state where you live. Some telehealth providers don’t accept health insurance as payment, while some insurers don’t cover teletherapy. Unfortunately, paying for therapy services out of pocket can rack up quickly – check all your options ahead of time.

Bureaucratic barriers may stand in your way – You may already know some states don’t allow out-of-state therapists to offer mental health services. In such cases, your provider would need to be licensed in both their home state and your home state. Some states may only allow out-of-state or non-state-licensed practitioners to offer only 10-30 days of therapy sessions per annum.

Not suitable for mental health crises and serious psychiatric illnesses – Because online mental health providers are distant from the patients, they’re not for emergencies. It can be challenging for online therapists to respond effectively and in a timely fashion in case of a mental health crisis. If a patient has suffered a personal tragedy or faces suicidal thoughts, it can be impossible, if not difficult, for the provider to assist directly.

Limited effectiveness for some conditions and people – One area that online therapy falls short is medication prescription. Online psychiatrists cannot prescribe controlled drugs for treating mental health conditions.

Not just that; patients with certain conditions may not be effectively treated online. For instance, those with autism spectrum disorder or children may not do well in online therapy sessions. The same can be said of people with cognitive problems like dementia – they might not respond well to teletherapy without certain adjustments like the patient being accompanied by a caregiver.

Technology barriers can affect the quality of service – Not everyone has access to a reliable, high-speed internet connection. In addition, some patients may not be familiar or comfortable with certain telehealth technologies, making online therapy challenging to conduct.

Doesn’t capture non-verbal communication (body language) – When video, phone, or text is used, the therapist may be unable to pick up on a patient’s body language during the session. Your provider may not recognize vocal signals or see facial expressions that they would observe in an in-person environment.

Much of the communication that happens between a therapist and a client is non-verbal. Body language and physical signals often give mental health professionals insights into your behaviors, moods, thoughts, and feelings. Some online therapy techniques and tools like video chats and VOIP technology may offer a clearer picture of a patient’s condition and situation, but they usually fall short in terms of the complexity and intimacy that face-to-face interactions provide.

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Legal and ethical concerns – Online therapy is a double-edged sword, especially in areas where mental health is highly unregulated. Since teletherapy removes geographical barriers, enforcing ethical and legal codes is hard.

Online therapists can see patients from across the globe – and mental health treatment guidelines and licensing regulations may vary from state to state. Therefore, verifying your provider’s credentials, experience, and qualification is crucial before you kick off the first session.

Is Online Therapy for Me?

Despite the many benefits of teletherapy, online counseling may not be a good solution for everyone. Moreover, not all mental health issues and conditions can be treated online, in which case in-office therapy may be a more suitable option for some people and situations.

For many people and circumstances, in-person therapy and telehealth are complementary to one another. Mental health professionals often work with clients on a case-by-case basis to provide tailored solutions for each patient instead of just focusing on the most affordable choice or what their insurance plan covers.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to seeking mental health care exclusively online. On the one hand, some experts think telehealth has come into its own and can fully replace in-person therapy. On the other hand, some believe online therapy should never completely replace face-to-face mental health care.

While the jury is still out, e-counseling is generally considered to be a great fit for some circumstances and individuals, particularly if:

  • You’re seeking more convenience in your therapy sessions – Again, teletherapy works wherever you can get on the internet. That makes online therapy very convenient, especially if you have physical mobility issues. The same is true when you have a packed schedule or don’t live near a mental health practice/provider.
  • You don’t like to talk but prefer to write – Text messaging is a big part of online therapy. You can work with e-therapy platforms where you can enjoy text-based sessions or just text-message your provider. That’s much better if you would rather text than directly speaking with your therapist.
  • You want additional features – Teletherapy platforms usually include a wide array of perks on top of traditional therapy techniques, including group sessions, online journals, works, helpful videos, and self-help courses.
  • You don’t have a health insurance plan – Expect to pay around $100 to $200 per session of in-office counseling without an eligible insurance policy. If you live in a big city like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago, you will have to dig deeper to afford in-person therapy. Most teletherapy providers are much more affordable, charging around $75 per session or $300 per month for subscription-based care options.
  • You want to save a few more bucks– Online therapy may be more your speed if you wish to save money. It’s true that some states now require Medicaid and private insurance companies to cover mental health services. Online therapy may be the most affordable choice, even with an insurance plan. It usually comes down to the amount you must copay.
  • You prefer to open up behind a screen – Online therapy is a haven for people who are more comfortable discussing their mental health behind a screen. You might fit into this category if you’d rather open up to a therapist from the comfort of your own home. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your personality – some patients may find teletherapy uncomfortable, as it might make them feel vulnerable talking to a therapist via text chat or video.
  • How you find therapy and counseling largely depends on your specific needs and preferences. However, it pays to ensure you’re comfortable opening up to someone through a screen before pursuing e-therapy.

Although online therapists can help you with many different mental health concerns, sometimes in-office appointments may be more appropriate. For instance, online therapy may not do the trick when it comes to severe mental health conditions that call for treatment from a team of professionals. Here think of mental health conditions that can pose an elevated risk for harm to others and suicidal thoughts.

Who Is Online Therapy Not Best For?

Although e-therapy can deliver an impressive menu of perks, it’s not a good choice for everyone and every situation. If any of the following circumstances describe you, online therapy might not be for you, and you’d be better off seeking traditional, in-office counseling:

You are experiencing a mental health crisis – If you need urgent support and help because of a mental health emergency, seeing an online therapist might not be on the books for you. This is especially true if you have suicidal thoughts, want to inflict harm on others, or are experiencing other mental health crises. If you or a loved one has a mental health emergency, please call 911, 800-273-8255, or seek immediate medical attention.

You prefer face-to-face interactions – If you’d rather open up to a therapist while sitting in the same room as them, teletherapy might not appeal to you.

You are not comfortable with technology – We get it: not everyone is tech-savvy, all the more so because technology is fast-evolving. Some people, especially younger tech-savvy patients, may be more comfortable with therapy in a digital environment. However, if you’re not comfortable using mobile apps and video chats, you may get more out of counseling that prioritizes direct human contact and less technology.

You want a medication prescription of a controlled substance – Psychiatrists often can only prescribe controlled medications during a face-to-face appointment. Mental health professionals are not allowed to prescribe controlled substance medication (such as Adderall and Xanax) online. They can only do so via telemedicine platforms if there’s a health emergency.

You have a serious psychiatric Illness – Online therapy might be helpful for a plethora of conditions and situations, but not for people who need immediate and close treatment and in-person intervention.

To recap, e-counseling and therapy may not be appropriate if:

  • You have medical problems that are not well-monitored
  • You have suicidal thoughts
  • You are experiencing a mental health crisis
  • The patient is a younger child
  • You’re thinking about harming or hurting others or yourself
  • You are experiencing symptoms of thought disorders, such as disorganized thinking, hallucination, and delusion

Breaking Down the Cost of Online Therapy – How Much Does It Cost?

Teletherapy is, in general, more affordable than traditional, in-office therapy. However, online therapy providers come in all shapes and sizes – and they operate on different business and pricing models.

With that said, you can seek two primary types of e-therapy, and each option comes with a different pricing plan. The first and most common option is a subscription-based online therapy plan. Typical examples include Talkspace and BetterHelp.

Most online teletherapy plans will cost anywhere from $40 to $90 a week, and they’re often billed every month. They usually include one video therapy session per month and unlimited text messaging during virtual “office hours.”

Nothing is cut and dried here, as subscriptions can be tailored to match your needs and situation. The bottom line is that the patient pays a set dollar amount monthly for a predetermined amount of online mental health services. The subscription-based model is typically the most affordable option, especially if you have no insurance policy.

The ultimate cost of monthly subscription online therapy plans varies depending on a set of factors, which may include:

  • The specifics of your subscription plan, such as what mental health services are included
  • The qualifications or credentials of your therapist
  • Where you live (some states are more expensive than others)
  • Frequency of live sessions with your provider

The other payment option takes a pay-as-you-go approach, whose pricing is close to that of traditional, in-office therapy. If you take this route, you can expect to work directly with a therapist who sets their own rate. Pay-per-session online therapists usually charge from $70 to $300 per session, with the fee being charged at the time of your virtual visit.

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In comparison, most brick-and-mortar mental health practices charge from $75 to $150 per session. And since most therapists see patients once per week, you can expect to pay between $300 and $600 per month for in-person therapy.

Pay-as-you-go teletherapy providers usually price their services based on the expertise and credentials of your therapist, although the geographical location can sometimes be a pricing factor. All things considered, you can expect to dig deeper into your pockets to afford pay-per-session e-therapy than the subscription-based counterpart. But both online therapy models are cheaper than in-person counseling.

The bottom line: if you’re interested in an affordable online therapy option and don’t mind the long-term commitment of a subscription, then look no further than monthly plans, as they’ll save you oodles of money in the long run.

Choosing the Right Type of Online Mental Health Provider

As with conventional practices that offer in-person visits, the types of online therapy providers can vary from one platform to the next. Some list only therapists, some only psychiatrists, some feature both, and others only offer trained listeners or counselors.

So, the big question is: which type of online therapy provider is right for you? Below, we’ve rounded up important points to consider about each kind of provider.

(1) Trained Listeners

As you might guess from the name, trained listeners are well-versed in a variety of listening techniques, usually by the teletherapy company. They’re essentially counselors, although they have no professional training in psychotherapy.

Because of that, trained listeners are not allowed to offer mental health advice. Instead, they provide a “good ear” and emotional support if you just want someone to talk to. In a nutshell: they are all about listening to what you’re going through.

(2) Psychologists

Psychologists are mental health professionals with various levels of professional training and education that make them eligible to offer psychotherapy services. For instance, a PsyD -level psychologist is a trained psychotherapy professional who has completed 4-6 years of graduate school, plus a year or two of on-the-job postgraduate experience.

PhD-level psychologists one-up their PsyD-level counterparts, as they’re trained both as therapists and research professionals. In the teletherapy space, they’re among the cream of the crop. Masters-level psychologists, on the other hand, complete two years of graduate school and must have received a year or two of full-time experience offering therapy services.

In most states, psychologists are not allowed to prescribe medication for mental health conditions. That’s because they don’t have medical training and background.

(3) Psychiatrists

If you’re looking for a do-it-all mental health practitioner, look no further than a psychiatrist. They have completed four years of medical school and, later, many years of specialized training in psychotherapy. Their focus is on medication, which they are allowed to prescribe thanks to their certification and education.

A psychiatrist is an MD who can evaluate patients and diagnose mental health conditions.

(4) Social Workers

Social workers have been trained to offer counseling and therapy that consider the context of social support systems and communities of different people. Unfortunately, they can’t prescribe medication, just like psychologists. The most common types you will come across on online therapy platforms are licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and masters-level social workers (MSWs).

(5) Licensed Family and Marriage Therapists (LMFTs)

These online providers are trained to identify and resolve relationship problems in families, couples, and individuals. They hold a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or another related field.

(6) Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)

An LPC has a master’s degree in mental health counseling under their belt. They don’t offer psychotherapy or prescribe medication. Instead, LPCs help patients tackle specific issues affecting their mental health on a short-term basis.

How to Choose the Best Online Therapy

So many online therapy platforms, plans, and prices make it difficult to compare them. Here are important ways to determine the best teletherapy for you.

Choose the format in which you wish to get therapy: Some people prefer live video conferencing, others are attracted to the appeal of text messaging, and others find phone calls effective. If in doubt, go for a platform that combines your preferred communication avenues.

Consider plans that fit the amount of interaction you need: One of the first things you should do is compare plans that best match the level of interaction you’re looking for from therapy. For instance, if you’re interested in live video conferencing sessions, look at how long they are and how many you will receive monthly in the package. Don’t forget to check the amount you’ll be charged for additional sessions in a month.

What’s your budget? It is important to focus your search on online therapy plan options that are within your reach. If you have insurance coverage, it pays to consider platforms and providers covered by your policy.

Put your privacy on the front burner: Do thorough research to determine if the platform is transparent about how they plan to keep your sensitive and personal data secure and safe. Do they have SSL encryption and other security protocols in place?

Clarify any confusing or unsure information with customer support: It’s always best to get in touch with the provider’s customer support before you join. It’s a great way to get a feel for the customer service team’s quality, responsiveness, and professionalism.

Use this opportunity to clarify any details with the customer support you are unsure about. For instance, can you change providers if you aren’t satisfied with your current therapist, and how? Is it possible to pause your subscription for a while before resuming it?

Pay particular attention to the platform’s refund policy: Things can happen. You might decide to seek online therapy elsewhere or visit a brick-and-mortar practice after only two days of subscription. What will happen then? Will part or all of your subscription price be refunded?

Understanding the refund policy from the get-go can save you a lot of headaches later. Unfortunately, this is one aspect of most online therapy platforms that often isn’t clear. In many cases, you will be allowed to cancel your subscription at the end of any calendar month. However, you will not get a refund for unused sessions.

Ensure you can access the kind of mental health professional you want: For instance, if you need a session with a psychologist or psychiatrist, make sure the platform has one you can access in your state.

Questions to Ask Before Joining an Online Therapy Platform

When deciding whether online therapy is perfect for you, keep the following questions in mind:

What’s my budget? Online therapy plans cost you $40 but can be as expensive as $99 per session, depending on which platform you join, your geographical location, and what you need from your plan. Choose a subscription plan with a price that best matches your budget.

Do you want to get diagnosed? Only a few providers can carry out mental health diagnoses. And those that do will charge a premium for their services. Expect prices to exceed insurance copays.

Do you want immediate support/help? If you’re in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, you will require immediate support. Online therapy might not be a good fit for you until you are out of the woods.

Do you have a secluded space where you can receive uninterrupted therapy? You will need a silent, preferably private space in your home, school, or office for teletherapy visits.

Will you require medication? Again, most online therapy providers cannot prescribe medications, especially controlled substance medication. You might want to consult your primary care physician about who to see if you need medications.

How We Picked the Best Online Therapy Providers

During our research to narrow our list down to the best online therapy providers, we considered the following factors:

  • Cost, including price per session and plan
  • Ease of signing up
  • Platform accessibility and usability
  • Credentials of the therapists
  • Experience (years in business)
  • Insurance options
  • Whether introductory free-trial consultations are available or not
  • Therapy techniques and modes
  • Selection options of therapists
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