Best Online Therapy—Review of Online Mental Health and Counseling Services

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When you’ve got stuff on your mind, it can be intimidating to see a therapist in person. Even if you’re speaking to licensed professional counselors, it can be hard to look someone in the eye and tell them your deepest fears.

Face to face therapy isn’t for everyone.

However, with text, video conferencing and phone calls, online therapy is quickly becoming an alternative. Online therapy platforms also tend to be cheaper, more flexible, and research suggests that they may be as effective as traditional counseling.

Here we look at the 5 best online therapy services and answer your FAQs!

Best Online Therapy Services

First look:

  1. Best online counseling that accepts insurance – Talkspace
  2. Most affordable without insurance – Online-therapy.com
  3. Best for couples therapy – TalkSpace
  4. LGBTQ+ friendly therapists – TalkSpace LGBTQ+
  5. Best for cognitive behavioral therapy – Online-therapy.com
  6. Best for free chat with volunteers – 7 Cups

1. Online-Therapy.com – Best Free Online Therapy Service

online-therapy

Price: Free & then $32 to $64 per week

Okay, so this online therapy platform starts off as free and then you can choose plans that cost $32 to $64 per week billed monthly depending on what you want. Still, it’s a good way to get some initial help for free before deciding whether or not to progress further.

Online-Therapy.com is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which asks patients to identify, challenge, and overcome their negative thoughts. If you’re looking for practical therapy sessions that are designed to help you challenge negative thinking, then this service is great for you.

The service also has an “online therapy toolbox” to help you out in various ways. You’ll find worksheets, therapist messages, scheduled live sessions, journals, planners, and even apps for yoga and meditation to help you relax. This gives you productive ways to improve your mental health in between speaking to your online therapist.

Pros

  • Speak via text, video or phone sessions
  • Free online therapy toolbox with worksheets, planners, etc.
  • Uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Good for anxiety, depression, phobias, addiction & more

Cons

  • Support isn’t 24/7 (office hours)
  • CBT isn’t for everyone

2. TalkSpace – Best Online Therapy That Accepts Insurance

talk space

Price: $65 to $99 per week (EAP insurance accepted)

Rated as the world’s #1 best online therapy site, it’s no surprise that TalkSpace is featured so highly in this list! The service has over 3,000 licensed therapists from all walks of life, so you’re sure to find someone you can connect with. In fact, when you sign up, a “matching therapist” helps you to find a therapist that meets your specific needs.

Not many mental health services do that!

TalkSpace also has many online counseling sections for specific needs, including teen counseling, couples counseling, and LGBTQ+ counseling. You can choose between text, video, audio messaging and live sessions, using your tablet, smartphone, or laptop in the most convenient way that suits you. 

There’s even an unlimited messaging plan!

Pros

  • #1 top-rated online therapy site
  • “Matching therapist” finds perfect fit for you
  • Teen, couples, LGBTQ+ counseling
  • Unlimited messaging plan

Cons

  • Have to wait a few days for first session
  • Stilled billed for the month if you cancel early

3. 7 Cups

Price: Free for therapy with volunteers or $150 per month for professional therapists

A unique concept, 7 Cups is an online therapy service where you can choose to be connected to a network of over 300,000 trained “listeners” or 180 licensed professional therapists. Chatting to the listeners is free, but professional counselors will set you back $150 per month.

That’s still one of the cheapest online therapy sites!

This platform is all about being heard, with caring listeners and therapists helping people to overcome issues with addiction, bipolar disorder, LGBTQ+ problems, grief, substance misuse, family problems and more. 

Even if the person you’re speaking with isn’t a licensed therapist, it can help you to feel heard and listened to.

Pros

  • 24/7 support from 300,000 listeners
  • Special teen listeners for 13-17 year olds
  • Large emotional support groups
  • Speak to volunteers (not therapists) for free

Cons

  • Only 180 licensed therapists
  • Health insurance not usually accepted

4. AmWell.com

Price: $99 to $110 for a 45-minute session (some health insurance accepted)

A sort of one-stop-shop for your physical and mental health, AmWell is a telemedicine platform with professional doctors, trained therapists, licensed marriage and family counselors, and more. There is no subscription model like other online therapy sites – you pay $99 to $110 for each 45-minute session of therapy

Yeah, it’s a little expensive.

The online doctors and therapists are available 24 hours a day to talk about various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, couples therapy, PTSD, trauma, life transitions and more. While you’re paying a lot for this platform, it’s high-quality and you’ll likely get the best therapist for the price.

Pros

  • Provide therapy & physical health services
  • Online therapists with Master’s Degrees and/or PhDs
  • Available 24/7 – doctor on demand
  • Some health insurance accepted

Cons

  • Very expensive compared to other sites
  • Pay for each individual therapy session

5. Ginger.io

Price: $129 to $349 per month (depending on level of access)

If you need a quick response when you’re having a crisis, Ginger.io is one of the counseling services to try. They have 24/7 support from trained behavioral health coaches who will normally get back to you in 60 seconds or less. You can also schedule sessions with professional therapists hours or days/weeks in advance depending on your needs.

Ginger really makes it easy.

Plans start at $129 per month and go up to $349 depending on how much access you need to your therapist. Video live chats are used for the sessions, and you also have access to skill-building activities featuring mini courses such as “Grounding Your Stress” and “Preventing Burnout” that help to keep you motivated.

Pros

  • 24/7 support
  • Schedule therapy sessions within hours
  • Live video chats with the right therapist or psychiatrist
  • Skill-building activities

Cons

  • Can’t change your availability times easily
  • Don’t seem to accept any health insurance plan

6. BetterHelp

Often advertised via online ads, BetterHelp’s online therapists are licensed to treat a range of mental health problems. The site also has licensed clinical social workers available for live chat and video sessions, so they may be able to help with couples and family issues too.

However, there are a few problems with BetterHelp.

For one, it’s hard to cancel your membership, the free trial doesn’t really give you access to much, and the user interface is confusing and hard to use. 

It’s also pretty expensive.

List of other therapy services that did not make the top 6

  1. Larkr App
  2. Doctor on Demand
  3. MDLive
  4. Myonlinetherapy.com
  5. Personalevolutionpsychotherapy.com
  6. Regain
  7. Pride Counseling
  8. Teen Counseling
  9. Therapyapphome.com

Sites We Would Not Recommend

Okay, so we’ve talked about the top online therapy sites that we like, but what about the sites that we don’t recommend?

The following sites, in our opinion, are not the best provider to see for online counseling. Of course, you may find that they end up working for you (there is no “one size fits all” here) but generally speaking we would advise finding a different online platform to use instead.

Let’s go!

Regain – Couples Therapy

Designed for relationships and couples counseling, Regain is a service of marriage and family therapists that are supposed to help your love life.

However, the therapist matching process is automated, so you often don’t end up with the right person for you and it can be hard to change therapists after that.

There is also no free period, no variable pricing structure, and no live employee assistance to help you when things go awry.

Oh, it’s not covered by your health plan either.

Pride Counseling

Suicide and mental health issues are very high in LGBTQ+ people, so it’s important to get the right support that you need if you’re struggling due to your gender identity, sexuality, or any other issues.

However, Pride Counseling isn’t the best LGBTQ+ counseling site in our opinion. The therapists cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe anything for you, and the service also does not accept insurance. 

There’s also no customer service live chat and no counseling for minors, who will need to look elsewhere.

If you’re an LGBTQ+ person in need of help, we’d recommend TalkSpace LGBTQ instead, but make sure to do extra research to see which may be best for your personal situation.

Teen Counseling

Whether it’s in-person therapy or phone or video sessions, counseling for teens is very important these days. However, TeenCounseling (the platform) is not the best option in our opinion.

There are problems with slow responses, the inability to prescribe meds, and the therapists may not always be able to relate to the issues. TalkSpace Teens may be a better platform to try.

Online Counseling FAQs

Our Review Process

There were several different factors that we took into account when choosing the top online counseling services.

We looked at the following criteria to decide our ranking:

  • Site works with licensed therapists and/or trained volunteers
  • Multiple ways to chat with therapist via phone, video, live chats, chat rooms etc
  • The cost per week and pricing structure (i.e. subscription or per-session)
  • If the site also offers tools & skill-building activities
  • Whether there are live customer service people
  • The time duration of messaging therapy sessions
  • If the service accepts health insurance
  • If the service is easy to use (good UI, saves you time, etc.)
  • Customers’ reviews & feedback
  • If the service offers special online therapy for teens, LGBTQ+, couples etc.
  • Whether you may select or change your therapist
  • The mental health problems they tackle – depression, anxiety, eating disorders etc.

There may be additional factors taken into account, but these are some of the main things you need to consider before deciding to try online therapy with a licensed therapist over in-person therapy (with a licensed therapist).

If you’ve got serious problems like suicidal thoughts or psychosis, then traditional therapy is still recommended. Make the best decision for you in terms of time, cost, and whether the services meet your needs.

What’s the Best CBT Online Therapy?

Online-therapy.com is the best place to find CBT online. This site has regular scheduled live chats with therapists that you can do via phone calls, text messaging, audio messaging or live video chat sessions.

This site also has an online therapy toolbox and self-help course based on the tenets of CBT, so there are multiple ways to get this unique style of therapy in a way that suits your needs.

What is CBT?

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a unique kind of therapy that is designed to change negative thought patterns, training you to identify your negative thoughts, challenge them, and eventually overcome negative thinking spirals.

This technique can be used to treat various issues, including but no limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Drug & alcohol problems
  • Marital problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Severe mental illnesses

The idea behind CBT is that a lot of our mental problems stem from unhelpful thoughts and patterns of learned behavior that send us down the wrong “path” mentally. The therapy helps many people to challenge this and reframe their way of seeing things.

It’s successful for many people!

A lot of research suggests that CBT has positive results for many people and can lead to improved quality of life and cognitive functioning. It has frequently been shown to be equal to (or more effective than) traditional counseling techniques.

Best Online Therapy for Live Video Chat

If you’re looking for live chat via video in real time, then TalkSpace is the best solution for you.

TalkSpace has over 3,000 licensed therapists to speak to, and their “matching therapist” helps you to hand-pick the perfect therapist for your needs.

You can chat via video on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop – whatever best suits you.

TalkSpace is great for treating problems with anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD, trauma and more. They also have specific sections just for teens, couples, and LGBTQ+ people.

Best 100% Free Online Counseling

You have a couple of options when it comes to free online therapy (or partially free online therapy).

However, it’s extremely difficult to find services that connect you with professional counselors for free, so you might sometimes be speaking to a trained volunteer who isn’t technically a professional.

Some of the free services include:

  • Online-Therapy.com – Free to start, then $32 to $64 per week (one of the cheapest options)
  • 7 Cups – Speak to 300,000 trained volunteers for free (or $150 per month for trained therapists)

While you’ll be hard-pressed to find counselors or licensed marriage and family therapists working for free, you may be able to speak to a volunteer who is trained to help you with basic issues and listen to your story.

Sometimes just being heard is a huge help in itself.

What to Expect with Online Therapy

Depending on the service you use and the therapist you get, your online therapy experience could vary wildly. However, with services like TalkSpace and BetterHelp popularizing online counseling, the world of online therapy is getting easier and easier to navigate.

Here are some of the main things to expect with therapy online:

  1. Consent & Confidentiality – Just like in-person therapy, everything you do is subject to confidentiality and consent. You can withdraw from your session at any time if you’re uncomfortable or if you feel that your therapist isn’t right for you. Your private information will also be kept just that… private!
  2. Awkwardness at First – Just like in person therapy, online counseling can be a little awkward at first, especially if you’re talking via video. However, relax and try to remember that your therapist does this for a living.
  3. Technical Difficulties – Your session might have problems with Wi-Fi, lagging, crashing etc. It happens.
  4. Convenience – Talk to a therapist when it suits you and your schedule, giving you extra flexibility without the need for childcare, time off work, etc.
  5. Savings – Digital therapist sessions tend to be much cheaper than in-person therapy, which costs roughly $75 to $150 per session.

Online Therapy Success Rate vs Traditional Therapy

It’s hard to measure “success rate” because overcoming mental obstacles isn’t as simple as “yes I’m cured” all the time, but there is a lot of data suggesting that online therapy and traditional therapy have very similar patient satisfaction rates regardless of communication style.

That’s right.

One study from 2009 found virtually no difference in the satisfaction rates of patients who went to regular therapy and “cyber therapy”.  Since then, technology for “cyber therapy” has improved even more so, helping to make the sessions even more satisfying.

Is Online Therapy Legitimate?

Yes online therapy is legitimate if you’re using a website that has been properly approved.

Websites like TalkSpace and BetterHelp use real licensed therapists and counselors for their services, so you can rest assured that you’re receiving legitimate professional help.

If in doubt, check third-party reviews of the website you wish to try (not their own testimonials).

Does Insurance Cover Online Therapy?

It depends. 

Sometimes insurance plans cover online therapy and sometimes they do not. Oftentimes the insurance will reduce the out of pocket costs rather than get rid of the costs entirely.

Some services that take insurance include TalkSpace, which has EAP insurance accepted. You can also try AmWell , which accepts some insurance coverage but not others.

Which is Better TalkSpace vs BetterHelp?

In our opinion, TalkSpace is the better service by a longshot. It has dedicated sections for teens, couples, LGBTQ+ people, and more.

While BetterHelp has more therapists than TalkSpace, TalkSpace uses special “matching therapists” to cherry-pick the best-suited therapist for you, tailoring your needs to the professional’s skills, experience, and walk of life.

That’s a great way to run things.

TalkSpace is definitely the #1 rated online mental health service for most people, allowing you to chat via phone, video, live chat and more. You can use your tablet, laptop, or smartphone to talk to your therapist, making the treatment as simple as possible.

So What’s the Top Therapy Site?

If you’re looking to get therapy over the internet without it costing you a fortune, we’d recommend Online-Therapy.com. This online CBT service has a free introduction and then costs just $32 to $64 per month, making it the cheapest service on this list overall.

However, if CBT isn’t your style, perhaps try TalkSpace instead.

Whichever service you end up using, we hope that you find the best online therapy for your needs. Remember that most services allow you to change your therapist if you’re unhappy with them, so don’t feel like you’re pressured into staying with your professional if it isn’t working out.

Good luck on your journey!

 

Best Online Therapy—Review of Online Mental Health and Counseling Services