The destigmatization of mental health has come leaps and bounds over the years. However, access to traditional resources hasn't followed suit. Up to 70% of the people who need mental health care don't have access to it. helps bridge the gap and offers resources to those who otherwise can't get help, whether because of location, finances or scheduling conflicts.
There are plenty of reasons traditional therapy may not be the best option for you. The convenience and flexibility of online therapy are quickly making it one of the most popular ways to connect with mental health professionals. If you're considering giving online therapy a try or just interested in learning more, here are our top six choices for the best online therapy.
But not all online therapy platforms are created equal. Below, a primer on five popular HIPAA-compliant therapy services that only employ licensed and trained mental health professionals.
BetterHelp is one of the largest, reputable online therapy platforms that gives you access to over 12,000 experienced mental health professionals. You can feel confident about the therapist you work with through BetterHelp therapists, thanks to experience requirements and a thorough vetting process. Every therapist has a minimum of three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience.
After you sign up and complete the questionnaire, you'll be matched with a therapist, generally within a day. BetterHelp therapists specialize in various areas, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders. You can message your therapist from anywhere, anytime. However, that doesn't mean you will always get an immediate response. Given they are real people, they aren't available 24/7.
The cost of online therapy with BetterHelp ranges from $60 to $90/week. You are billed monthly. According to the website, pricing is based on your location, preferences and therapist availability. Some users did note frustrations with customer service and technical issues with the BetterHelp app.
BetterHelp best features:
- You can participate in video calls, instant messages, text and live therapy sessions with your counselor.
- On the website, you have access to blog articles and educational content.
Things to consider:
- BetterHelp doesn't accept insurance, so what you see is what you'll pay. Financial assistance may be available through BetterHelp for qualified individuals. The initial questionnaire determines the eligibility for financial assistance, as it asks about employment and financial troubles.
- You get talk therapy with BetterHelp; counselors do not diagnose or prescribe medication.
Talkspace is one of the most versatile online therapy platforms with several communication methods, therapy options and price points. With Talkspace, you get message-based therapy that's a great option for those who feel comfortable sharing through video or have a changing schedule that cannot commit to weekly sessions.
Starting Talkspace is simple. Once you sign up, you complete an assessment that includes the payment plan options. Talkspace has three therapy subscription options. Messaging therapy which includes text, video and audio messaging with a therapist, starts at $69/week. Live therapy starts at $99/week and includes four 45-minute live therapy sessions each month. The last subscription option combines the two. Starting at $129/week, it includes four live sessions and text, video and audio messaging. Talkspace notes that pricing is based on where you live and the network of available therapists.
After you select which plan you want, a consultation therapist selects a list of matched therapists that you can choose from.
Talkspace best features:
- Those with an employee assistance program through their employer may have coverage.
- A psychiatrist through Talkspace Psychiatry has the ability to prescribe medication and help you manage it. These services cost $249 for the initial consultation and $120 for your follow-up sessions.
- TalkSpace has a network of over 3,000 mental health professionals.
Things to consider:
- While still more affordable than traditional therapy, Talkspace doesn't offer sliding scale payments. However, Talkspace does offer the occasional discount.
- Your therapist may not reply immediately to messages; it typically takes a day.
- Recent user reviews note that customer service and insurance claims with TalkSpace can be frustrating.
Cerebral takes the spot for the best online therapy platform for medication management, thanks to its all-in-one approach to mental health. You have access to talk therapy and medication with a licensed psychiatrist. Those who manage their prescriptions through Cerebral will be shipped directly to your home.
There are three membership plans. Medication and care counseling includes evaluation, diagnosis and prescription from a psychiatrist, medication delivery and weekly video/phone sessions. This plan is $85/month. Mediation and therapy costs $325/month and includes everything the first plan does, though you can chat with your therapist anytime. The final is therapy, which does not include any medication though weekly meetings with your therapist. It costs $259/month.
Cerebral subscriptions are about average compared to competitors for out-of-network providers. However, if you have an insurance plan that Cerebral accepts, the price can be as low as $30/month, plus a copay.
Cerebral best features:
- Membership plans are FSA/HSA eligible.
- Cerebral is a one-stop shop that offers therapy, psychiatry and medication management.
- All therapists and psychiatrists are board-certified and licensed.
Things to consider:
- Cerebral is not available in all states. Treatment for disorders also varies by state.
- When signing up, you have to add a payment method before an appointment. This may result in your card being charged if you do not match with a therapist within the time period provided. However, since Cerebral recently started issuing refunds for this.
- User reviews are typically positive at 4.3 on Google Play and 4.6 on the App Store.
Most online therapy platforms don't accept insurance, making counseling unattainable for many. Amwell is the best online therapy platform that takes insurance because of its large network of accepted health plans.
After signing up with Amwell, you will choose a licensed therapist and schedule your first session. You can choose your therapist based on what they specialize in, allowing you to find the best fit for your needs. Each therapist has a bio on their profile.
Amwell offers fewer communication options than competitors because it is not a subscription-based therapy. You only have access to virtual video sessions that you schedule. This tends to be the best for people who only have sessions with a therapist and have a schedule that requires flexibility. Most users comment that while the app may not be the most modern, it is typically easy to use.
The cost of your sessions is based on the therapist or psychiatrist and their experience level. Typically, sessions cost between $109 to $129. Your health insurance plan will determine how much you pay out of pocket.
Amwell's best features:
- You can schedule a session with a psychiatrist for medication.
- Amwell accepts many types of insurance providers.
- Amwell also offers a variety of services competitors don't have, like breastfeeding support or stress management.
Things to consider:
- Amwell doesn't do subscription plans; you are charged by session.
- Since it doesn't have messaging or phone call options, Amwell is not a good choice for crisis situations.
The LGBTQIA+ community struggles with mental health issues at a disproportionately high rate. And traditional counseling options aren't always helpful. A survey of LBGTQ+ people found that 50% had experienced harsh language, scapegoating problems on their sexual orientation or outright denial of care.
Pride Counseling, a subsidiary of BetterHelp, offers inclusive and accessible virtual counseling specialized for the LGBTQIA+ community to address struggles like gender identity, stigma, eating disorders and stress. Every therapist you encounter when using Pride Counseling has extensive experience working with the LGBTQIA+ community.
At the start, you are asked several questions, including your pronouns, how you identify and your sexual orientation, to ensure you at matched with the best therapist. Pride Counseling also has taken steps to ensure security and anonymity are valued -- you can pick a "nickname" instead of your full name.
You have unlimited messaging to contact your therapist at any time. Unlike other options, your counselor cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe medication. Costs range from $60 to $90/week with a billing cycle of every four weeks.
Pride Counseling's best features:
- All therapists have experience working with the LGBTQIA+ community. Requirements are at least three years and 1,000 hours of experience to become a Pride Counseling therapist.
- Price Counseling has positive reviews from users, with a 4.5 on Google Play and 4.6 on the App Store.
Things to consider:
- Unfortunately, Pride Counseling does not accept insurance.
- Pride Counseling is only for adults.
- The website, while straightforward, doesn't offer any additional resources like blog articles for those seeking an answer to a specific question.
ReGain, a sister site to BetterHelp, is a virtual therapy platform with experts specializing in relationships, intimacy and family issues. That's why it's our choice for the best online therapy for couples counseling. All therapists through ReGain are licensed and hold titles like licensed marriage and family therapists or clinical social workers.
The sign-up process is similar to the other options on the list -- you fill out a questionnaire and are matched with a therapist. You can have both couples sessions and individual sessions with your therapist. You have access to 24/7 chat messaging, phone and video sessions. Unique to ReGain, there is a one-week free trial when you sign up.
Another benefit that ReGain offers that alternatives do not is the wealth of educational information available on the website. ReGain offers dozens of articles and advice on relationships, regardless if you are signed up. This is not a standard feature in the virtual therapy space.
ReGain online therapy costs between $60 to $90/week; you'll be billed every four weeks.
ReGain's best features:
- You don't have to pay double for having both partners in the session.
- All therapists through ReGain specialize in relationships and family issues.
- ReGain has a 4.5 rating on Google Play and 4.8 on the App Store. User reviews are generally positive.
Things to consider:
- ReGain doesn't support three-way video conferencing; you and your partner have to be in the same room for your video sessions.
- Typically it is not covered by insurance.
How we chose the best online therapy platforms
Many criteria were considered when choosing the best online therapy platforms. The most important being the therapist's qualifications and credibility, pricing, ease of use, customer reviews, accessibility and insurance coverage.
All of the selections on the list have positive user reviews, are easy to use and more affordable than traditional therapy.
What is online therapy?
Online therapy brings the expertise of mental health professionals to the comfort of your home through phone calls, messages and video conferencing. Each online mental health service will vary in what they offer. For example, some services won't be able to diagnose or prescribe medication as a traditional therapy option could.
Online therapy isn't for everyone. But it's a good option for people who have inconsistent schedules, tight budgets or aren't comfortable meeting with as effective as in-office meetings for some.. Research has shown that virtual therapy can be
Online therapy benefits:
- Virtual therapy is more affordable and accessible than traditional therapy options. However, not all platforms accept insurance.
- It's convenient. You can schedule your sessions around work, childcare or other life events that may get in the way.
- Being at your home when you're working in sessions can be more comfortable than going into an office.
Is online therapy secure?
Privacy is one of the most important concerns when seeking online therapy. The American Psychological Association provides specific guidelines that therapists should follow for virtual sessions. One of the most important guidelines states that all online therapy platforms must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Whether through video or chat or text, all communication is covered under HIPAA.
Some virtual counseling platforms take extra levels of precaution and allow you to delete messages after reading. It's important to read the privacy policies of each platform before signing up. This information is often found in the frequently asked questions section of the website.
How to choose the best online therapy
Finding your ideal match can be difficult with so many options available to you. All platforms will vary in strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to know what your most important needs are. When you're looking for the best online therapy, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:
- Your goal: The first thing you want to check is that the platform includes the issue you want help with. Some platforms are specialized, like in the case of ReGain and couples counseling.
- The therapists' credentials: You should be able to find the credentials and experience requirements for the platform's therapist. This is often located in the FAQ section of the website. You typically also want a service that allows you to change therapists.
- User reviews: User reviews can serve as a gauge of the satisfaction of the platform. Did people find the website or app easy to use? What were their favorite features? Were there any pain points you need to watch for?
- Your budget and insurance: The unfortunate truth is that money is one of the main reasons people do not get the help they need. The subscription options and cost should be clearly stated on the website. You also should be able to find insurance coverage.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.