There are more options now that online therapy has become more popular.
The destigmatizing of mental health has come leaps and bounds, though access to traditional treatment hasn't followed suit. As per one study, up to 70% of the people who need mental health care don't have access to it.
Enter online therapy. It can help bridge the gap and offer resources to those who otherwise can't get help, whether because of location, finances or scheduling conflicts.
The convenience and flexibility of online therapy have made it a popular way 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 choices for online therapy. Our list is made up of HIPAA-compliant therapy services that only employ licensed and trained mental health professionals.
Each online therapy platform differs in pricing, so you'll want to first check with your health insurance provider to assess whether some of the costs of mental health care are covered.
Read more: Best Mental Health Apps
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 per 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.
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Talkspace is one of the most versatile online therapy platforms with several communication methods, therapy options and price points. With Talkspace, your options include message-based therapy that's a great 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 per month 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. Right now, you can save $100 when you use the code SPACE.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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 a therapist face to face. Research has shown that virtual therapy can be as effective as in-office meetings for some.
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Read more: Tips to Find the Right Therapist For You
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.
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:
Read more: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Reshape the Way You Think