The 9 Best Online Therapy Programs of 2020 Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD

Best Overall: Talkspace

Talkspace

Pros

Simple sign-up process
A real person matches you to several therapists (you pick one)
Live sessions available
Communicate via text, audio, or video messaging
Customer service has fast responses
You receive regular opportunities to offer feedback
Guaranteed response times for therapist replies (and e-mail notifications when they do)
Easy-to-navigate app

Cons

Some therapists only provide short responses
A few therapists struggle to recall earlier session discussions
Therapists don’t always offer live appointments
Time zone differences may be an issue for people outside the U.S.
Getting matched to a therapist may take a few days
You have to sign up for services for an entire month at a time
If you cancel early, you’ll be billed for the month
There isn’t a free trial period

Founded in 2012, Talkspace boasts that they’ve already helped more than one million people feel happier, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps serves as their popular spokesperson, talking about how therapy helped him become stronger.

Here’s how it works: During the sign-up process, you’ll be asked to complete an online questionnaire. Then, a human will match you to the best therapist for your specific needs.

Once you’re matched to a therapist, you’ll continue working with that same therapist throughout treatment (unless you request to change to a different professional). You can also get matched via an AI chat system if you prefer that method.

There are more than 3,000 licensed therapists who have been through a background check. Therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, sleep problems, trauma, LGBTQ struggles, or even veteran-related difficulties.

Basically, with so many therapists available, you’ll likely find someone who is well-equipped to help you deal with almost every issue. And some of their treatment approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and psychodynamic therapy.

Talkspace offers three different plans:

Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: $65 per week for text, video, and audio messaging. A therapist will respond to messages five days a week.Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: $79 per week for text, video, and audio messaging plus one live session per month. A therapist responds to messages daily, five days per week.LiveTalk Therapy Unlimited: $99 per week for text, video and audio messaging and four live sessions per month. A therapist responds to your messages daily, five days per week.

Live video sessions can be added for $49 for additional 30-minute sessions if the therapist is agreeable.

In addition to their regular services, Talkspace offers specific services for teens and for couples. Services for teens start at $65 per week and counseling for couples starts at $99 per week.

All services for HIPPA compliant and are available via desktop or mobile devices.

Best for Couples: Regain

Courtesy of itunes

Pros

The platform focuses solely on relationship counseling
A thorough questionnaire assesses the relationship
Couples can attend therapy together, even when they are not physically in the same place (by texting)
Video sessions are encouraged
There is no extra charge for the two-person counseling as compared to the single person
The therapists all specialize in couples treatment
The platform is easy to use

Cons

Couples are matched to a therapist via an automated process without human interaction
There isn’t a live customer service agent to help you through the sign-up process
Therapists sometimes don’t meet criteria requested in the initial questionnaire
Response times from therapists can sometimes take longer than a day
There currently isn’t a way to conduct three-way calling or video sessions
There are no variable pricing options based on services selected
This platform requires the monthly minimum price to start
There isn’t a free trial period

Regain specializes in online counseling for couples, and they address a variety of relationship challenges, ranging from infidelity to communication problems.

The sign-up process allows you to identify your goals and any preferences you have for a counselor. For example, you can state if you prefer a male or female provider or a younger or older therapist. Regain then matches therapists directly with couples.

All counselors are licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors. All possess at least three years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience, and every counselor has a specific interest and expertise in relationship counseling.

If you sign up for Regain, you and your partner will share a joint account so you can communicate with the therapist together. All written communication will be visible to you, your partner, and your therapist.

If you want to speak to the therapist privately—without your partner present—you can do so. You just have simply request to schedule a private session. 

It’s important to note that the chats aren’t in real time. Instead, you can leave messages and the therapist will respond. The speed of the counselor’s response varies and the frequency of sessions is based on the interaction between you and your counselor. Sessions can also include phone calls and video.

The cost of counseling ranges from $40 to $70 each week depending on the plan. It’s a subscription service that can be canceled at any time.

Since it is a subscription service, there aren’t a set number of appointments. Instead, couples can determine whether they’d like frequent short sessions or longer sessions less often.

Best for Teens: Teen Counseling

Courtesy of Google Play

Teen Counseling is an online platform specifically made for individuals between the ages of 13 and 19. The company’s professional therapists are equipped to discuss issues such as anxiety, stress, coping skills, self-esteem, bullying, depression, eating disorders, self-esteem and other mental health issues.

Counselors are all licensed mental health professionals. The app does not offer teens with an official diagnosis, so if you are interested in getting your child diagnosed with ADHD or another mental health condition, this app won’t do so.

If you’re a parent and interested in signing up your adolescent up for Teen Counseling, you will have to complete the sign-up paperwork. It’s here you can discuss your teen’s issues and situations with the therapist first and then they’re connected to your child.

The counseling sessions are confidential but therapists will alert the parents if there’s a safety issue that should be made known.

Teens may exchange messages, chat live, speak over the phone, or use video conferencing to chat with the counselor. It is a subscription service and there are no limits on how many sessions or messages can be exchanged each week.

In fact, each teen gets their own “room” with a counselor where messages can be exchanged at any time. There is no need to schedule appointments and they will speak to the same counselor each time.

The cost ranges between $40 and $70 each week depending on the plan. Teens get unlimited access to a counselor.

One thing to note is that the site/app is also clear that they don’t fulfill court orders. So if your teen has been mandated to receive counseling by a court, this won’t fulfill the requirement.

Best for LGBTQ: Pride Counseling

 Pride Counseling

Pride Counseling offers online therapy to individuals in the LGBTQ community, and their goal is to offer discreet, affordable, and accessible treatment.

Whether you have a mental health issue, like depression, or you are experiencing LGBTQ-related issues, their professional counselors can help. 

They have counselors who are trained in specific issues, such as anxiety, stress, parenting, depression, grief, sleeping, trauma, family conflicts, religion, relationships, self-esteem, and eating. 

Not only are the counselors on Pride Counseling either licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or professional counselors (all with either a master’s or doctoral degree), they are all specialists in the LGBTQ community as well.

In most cases, you will be matched with your personal counselor within 24 hours. You will schedule sessions that work within your own time frame, but you can also message your counselor whenever an issue arises.

While they do their best to match you to someone you’ll connect well with, you can change counselors at any time if you’d prefer to work with someone else.

You can communicate with your counselor in four different ways:

Exchanging messages in a secure roomChatting liveSpeaking over the phoneVideo conferencing

The cost ranges between $40 to $70 per week (billed monthly). You can cancel your membership at any time for any reason.

Pride Counseling considers your privacy and confidentiality a top priority. You can use a nickname when communicating with your counselor if you don’t want to reveal your real name. 

What Is Online Therapy?

Online therapy is a way to communicate with a licensed mental health professional over the phone or computer. Common means of treatment include messaging (similar to text or email), live chat, phone calls, or video chat.

Online therapy differs from in-person therapy in several ways. Online therapists typically do not provide a mental health diagnosis, like “generalized anxiety disorder” or “ADHD.” Online treatment also may not meet the requirements for “court-mandated therapy” in certain cases.

Otherwise, online therapists are licensed mental health professionals, and most provide similar treatments online as they do in-person.

Who Is a Good Candidate?

Online therapy can be a fit for almost anyone who is looking for emotional support. Common issues that are treated online include stress management, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, trauma, sleep issues, and substance abuse.

Most online therapy offerings identify who they recommend should not use their services. Individuals with suicidal ideation, serious mental illness, or psychosis are typically not good candidates for online therapy. People with generalized anxiety and depression disorders, for instance, are considered good candidates.

What Are the Benefits?

Online therapy can have some advantages over traditional therapy. Some people enjoy not having to commute to an appointment. Others appreciate that they don’t need to find childcare.

Online therapy can also be more affordable than face-to-face treatment. And many online therapy sites allow you to speak to your therapist daily, while most in-person sessions only occur once per week.

Is Online Therapy Effective?

Yes. Online therapy can be equally as effective as in-person treatment. Here’s what research has found:

A 2014 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was effective in treating anxiety disorders. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that online treatment for depression was equally as effective as in-person therapy. A 2018 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was equally as effective as in-person treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Is It Secure and Confidential?

Licensed mental health professionals must follow licensing regulations, state laws, and HIPAA regulations that ensure security and confidentiality. Each website explains the steps they take to keep information secure.

Also, most sites will allow you to communicate with your therapist using a nickname (although they usually require you to provide the name and phone number of an emergency contact.)

How Much Does Online Therapy Cost?

The fees for online therapy vary depending on the company and type of communication you choose. Unlimited messaging often starts around $40 per week. A live video chat with a therapist typically costs between $59 and $99.

In comparison, a face-to-face meeting with a therapist averages between $75 and $150 an hour. It may even be higher in certain areas, such as New York City. 

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