Best Online Counseling

Whether you’re looking for relationship support or grief counseling, these are the best online counseling services.

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Online counseling provides the convenience of professional guidance without having to leave your home, making it an excellent option for those without access to in-person services or who just prefer the comfort of their own space. Unlike therapy, which may include treatment for an array of mental health issues, online counseling often targets a specific problem—like anxiety, addiction, depression, family problems, finances, or teen issues. 

More than 95% of adults face at least one barrier to healthcare access, such as finances or lack of nearby access. Online counseling services work to boost access to care for those who need it most. Video, phone, and chat sessions let clients access services without geographic or time constraints, giving more people the opportunity to grow and heal. So to help you find the best online counseling services, we surveyed over 100 users at 55 online therapy companies and 25 directories. We also rigorously tested these services ourselves. Here are the ones that made the cut.

Best Online Counseling of 2023

Best Couples Counseling : ReGain


ReGain logo

ReGain

Key Specs  
  • Price: $60 to $90 per week
  • Insurance Accepted?: No
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples
Why We Chose It

ReGain couples counseling is priced affordably with sessions focusing on decision-making and conflict-free communication.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available through computer, tablet, or smartphone

  • Large provider network

  • Easy to change therapists if desired

Cons
  • Doesn't accept insurance

  • Can't pay as you go

  • Therapist matching process may take several days

Overview 

ReGain is a cost-effective online counseling service that was created specifically to help couples address relationship issues. It offers flexible options with providers who specialize in relationship counseling. You and your partner will participate in tailored sessions via video, chat, or phone with a licensed provider.  You can even also join calls and video sessions from separate locations, so your partner doesn’t have to be present in the same room.

Though the matching process can take a few days, the platform will connect you with a counselor who best suits your needs. Its team consists of experienced clinical therapists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other mental health providers who can help you and your partner work through conflict and build a stronger relationship. It also offers convenient monthly subscriptions you can cancel anytime.

Plans & Pricing 

ReGain’s monthly fees range from $60 to $90 weekly, billed every four weeks, depending on where you live, demand, and the therapist you match with. The company doesn't accept insurance, but you can pay using your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). You can also request an itemized breakdown of your payments to submit to your insurance provider for reimbursement, but this depends on your coverage details.

User Satisfaction  

Our survey revealed overall positive experiences from users of the service. Seventy-seven percent reported satisfaction with the overall quality of their counseling sessions, while 80% said their therapist met all or most of their needs. The overwhelming majority (88%) felt their therapist was qualified and knowledgeable of their needs. While one of our reviewers was wary of the ongoing investigation of ReGain’s parent company, BetterHelp, over its privacy policy, they still felt their experience with their counselor was excellent.

Best Teen Counseling : Talkspace


Talkspace logo

Talkspace 

Key Specs
  • Price: $276 to $436 per month
  • Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples, teen, medication management
Why We Chose It 

Talkspace offers comprehensive counseling services for teens as well as adults through specialized, private one-on-one sessions as well as text therapy and live chat.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Phone, live chat, messaging, and video options offered

  • User-friendly app

  • Available in all 50 states

Cons
  • Must match with a therapist before starting

  • Family sessions aren't available

  • Must sign up for exact pricing info

Overview

Using digital technology, Talkspace gives teens ages 13-17 the ability to speak with qualified counselors in all 50 states via video chat, live chat or messaging on the website or app. With over two decades of experience, the company has a wealth of resources and multiple package offerings.

Signing up for Talkspace is simple. After answering a series of intake questions and choosing a monthly plan, your teen will be matched with a counselor, which typically takes a few days. Your teen’s counselor will work with them to develop an individualized plan and set achievable goals based on their needs—whether they’re dealing with anxiety, depression, bullying, relationship problems, trauma, difficulty sleeping, stress, or something else. The therapist will work to help teen clients identify triggers and develop positive coping skills.

Talkspace has a user-friendly app that’s available on iOS or Android, and can be used for phone, live chat, messaging, and video sessions.

Plans & Pricing

Talkspace has three subscription plans to choose from:

  • Messaging: Starts at $65 per week; users can message their therapist anytime
  • Video + messaging: Starts at $99 per week; users can send unlimited messages and schedule video sessions
  • Video + messaging + workshops: Starts at $109 per week; users have access to messaging, live sessions, and weekly workshops

Talkspace accepts insurance and HSA/FSA payments. In-network insurance providers include Premera, Cigna, Optum, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and others. Exact pricing can only be determined once you create an account, submit insurance information, and match with a therapist. The cancellation policy requires a 24-hour advance notice to avoid being docked a session credit.

User Satisfaction

Talkspace users reported high satisfaction with the service. Ninety percent had positive experiences with the platform, while 92% felt their therapist was knowledgeable. Eighty-eight percent found the platform helpful for connecting with a therapist, and 82% would recommend the service to a friend. Three out of four testers reported being open to using Talkspace again for future counseling needs.

Best Financial Counseling : Financial Therapy Association


Key Specs
  • Price: Varies by provider
  • Insurance Accepted?: Varies by provider
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples, coaching, group
Why We Chose It 

Financial Therapy Association is a database for finding certified financial therapists who offer personalized advice and assistance tailored to financial secrets, budgeting, and financial recovery.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Includes detailed bios for providers

  • Ability to search directory by financial topic

  • Members come from a variety of backgrounds

Cons
  • Must speak to each provider for pricing

  • Many providers listed don't accept insurance

  • Platform doesn't guarantee the services listed

Overview 

Financial Therapy Association is a directory of expert counselors who offer individual, couples, premarital, and specialty sessions around money management and finances. Its unique option to narrow search results by financial qualifications sets it apart from other platforms—filter options include certified financial therapist, certified financial behavioral specialist, and financial fitness coach. Financial counselors on the platform use evidence-based methods to help you and your partner navigate questions and concerns related to money management and triggers around money.

You can also narrow your search based on other needs, such as languages spoken, identity, and more. Trust is a crucial component to finding the right financial counselor, which is why it’s helpful that Financial Therapy Association allows users to access detailed bios of each provider before making a decision. Contact information is on the right-hand side of the bio page, enabling you to call, email, or visit the provider’s website for more details.

Plans & Pricing

Rates vary based on your needs, therapist, and session length. Most providers listed don't accept insurance. However, this depends on the individual and should be discussed directly with the provider. Payment options, cancellation policies, and additional fees should also be addressed with the provider before scheduling an appointment.

User Satisfaction

Most users reported satisfaction with the services they found through the Financial Therapy Association. While 66% of survey respondents reported reaching out to more than one counselor before finding the right fit, 98% said their chosen counselor met some or all of their needs. Eighty-one percent were still seeing the same therapist they found through the platform at the time of completing our survey, and 81% reported being likely or very likely to be with the same therapist six months later.

Best Addiction Counseling : Mindful Care


Mindful Care Recirc

Mindful Care 

Key Specs
  • Price: $49 per month for Mindful Recovery Program; $50 to $100 for individual therapy sessions outside of the recovery program
  • Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, group, psychiatry
Why We Chose It 

Mindful Care offers a unique recovery program for those dealing with addictive behaviors through private one-on-one counseling as well as group sessions.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Same-day appointments available

  • Urgent Care and Continued Care plans available

  • Can prescribe certain medications when needed

Cons
  • Only available in 6 states

  • May take 24 hours or longer to schedule first session

  • Must be at least 18 years old for individual and group sessions

Overview 

Many don't realize the impact of addiction until it takes over their life. Counseling at Mindful Care is available for individuals with opioid use or alcohol use disorder who are ready to make a change. Through the secure platform, therapy seekers from Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Michigan can connect with a counselor for 20-minute or 40-minute sessions, depending on their needs.

With Continued Care, clients work with the same counselor for as long as they need to maintain sobriety. The company also offers a virtual Urgent Care plan for prompt mental health support. While it doesn’t replace in-person crisis care, Mindful Care providers are licensed and qualified to prescribe certain medications. This includes buprenorphine—a medication used to treat addiction. The company recommends at least one year of treatment through its platform before discontinuing therapy.

Plans & Pricing

Mindful Care has three plans to choose from:

  • Psychiatry + medication: $75 per session, plus $175 for initial evaluation
  • Individual and group therapy: $35 to $100 per session, plus initial evaluation
  • Addiction recovery: $49 per month for medication-assisted treatment, 1-on-1 and group therapy, and care navigation

Mindful Care accepts insurance and HSA/FSA payments. Accepted insurance providers include Cigna, Optum, Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and others. Insurance coverage is verified before your first appointment. You can make payments at any time through the HIPAA-compliant patient portal.

User Satisfaction

Mindful Care users report a high satisfaction rate, with 92% saying they had an overall positive experience. Eighty-two percent felt their provider met all or most of their needs, and 83% were likely or very likely to recommend the platform to friends and family in need of similar services. One of our testers felt that while the 20-minute “microtherapy” sessions they had felt a bit rushed, they really benefited from Mindful Care’s group therapy sessions.

Best Sobriety Counseling : Monument


Monument Recirc Logo

Monument

Key Specs
  • Price: $0 to $249 per month
  • Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Types of Counseling: Group, peer support, medication management
Why We Chose It

Monument offers tailored alcohol use treatment plans and medication management for those ready to tackle sobriety.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Video and messaging options

  • Can prescribe medication when needed

  • 24/7 anonymous forums available for peer support

Cons
  • Available in only 20 states

  • You don't choose your own counselor

  • May take several days to get medication

Overview

Monument is an online counseling platform specifically designed to help those recovering from alcohol use disorder. Its founder, Mike Russell, struggled with his own relationship with alcohol for years—his occasional drinking began to control his ability to stop at just one drink. Through his experience, Monument was born as a way to reach the masses by offering accessible and personalized treatment options.

Led by specialized therapists and board-certified physicians, the Monument team provides medication management, group therapy, and peer support. The company also offers on-demand messaging for those needing immediate help outside scheduled sessions. Medications prescribed by Monument doctors include disulfiram and naltrexone, two FDA-approved drugs used to treat alcohol addiction.

Plans & Pricing

Monument offers three plan options:

  • Total care: $249 per month (without insurance); includes four therapy sessions/month, unlimited physician visits, medication management, chat, support groups, and 24/7 community forum
  • Physician care: $9.99 per month plus a $45 initial fee (without insurance); includes initial physician consultation (additional appointments cost $45), medication management, chat, support groups, and 24/7 community forum
  • Community membership: Free access to support groups and a 24/7 community forum

Monument does accept insurance, so your out-of-pocket cost could end up being $0.

User Satisfaction

Seventy-eight percent of Monument users said they were satisfied with their experience. Seventy-three percent reported all or most of their needs being met, and 62% would recommend the platform to those needing similar services. Additionally, 97% of users reported Monument was better than services they had used in the past. 

“Virtual alcohol use counseling is a great option for people who don’t feel like group support or a twelve-step program is right for them,” said Hannah Owens, LMSW, a subject matter expert. “It also makes treatment more accessible because you can access services from the comfort of your own home—for people ambivalent about starting treatment, that accessibility could be the tipping point.”

Best Grief Counseling : LiveHealth Online


Key Specs
  • Price: $80 to $95 per therapy session; $75 to $175 for psychiatry
  • Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples, teen, family, medication management
Why We Chose It 

LiveHealth Online has expertly trained counselors and psychiatrists who offer grief counseling in visits you can easily schedule from your smartphone, computer, or tablet.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Convenient video sessions from anywhere

  • Variety of counselors and specialties available

  • HIPAA-compliant platform for privacy and security

Cons
  • No phone or text sessions offered

  • Must see psychiatrist if requesting medication

Overview 

Grief can be a life-altering experience that is difficult to cope with, which is why many people opt for a counselor to help them through it. LiveHealth Online has counselors who specialize in grief support, as well as a variety of other specialties.  It also has general healthcare providers on staff should you want or need support for conditions outside of mental health. 

Patients receive personal attention from the comfort of their homes via video sessions through the secure platform. Though grief isn't the platform’s only specialty, LiveHealth Online stands out for its impressive selection of counselors specializing in this area.

The process is simple: After creating an account, users can select a therapist based on their availability and needs. Each 45-minute session focuses on learning ways to better cope with grief, find inner peace and acceptance, and process loss. If medication is needed, LiveHealth Online also offers psychiatry services (counselors cannot prescribe medication).

Plans & Pricing

Unlike subscription-based models, LiveHealth Online is pay-per-session. Counseling sessions cost between $80 and $95, while psychiatry visits are a flat fee of $175 for the initial visit and $75 for each follow-up session. The platform also accepts most common insurance plans and HSA/FSA payments.

User Satisfaction

Our survey data found that 90% of LiveHealth Online users were satisfied with their experience. Factors that contributed to this high level of satisfaction included the convenience of online scheduling, availability, and overall cost. Eighty percent of survey respondents said their counselor met all or most of their needs, and 87% would recommend the service to others. Our tester said their counselor was easy to talk to, and the virtual platform was simple to use and free of glitches.

Best Postpartum Counseling : Doctor on Demand


Doctor on Demand Review Recirc

Doctor on Demand

Key Specs
  • Price: $129 to $179 per session
  • Insurance Accepted?: Yes
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, psychiatry, teen, medication management
Why We Chose It

A pioneer in telehealth, Doctor on Demand has providers who specialize in counseling parents experiencing postpartum depression or other mental health issues related to pregnancy and birth.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Has counselors who specialize in treating postpartum depression

  • Accepts health insurance

  • Longer sessions than other platforms

Cons
  • May be costly without insurance

  • Messaging not available

  • Free consultations not offered

Overview

The postpartum period can be an overwhelming time for many parents, especially if they’ve previously been diagnosed with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. Doctor on Demand provides a comprehensive telehealth service with counseling and advice from experienced postpartum specialists. Users also have access to women's health physicians who can help monitor the physical symptoms of postpartum depression and related conditions, such as anxiety, stress, loss, miscarriage, and family issues.

After creating an account and answering a few brief questions, users can schedule an appointment with a mental healthcare provider within minutes. The platform can help you choose a qualified postpartum counselor, or you can browse through all available providers to find one that best fits your needs. Medication management is also available, should you and your counselor deem treatment with medication useful or necessary, but Doctor on Demand's physicians can't prescribe stimulants and benzodiazepines such as Xanax.

Plans & Pricing

Doctor on Demand offers two options for people seeking mental healthcare. You pay per session; there are no subscription plans.

  • Therapy and counseling: $129 for 25 minutes; $179 for 50 minutes
  • Psychiatry and medication management: $299 for a 45-minute initial appointment; $129 for 15-minute follow-up sessions

Sessions could be as little as $0 with insurance. The platform also accepts HSA/FSA payments. Enter your insurance information on the sign-up page to learn more about your coverage. The platform will then provide you with your new out-of-pocket total after insurance.

User Satisfaction

Ninety-four percent of the Doctor on Demand users we surveyed rated the platform as good to excellent overall. Seventy-five percent said all or most of their needs were met, and 79% would recommend the service to others. The vast majority (86%) said their sessions' value was worth the cost. When we tested the service, our tester felt their counselor offered insightful support, and the service was comparable to more traditional therapy they’d had in the past.

Best Anger Management Counseling : Online-Therapy.com


Online-Therapy.com Review

Online-Therapy.com

Key Specs
  • Price: $200 to $440 per month
  • Insurance Accepted?: No
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples
Why We Chose It

Therapists on the platform offer comprehensive counseling services to those who need help managing anger, whether it’s a minor issue or something more extreme, such as domestic violence.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Focus on cognitive behavioral therapy

  • Large resource library

  • Includes worksheets and journaling prompts

Cons
  • Pricier than other platforms

  • No pay-per-session option

  • Does not accept insurance

Overview

Anger can be a challenging condition to treat because it typically affects more than one person—such as a family member or life partner. Online-Therapy.com uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in its online counseling services; CBT is effective in reducing anger and other negative emotions. This type of therapy helps individuals identify and restructure harmful thought patterns while learning to regulate their emotions and behavior. The platform offers individual and couples counseling sessions—so couples can address anger issues along with any other issues they may have together—and a range of tools to help individuals better control anger, such as worksheets, videos, activity plans, and more.

To get started, you select from a list of mental health issues and answer a few questions about your preferences. After creating an account, you're matched with a therapist and can schedule and pay for your first session. Sessions take place via live video, live audio, and text chat.

Plans & Pricing

There are four subscription plans available. Each plan includes unlimited messaging, a worksheet library with unlimited replies, and activity plans and videos.

  • Basic: $50 per week; no therapy sessions are included (just messaging)
  • Standard: $80 per week for one live 45-minute session
  • Premium: $110 per week for two live 45-minute sessions
  • Couples therapy: $110 per week for one live 45-minute session

The first month of any plan is 20% off. Insurance is not accepted, but users can pay with HSA or FSA funds. A 24-hour cancellation policy applies, or you'll lose the session from your weekly allotment.

User Satisfaction

Eighty-five percent of surveyed users had a positive experience with Online-Therapy.com, with 72% reporting that most or all of their needs were met. Over three-quarters (82%) would recommend the platform to others, and 79% said they felt the value of their sessions was worth the cost. Eighty-six percent felt the services they received were better than those at other companies they used in the past. While one of our users encountered some technical issues during video sessions, they appreciated how easy it was to switch therapists when they felt their first match wasn’t a good fit.

Best LGBTQ+ Counseling : TherapyDen


TherapyDen

TherapyDen

Key Specs
  • Price: Varies by provider
  • Insurance Accepted?: Varies by provider
  • Types of Counseling: Individual, couples, group, family, medication management, child and adolescent
Why We Chose It

Inclusion and diversity are the cornerstones of TherapyDen’s mission, and it has a strong commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. The platform offers a comprehensive directory for individuals, couples, and families seeking counseling.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Detailed counselor bios provided

  • Lists insurance plans each provider accepts

  • Some providers offer free consultations

Cons
  • Not every provider listed is LGBTQ+ competent

  • Vetting process for providers is unclear

  • Platform isn't as user-friendly as some

Overview

LGBTQ+ individuals may have more difficulty finding a counselor who shares their background simply because they’re a smaller community. That’s why it’s important for them to have access to a database filled with inclusive, LGBTQ+-affirming counselors. TherapyDen is an online counseling directory that focuses on providing culturally competent and affirming services to its users. The platform provides comprehensive mental health services with hundreds of practitioners. You'll find individual and couples counseling, family therapy, medication management, and child and adolescent services listed, and you can narrow your search by location, provider type, insurance accepted, specialized experience, and more.

This is a directory, so each provider has a bio page with details about their experience, approach, specialties, and techniques. Accepted insurance plans are also listed (not every directory has this feature), so you can see if a provider you're interested in is in-network with your plan. Some providers offer free consultations for prospective clients, so you can better understand their style and methods before committing. Faith, states of practice, and a video introduction are available on some providers' profiles. After choosing a provider, you can use the contact button to reach out for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Plans & Pricing

TherapyDen does not provide counseling services directly; instead, you'll need to contact each provider individually for their rates and appointment availability. Insurance may cover some sessions or medication management visits, but coverage depends on the policy and individual practitioner. Cancellation policies, payment options, and forms of communication (phone, video, etc.) also vary by provider.

User Satisfaction

Our survey revealed that users had an positive experience with TherapyDen overall. Around 89% of respondents rated their experience with the platform as good to excellent, Factors that were most important to users when selecting a provider included therapist qualifications (33%), finding a therapist with a similar identity or cultural background (30%), and finding an affirming provider (27%). More than 97% of TherapyDen respondents felt they found a provider that met some or all of their needs. 

“Being able to find a therapist who shares your cultural or racial background or gender or sexual identity can make all the difference to someone who has struggled to find affirming and informed care in the past,” Owens said. “Having a directory of providers who all identify as belonging to marginalized communities can make the search for mental healthcare feel safer, especially for those who need to bring their experiences of discrimination and trauma to therapy.”

Best Premarital Counseling : Ours


Ours Online Therapy

Ours Online Therapy

Key Specs
  • Price: $400 for the 6-session program
  • Insurance Accepted?: No
  • Types of Counseling: Couples
Why We Chose It

Ours gives couples a roadmap to a successful marriage with weekly guided sessions that help both partners build trust and understanding before taking the plunge into marriage.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Work through the modules at your own pace

  • Includes interactive exercises

  • Allows access to your guide throughout the program

Cons
  • Only two live sessions included

  • Insurance not accepted

  • Can't choose your guide

Overview 

Ours works differently than traditional premarital counseling—it combines online learning with weekly Loveware sessions, which are self-paced activities and exercises. Users also have access to a “guide” or counselor and other experts as they work through the program. The process encourages couples to become more emotionally connected and develop a framework for successful communication and collaboration. 

Each session focuses on a different topic, such as finances, parenting, or boundaries. After signing up, both partners will participate in a virtual video session with an Ours guide. Upon completing your interactive Loveware sessions, you'll meet with your guide a second time and receive personalized feedback and recommendations.

While this more hands-off approach might not suit every couple, Ours’s methods are backed by over 10,000 hours of research to offer an exceptional experience to grow your relationship.

Plans & Pricing

Ours offers users a 6-session package for $400. Each package includes two live sessions with an expert and four self-guided Loveware sessions. All told, it takes about 10 hours to complete. Insurance is not accepted, as is the case with most couples counseling programs.

User Satisfaction

Eighty percent of survey respondents reported a positive experience with Ours. Seventy-eight percent said their provider met all or most of their needs, while 84% felt their provider was qualified to handle their concerns. Additionally, 61% would recommend the service to a friend or family member. One of our reviewers did the course with her new spouse. Both felt the program was very helpful, and the guide provided tailored support.

Final Verdict

ReGain stands out for its personalized individual and couples therapy sessions that help clients uncover the underlying issues in their relationships, build new skills, and find the courage to embrace change. Those looking for help with substance use will find value in the recovery program through Mindful Care. With medication-assisted treatment, individual, and group counseling sessions, this program offers the comprehensive care and support needed for recovery.

Compare the Best Online Counseling

Company Price Insurance Accepted Types of Counseling
ReGain Best Couples Counseling  $60 to $90 per week No Individual, couples
Talkspace Best Teen Counseling  $276 to $516 per month Yes Individual, couples, teen, medication management
Financial Therapy Association Best Financial Counseling  Varies by provider Varies by provider Individual, couples, coaching, group
Mindful Care Best Addiction Counseling  $49 per month Yes Individual, group, psychiatry
Monument Best Sobriety Counseling  $0 to $249 per month Yes Group, peer support, medication management
LiveHealth Online Best Grief Counseling  $80 to 95 per therapy session; $75 to $175 for psychiatry Yes Individual, couples, teen, family, medication management
Doctor on Demand Best Postpartum Counseling  $129 to $179 per session Yes Individual, psychiatry, teen, medication management
Online-Therapy.com Best Anger Management Counseling  $200 to $440 per month No Individual, couples
TherapyDen Best LGBTQ+ Counseling  Varies by provider Varies by provider Individual, couples, group, family, medication management, child and adolescent
Ours Best Prenatal Counseling  $400 for the 6-session program No Couples

Guide to Choosing the Best Online Counseling

How is Online Counseling Different than Online Therapy?

Online counseling is a form of therapy conducted online rather than in person. It involves using digital technology such as video chat, phone calls, or text messaging to provide therapeutic support to individuals seeking mental or emotional help. In online counseling, therapists and clients can communicate remotely without meeting in person.

Online counseling differs from online therapy in that counseling focuses on a specific issue or goal, while therapy is more of an ongoing process that entails working through multiple issues over a period of time. Online psychiatry is also available, and involves medication management to help manage mental health conditions. It is typically only offered if you’re participating in ongoing therapy rather than short-term counseling to address a situational issue.

A professional counselor should have one of the following credentials, said Nicholas Hardy, PhD, LCSW, a psychotherapist and subject matter expert we worked with on this project.

  • LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
  • LMSW/LCSW: Licensed Master Social Worker or Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Ph.D. or PsyD: Doctorate degree or Doctor of Psychology

Who Would Benefit From Online Counseling?

Online counseling is a great option for those who want to receive therapeutic support in the comfort and convenience of their home. It's especially beneficial for those unable to attend traditional in-person sessions due to physical disability, limited mobility, lack of transportation options, or geographical location (e.g., living in a rural area with no local counselors).

Online counseling is also ideal for those who prefer the convenience of engaging in therapy from anywhere with an internet connection. Online sessions often cost less than in-person sessions due to lower overhead costs, making them a more affordable option for those on a budget. However, certain health conditions, such as serious substance use issues and psychosis, should be treated in person and cannot be effectively treated through online counseling. 

Many virtual platforms also can't prescribe certain medications, including controlled substances like Xanax, and should not be used to treat severe mental health conditions. Those in active crisis should seek help from a local emergency provider, such as a crisis hotline, hospital, or community health center.

Is In-Person Counseling More Effective Than Online Counseling?

"Research shows that most people experience comparable outcomes for online versus in-person counseling," said Amy Marschall, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and subject matter expert who worked with us on this project. "Some have individual preferences, which is valid, but for the most part, most people with most mental health concerns would benefit from online counseling."

Hardy added that effective counseling depends more on the quality of the counselor-client relationship than on the modality used. “A quality counselor should help increase your understanding and bring clarity when needed,” he said. “This provides comfort and reassurance and helps clients feel supported.”

Comparing Online Counseling Services

There are various factors to consider when choosing which online counseling is best. These include:

  • Price: Your budget and insurance coverage will dictate how much you can spend on therapy. Some platforms accept insurance, while others require users to pay out of pocket. If paying out of pocket, you may be able to use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). But should always check with your insurance provider and the therapy platform before you commit. 
  • Type of therapy: Different online platforms offer various therapy modalities or types, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based approaches, family/couples counseling, and more. It's important to research the type of services each platform offers before selecting one to ensure it meets your needs.
  • Concern: Your mental health needs are unique, so selecting a platform that offers therapy for your specific concern is critical. For example, if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, look for platforms that specialize in those concerns. Those who need tailored care for alcohol use disorder or eating disorders should find a platform that specializes in those areas versus a general counseling platform. 
  • Scheduling: Consider the scheduling options before signing up for a platform to ensure that it fits your needs and lifestyle. If you need weekend or evening appointments, browse platforms that offer those. Some platforms also let you book sessions online or connect with a therapist within minutes, while others may require more advance notice.
  • Location: Not all online counseling companies offer services in all 50 states. Check with the platform to ensure it can legally provide services in your state.
  • Method of communication: While video sessions are common, some platforms offer other counseling methods, such as text messaging or secure chats. If you prefer a specific communication method, make sure the platform and therapist you choose offer it.
  • Ease of switching counselors: You may not match well with your initial counselor. Selecting a platform that makes it easy to switch between counselors helps ensure you get the best fit.

What If I'm Having Thoughts of Harming Myself?

Resources are available for those having thoughts of harming themselves. If you feel like you are in immediate danger, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are in a crisis and need to talk to someone immediately, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.

Other 24/7 resources include:

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Much Does Online Counseling Typically Cost?

    The cost of online counseling varies depending on the platform and type of therapy you select. Some platforms may cover the entire cost of treatment if you have insurance. However, not every platform or provider accepts insurance, so you may need to pay out of pocket. Prices can range from $45 to $200 or more per session, with each session ranging from 20 minutes to an hour or longer.

  • Can You Receive a Diagnosis from Online Counseling?

    "Any provider who is qualified to make a diagnosis during in-person counseling can diagnose via online counseling," said Marschall. However, it's important to note that not all counselors can diagnose mental health conditions. If you need a diagnosis, ask the platform and counselor beforehand to determine whether they can do so.

  • What Platforms Can Online Counseling Be Conducted On?

    Online counseling sessions are typically conducted either through a secure video conferencing platform or via text messaging. Video conferencing platforms provide the opportunity for both visual and verbal communication. In contrast, text messaging lacks body language and facial expressions, but can still be a great way to stay connected with your therapist outside of regular sessions.

    Common platforms include:

    • Zoom
    • Doxy.me
    • Google Meet
    • VSee
    • TheraPlatform
    • GoToMeeting

    Some companies also have their own proprietary platforms or tools. Ask the provider you are considering which platform they use before committing if you have any concerns about it.

  • What Are the Disadvantages of Online Counseling?

    As with any type of online therapy, there are some potential disadvantages associated with online counseling, including:

    • Difficulty seeing facial expressions and body language
    • Problems with internet connection or software
    • Unclear audio or video
    • Potential privacy concerns with some platforms
    • Possibility of needing a referral to an in-person therapist for more intensive treatment

    Overall, online counseling can be a great way to access mental health services, but you should always consider the potential drawbacks before committing to a platform.

  • Who Is Online Counseling Not Suitable For?

    Online counseling may not be suitable for those needing immediate crisis intervention. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911 or seek emergency services. Additionally, online counseling may not be suitable for those unable to access the internet or who have difficulty using technology platforms. Some medications can't be prescribed over the internet, so if you require controlled drugs, you may need to find a provider that you can see in person.

Methodology

We constructed this list out of data gathered from 55 different online therapy companies and 25 online therapy directories. We surveyed over a hundred of each company’s users, tested the services ourselves, and sent questionnaires to the company. Then, with the help of three licensed therapists, we evaluated each company to find the ones that offer the best-specialized counseling services for a variety of issues, from addition to LGBTQ+ counseling. We also considered factors such as pricing, insurance, counselor credentials, accessibility, and company reputation in order to compile this list.

Online Counseling 2023

HEALTH / Design by Amelia Manley

Article Sources
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  2. Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren, Booker, Wyden call on mental health apps to provide answers on data privacy and sharing practices that may put patients' data at risk of exploitation.

  3. Winslow BT, Onysko M, Hebert M. Medications for alcohol use disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(6):457-465.

  4. Lee AH, DiGiuseppe R. Anger and aggression treatments: a review of meta-analyses. Curr Opinion Psychol. 2018;19:65-74. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.04.004

  5. Chand SP, Kuckel DP, Huecker MR. Cognitive behavior therapy. In: StatPearls [Internet].

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