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Online therapy allows people to communicate with qualified therapists from their homes. The cost depends on the therapist’s credentials and experience, but many companies offer subscription plans, and some insurers cover mental health care.
This article explores the different types of therapy available and how individuals may recognize that they need to see a therapist. It also describes factors that could help people choose affordable therapy options online and the different platforms available for counseling.
A quick look at the best affordable online therapy options
- Best for young people: BetterHelp
- Best for insurance coverage: Amwell
- Best for couples counseling: ReGain
- Best for psychiatry: Doctor on Demand
- Best free service: 7Cups
An individual can attend different types of therapy, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The American Psychological Association (APA) states that CBT effectively treats depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other conditions.
- Interpersonal or talking therapy: The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) states that interpersonal therapy helps people with depression identify and address relationship challenges.
- Emotion-focused therapy: A ongoing
2018 studysuggests this type of therapy shows potential to help individuals with conditions that include depression, trauma, and social anxiety.
- Group therapy: A person joins a group session with individuals with similar experiences to share their feelings and offer peer support. A qualified mental health care professional will typically run these sessions.
During therapy sessions, therapists use different methods to help their clients, such as talking therapies, helping manage negative thoughts, interacting with others, and mindfulness techniques.
- talking with a friend
- eating a nutritious diet
However, an individual may consider contacting a therapist if their symptoms do not improve or last more than 2 weeks or if they experience any of the following:
- difficulty concentrating
- thoughts of harming themselves or others
- lack of motivation
- reduced appetite
- feeling down or blue
- feelings of frustration or nervousness
If a person feels suicidal, they should not rely on online therapy. Instead, they should inform someone they trust and contact emergency services or one of the mental health crisis helplines below.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
There are various criteria to consider when looking for affordable therapy:
- Cost and insurance: Some companies operate on a subscription-based service that allows people to cancel anytime they choose. Health insurance could reduce the overall cost, but some mental health services are not eligible under some insurance plans. Therefore, a person should confirm their coverage with an insurer or employer before seeking therapy.
- Reviews: A person can use impartial services like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Trustpilot to check a company’s reviews and reputation.
- Credentials: Some counseling services allow individuals to view their therapists’ qualifications, experience, and specialisms. This may allow a person to estimate fees.
- Ease of use: Many therapists host online sessions through video, phone, or instant messaging chats, which individuals may find more cost-effective.
Medical News Today has carefully vetted each online therapy provider to ensure they do not pose any safety risks to individuals.
The vetting team looked at several factors before writing this article, such as:
- Medical accuracy and integrity: The companies offer transparent information on the coverage they can provide and their standard of care.
- Best practices: The companies use licensed healthcare professionals and are HIPAA compliant.
- Indicators of trust: The companies have third-party regulations and certification of security standards.
- Reputation: The companies have not received any warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission, have no pending or past lawsuits, and have a high rating on the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Below are some companies that offer affordable therapy sessions online.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
Prices and reviews are correct at the time of publishing this article.
Best for young people: BetterHelp
- Cost: between $60–90 a week
BetterHelp offers counseling sessions for individuals, couples, and teenagers. The platform requires a person to complete a questionnaire so the company can pair them with a therapist.
An individual can talk with a therapist via instant messaging, phone, or video chat.
BetterHelp also offers:
- group sessions
- easy scheduling features
- digital worksheets to support the counseling process
The platform works with licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and counselors.
Counseling costs around $60–90 per week, and individuals can cancel their membership at any time. However, health insurance plans do not usually grant coverage for BetterHelp services.
BetterHelp has an average rating of 4.06 stars out of 5 and an A- grade with the BBB. According to reviews, sessions are very convenient, and therapists are helpful and supportive. Some complaints mentioned the company continued to charge people after they canceled their subscriptions, and others found online counseling too impersonal.
Best for insurance coverage: Amwell
- Cost: between $109–279 per session
Amwell’s therapists provide counseling for various mental health conditions, including:
- panic attacks
- relationship difficulties
- social anxiety
A person can choose a therapist with a Master’s degree or PhD in their field. Appointments with a therapist holding a Master’s degree cost $109, while sessions with a therapist with a doctorate in their field costs $129.
An initial psychiatry assessment visit costs $279, with follow-up sessions costing $109.
The company also has physicians and psychiatrists who can prescribe medication and manage urgent care.
Amwell works with many insurers, and a person should contact their insurance provider or employer to check their benefits.
Trustpilot users give Amwell an average rating of 2.4 stars out of 5, with reviewers commenting that its doctors do not prescribe all medications and the cost can be higher than in-person visits. However, individuals stated they received a diagnosis and treatment plan quickly.
Best for couples counseling: ReGain
- Cost: between $60–90 per week
The ReGain platform offers therapy sessions for individuals and couples by matching them with a licensed mental health care professional.
Couples do not have to be in the same location to have couples therapy.
Once people log on to the website, the company’s chat room saves all written information for reference, but only the counselor and individuals or partners have access.
ReGain operates a subscription-based plan, with sessions costing around $60–90 per week. The company does not currently work with private medical insurers.
The company has a rating of 3.1 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot, with less favorable comments mentioning having to pay for a month upfront and that the service could not fix an appointment with a counselor. Positive comments claim that the therapists helped with communication skills and helped some people recover from traumatic experiences.
Best for psychiatry: Doctor on Demand
- Cost: between $129–299
Doctor on Demand is a platform specializing in physical and mental health conditions.
It offers therapy sessions with licensed mental health specialists qualified to help individuals with anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress. A person can also chat with a psychiatrist who can provide therapy sessions and, if necessary, prescribe limited medications. Should individuals require a prescription for a controlled substance, such as anxiety medications, they may have to attend an in-person appointment with their doctor.
Doctor on Demand prices depend on the session length or therapist type, for example:
- Psychology: A 25-minute consultation costs $129. A 50-minute consultation costs $179.
- Psychiatry: An initial 45-minute consultation costs $299. A 15-minute follow-up costs $129.
A person can check if their insurance covers Doctor on Demand’s telehealth visits during registration.
The company has a 1.4 out of 5-star rating on Trustpilot, with most reviews being critical of the service. Comments mention that doctors have not attended appointments and customers had issues communicating their needs to the doctors. Some positive comments say they could see their doctor quickly and scheduling appointments was easy.
Best free service: 7Cups
- Cost: free or $150 a month
7Cups offers free therapy sessions with trained volunteer listeners. These listeners are not qualified therapists but receive some training from 7Cups.
A person can also schedule appointments with licensed therapists. These sessions cost $150 a month.
7Cups may be best suited to people looking to try therapy for the first time, those on a very tight budget, or those who would like a more casual way to express and explore their feelings.
The company has a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, with most reviews being very positive. Some people found the environment supportive and felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with the listeners. However, one comment raises concerns about chat moderation, stating that offensive chats continued without intervention from the company.
Below, we compare each of the online therapy options for price, the services offered, and the type of sessions a person can choose from.
|Price||Services offered||Types of session|
|BetterHelp||between $60–90 a week||counseling||• live messaging|
• video calls
• phone calls
|Amwell||between $109–279 per session||• counseling|
|ReGain||between $60–90 per week||• couples therapy|
• video calls
• phone calls
|Doctor on Demand||between $129–299 per session||• counseling|
|7Cups||free or $150 a month||counseling||• live online chat|
People who want support coping with a mental health condition can consider online therapy. It may be especially suitable for people who cannot easily access in-person sessions or prefer greater anonymity when speaking to a therapist.
Young people, couples, and adults can all benefit from online therapy.
People who do not have access to the internet or a reliable connection may not find online therapy appropriate. Additionally, those with no private space to have their sessions in may not find it easy to have therapy online.
If a person is in a mental health crisis, they should not use online therapy and contact emergency services instead. Online therapy may not be suitable for those with severe mental health conditions.
Sometimes, a person may wish to speak with specific doctors or organizations for support. In these cases, they may consider helplines and hotlines, such as the:
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- Strong Hearts Native Helpline
- National Dating Abuse Helpline
If someone feels they are not getting the support they need through online therapy, they should speak with their primary care doctor to discuss alternative options. This may include support groups, college or employer mental health services, and lifestyle changes.
Below, we answer some of the top frequently asked questions about online therapy.
Is an online therapist qualified or certified?
Therapists who hold online therapy sessions have the same credentials as those who see clients in person.
They often have a Master’s degree, PhD, Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology qualification in their field.
A person should prioritize services that use qualified mental health professionals.
Is the session information shared or confidential?
A person’s information is confidential during an online therapy session, but therapists may keep session notes for reference.
However, if the client has suicidal ideations or a severe mental health problem that requires urgent care, the therapist is authorized to contact the police or an urgent care facility.
Additionally, a person aged under 18 years old may require consent from their parent or caregiver to sign up for counseling.
Is online therapy for everyone?
According to the APA, online therapy sessions can benefit a person as much as in-person visits.
However, the organization advises against using online companies if a person has or could have a severe mental health condition that requires immediate attention, such as schizophrenia or addiction.
Are online therapists cheaper?
Online therapy can be cheaper than in-person therapy if a person pays out of pocket. Prices can vary depending on a person’s location, the therapist’s experience, and the service a person uses.
Many companies offer affordable therapy options online, which can be suitable for individuals who prefer or need to attend virtual consultations.
Some offer subscription plans, allowing a person to choose the number of visits with the therapist.
Individuals can also check whether their insurance plan covers telehealth and online therapy services.
However, online counseling is not suitable for people who have suicidal or self-harm thoughts, as they require immediate urgent care.