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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps a person change their thoughts and behaviors to improve mental health conditions such as anxiety. Several online platforms offer CBT for anxiety.

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A quick look at four of the best platforms for CBT online for anxiety

This article explains what CBT is, what it treats, and how effective this therapy technique is. It also looks into some of the best online platforms for CBT for anxiety and answers a range of frequently asked questions.

CBT is a therapy technique that may help people recognize and change negative or unhelpful behavior and thought patterns.

CBT focuses on a person’s thoughts, feelings, thinking patterns, and actions that may affect the way they approach challenges in their lives.

Unlike many other therapy techniques, which focus on a person’s past, CBT focuses on the present.

Therapists may use the following strategies:

  • developing a person’s self-confidence
  • developing a person’s problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations
  • reevaluating other people’s motivations and behavior
  • teaching people techniques to relax
  • teaching people techniques to face their fears rather than avoid them

Therapists may present these strategies as exercises during therapy sessions and for a person to try at home.

CBT may be beneficial for people who have anxiety and depression.

It may also be an effective way of treating conditions such as:

Learn more about ways to cope with anxiety.

People can look for CBT professionals via the following resources:

  • Referral: People can ask for a referral to a therapist from a primary care or family physician.
  • Local resources: Students may find a CBT professional through their school or college. Employees may look for CBT professionals through their employers’ human resources department or a workplace wellness or employee assistance program.

There is a lot of research on the effectiveness of CBT for various conditions, including anxiety. Healthcare professionals consider this therapy the gold standard for a range of ages and psychiatric conditions.

For instance, CBT may improve anxiety symptoms for up to 12 months, according to a 2019 investigation into the long-term benefits of CBT for anxiety disorders. The authors wrote that follow-up sessions provided some benefits to participants with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety but that the effects were more significant for those with PTSD.

However, the authors of a 2018 study found that CBT could improve outcomes for as long as 4 years after treatment in young people with anxiety disorders. They stated that those with separation anxiety disorder and GAD found more long-term success with CBT than participants with social anxiety.

Another study focusing on younger populations found that CBT sessions offered at school helped adolescent students reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. The authors suggested that offering CBT at school may help treat people with anxiety at earlier stages in their lives.

However, CBT may be most effective when a person uses it in addition to medication.

Additionally, the authors of a 2018 meta-analysis concluded that CBT was a moderately effective treatment for anxiety disorders when compared to a placebo. They suggested that more suitable treatments are needed for people with PTSD, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

CBT for other conditions

CBT may be an effective way of treating conditions such as:

Research also suggests that this therapy may be beneficial for other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

For instance, a 2020 clinical trial found that CBT could increase sleep quality and create a more positive mindset in people with fibromyalgia.

A 2019 clinical trial included 28 individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome, whom the researchers asked to participate in eight sessions of group CBT. The results showed a reduction in fatigue and increases in mood, optimism, and quality of life.

Further, in a small 2008 study on the effects of CBT in 75 people with IBS, 72% of the individuals reported relief from IBS symptoms. The participants maintained these results for at least a year after treatment.

A 2021 study also found that CBT was an effective form of therapy for people with cancer and helped them cope with the emotional stress of their condition.

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Below we look at four of the best online cognitive behavioral therapy services a person can consider.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these services. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

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Best for depression and anxiety: Brightside

Brightside is an online therapy platform available in all U.S. states. It specializes in treating anxiety and depression in people aged 18 and over using CBT.

Brightside offers the use of medication, therapy, or both and tailors treatment plans to the needs of the individual. Additionally, the service claims that its plans are affordable with or without insurance.

Treatment plans include:

  • personal sessions with a therapist
  • interactive video lessons to build skills
  • unlimited messaging

Brightside claims that it offers appointments in as little as 48 hours and that 86% of its members feel better in 12 weeks.

Signing up

People must sign up for the service either on the website or over the phone. They must answer a short set of questions to help therapists understand their symptoms.

Individuals then meet their therapist virtually to establish a care plan and receive medication if necessary.

Pros and cons

Brightside offers personal sessions with a therapist, and its programs are available with or without insurance. Additionally, the service offers plans at different costs.

However, Brightside states that its services are not suitable for people who have:

Price

Brightside offers the following price plans:

  • Medication: free with insurance or $95 per month without insurance, plus a pharmacy copay — if the person has insurance prescription benefits — or $15 per medication
  • Therapy: free with insurance or $299 per month without insurance; includes four monthly video sessions with a licensed therapist, with additional video appointments costing $59 per session
  • Medication and therapy: free with insurance or $349 per month without insurance, plus a pharmacy copay or $15 per medication; includes unlimited messaging and weekly video sessions with a licensed therapist

Best for couples counseling: Online-Therapy.com

Online-Therapy.com is an online therapy platform aimed at individuals and couples. People can access the service all over the world.

Online-Therapy.com uses a therapy program with various resources to help individuals cope with depression, anxiety, or stress, including:

  • therapists
  • worksheets
  • live sessions available as video, voice only, or text chat
  • activity plans
  • yoga
  • journals

Learn more about journaling for anxiety.

The service provides activities that are divided into sections. These sections include daily hands-on tools and tips from a therapist. Live sessions with a therapist are 45 minutes long.

Therapists are available online for 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday. Online-Therapy.com states that it tries to match a person with a therapist whose working hours fit the person’s time zone.

Signing up

People can sign up for the service on the Online-Therapy.com website or by phone by entering their details and choosing their areas of concern.

Online-Therapy.com then matches each person with a therapist, and a person can choose a subscription plan.

Pros and cons

The benefits of using this service are that the platform offers both couples and individual therapy worldwide.

It also treats a wider range of mental health conditions than other services, including:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • alcohol and drug misuse
  • eating disorders
  • phobias
  • ADHD and attention issues
  • bipolar disorder

However, the service does have some disadvantages: It does not accept insurance, and its therapists are available for only 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday.

Therefore, this service is not suitable for people who need support outside of working hours or on the weekend.

Additionally, Online-Therapy.com does not prescribe medication.

Prices

Online-Therapy.com offers three subscriptions for individual therapy, as well as a couples therapy plan:

  • Basic subscription: starts at $50 per week, which includes the therapy program and unlimited messaging
  • Standard subscription: starts at $80 per week, which includes the therapy program, unlimited messaging, and one 45-minute live session per week
  • Premium subscription: starts at $110 per week, which includes the therapy program, unlimited messaging, two 45-minute live sessions per week, and express replies
  • Couples therapy: starts at $110 per week, which includes one 45-minute couples live session per week, unlimited couples messaging, and individual therapy

Best for LGBTQIA+ people: Pride Counseling

Pride Counseling aims to provide therapy to individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community who have mental health conditions or simply need someone to talk to.

Pride Counseling states that it offers a discreet, affordable, and convenient service with therapists who are available to fit into an individual’s schedule.

Pride Counseling provides therapy via live video, phone, or live chats.

The service states that it can help with:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • relationships
  • parenting
  • depression
  • addictions
  • eating and sleeping disorders
  • trauma
  • anger management
  • family conflicts
  • LGBTQ matters
  • grief
  • religion
  • self-esteem

Learn more about the best online anger management classes.

Signing up

Individuals fill out a short questionnaire, which includes personal information and a description of their symptoms. People can then create an account.

Pros and cons

Pride Counseling claims that its services are accessible and accepting of everyone. In addition, its therapists specialize in providing support for the LGBTQIA+ community and are available 24/7.

However, Pride Counseling states that its therapists cannot make any official diagnoses or prescribe medication.

Additionally, the service states that its therapy is unsuitable if the individual:

  • is a minor or under the care of a legal guardian
  • is in a crisis or an emergency situation
  • is undergoing therapy as required either by a court order or by any other authority
  • does not have a device that can connect to the Internet or a reliable internet connection

Pride Counseling does not accept insurance.

Prices

Pride Counseling’s therapy costs $60–90 per week. The individual’s location and preferences and the therapist they work with will affect the cost.

Best overall: Thriveworks

Thriveworks offers online and in-person counseling sessions in more than 340 locations in the U.S.

It offers sessions with therapists and psychiatrists for people of all ages, religions, and cultural identities. This makes it suitable for children, teens, and adults from a wide range of backgrounds.

Additionally, Thriveworks offers individual and family counseling and claims that it covers all areas of mental health.

Thriveworks offers same-day or next-day sessions to new clients. The sessions are 50–60 minutes long.

The service claims that its support team answers calls in under a minute. It also claims that people can reach counselors or psychiatrists by phone or email between sessions.

People can choose their therapist from an online list.

Thriveworks provides sessions over the phone and through video calls and messaging.

Thriveworks therapy covers:

  • psychiatric and medication management service
  • couples therapy
  • child, adolescent, and teen therapy
  • relationship advice
  • symptoms of mental illness
  • grief and loss
  • stress and difficult emotions

Learn more about the best teen counseling options.

Signing up

People can sign up to Thriveworks by:

  • calling the clinic located in their state
  • dropping by the clinic to make an appointment
  • using the online process to sign up on the Thriveworks website

Pros and cons

The advantages of using Thriveworks are:

  • Its offices are open from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. EST Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
  • It offers therapists as well as psychiatric services.
  • Its psychiatrists can provide any necessary medication.
  • It accepts insurance.
  • It offers online and face-to-face therapy sessions.

However, there are some disadvantages to using this service.

Thriveworks does not offer medication management in all of its locations. Additionally, session and membership prices vary by location, payment method, and insurance plan.

Prices

Thriveworks breaks the cost into two categories: session cost and membership cost.

  • Session cost: Sessions usually cost $15–40 each; they are free with insurance plus copay or $99 per session without insurance. Thriveworks states that the prices vary by location, clinician, and payment method.
  • Membership cost: This covers the premium services that insurance does not pay. The cost is $39 per month. Prices vary by location.

Below is a comparison table of all the online therapy services in this article.

BrightsideOnline-Therapy.comPride CounselingThriveworks
Type of session• personal sessions
• interactive video
• unlimited messaging
• worksheets
• video
• voice or text chat
• journals
• activity plans
• yoga
• messaging
• live video
• phone calls
• live chats
• phone
• video
• messaging
Best fordepression and anxietypeople who travel frequently LGBTQIA+ community overall
PriceMedication: free with insurance or $95 per month without plus copay, or $15 per medication

Therapy: free with insurance or $299 per month without; additional video appointments cost $159 per session

Medication and therapy: free with insurance or $349 per month without plus copay, or $15 per medication
Basic subscription: from $50 per week

Standard subscription: from $80 per week

Premium subscription: from $110 per week

Couples: from $110 per week
$60–90 per week$15–$40 per session

free with insurance, plus copay

$39 per month for membership
Accepts insuranceyesnonoyes
Prescribes medicationyesnonoyes

People should consider the following factors when looking for a CBT professional:

  • Price: CBT can be expensive, and it is likely that a person will need more than one session to benefit from CBT. A person should consider how many sessions they may need and how that may fit into their budget.
  • Health insurance: Individuals who wish to pay for therapy through their insurance plan may wish to look at factors such as the number of sessions the insurance covers and any out-of-pocket costs they may have to pay.
  • Online or face-to-face sessions: The individual should consider which method of therapy would best suit their needs.
  • Identities and culture: Individuals should consider whether they would prefer to see a therapist who has experience helping people who are part of certain communities or come from particular backgrounds, such as a therapist who specializes in LGBTQIA+ issues.
  • Accreditation and licensing: People should ensure that the therapist is both accredited and licensed in their state. These qualifications may come from institutions such as the American Psychological Association or the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.

Feelings of anxiety are a common part of everyday life. However, when anxiety begins to affect a person’s work, relationships, social life, and mood, it may be time to see a therapist.

There are many anxiety disorders with a wide range of symptoms. A person should see a doctor to discuss their symptoms and get the correct diagnosis.

A person may wish to be aware of the symptoms of GAD, which may include:

  • irritability
  • uncontrollable worry
  • restlessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • stomachache
  • sleep problems

If a person feels their anxiety is significantly affecting their mood, they should contact a doctor to find out whether they may have depression.

Suicide prevention

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. In the United States, 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.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Below we answer some frequently asked questions about CBT.

Is CBT just as effective online?

CBT can be just as effective online as in person. A 2020 study involving 204 adults with anxiety for a period of 12 weeks found that online CBT was not inferior to face-to-face sessions. However, this study did not look at the long-term effectiveness of online CBT.

A person can consider trying CBT online and in-person to see which method better suits their needs.

How long does it take for CBT to work for anxiety?

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, it can take 5–20 sessions lasting 30–60 minutes for CBT to work for anxiety. However, this time frame depends on the individual, as some people may benefit from extra sessions.

Can I do CBT by myself?

Yes, people can do self-help CBT. Books and online resources are available to help a person do CBT by themselves.

A 2017 study found that there was a significant reduction in depression and anxiety in 927 participants who enrolled in self-help CBT, with two-thirds of those who completed the treatment experiencing a remission of their symptoms.

CBT is an effective form of therapy for anxiety, especially in combination with medication.

People can find a therapist or psychiatrist who offers CBT by searching healthcare professional databases online, considering telehealth services, or using local resources such as student centers and employee programs.