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People who cannot attend in-office therapy sessions may find free online therapy helpful. It is available via organizations, websites, apps, and college institutions but will not suit people with severe mental health concerns.

Online therapy is also known as e-therapy, telepsychiatry, or cyber-counseling. Through online therapy, participants can learn to manage the symptoms associated with their mental health and deal with stressful situations.

This article describes online therapy and reviews various companies and organizations offering free online therapy. It also looks at some alternative options and discusses when a person may wish to consider contacting a doctor.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • The company verifiably offers free or reduced-cost online therapy.
  • The company connects people with certified clinicians or clearly states if the counselors are general volunteers.
  • The organization does not engage in any suspicious or unethical practices or ones that can worsen a person’s mental health or pose a legal or safety threat.
  • The organization offers convenient teletherapy either for everyone or for specific groups more at risk for mental health disorders.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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Below, we compare the online therapy options in this article.

Type of supportCommunication methodMain features
Crisis Text Linecrisis counselorstext• it is specifically for people in a mental health emergency
• offers trained crisis counselors for a range of concerns
Bliss by the CIMHSonline self-guided courseBliss’s mood monitor• offers anonymity
• people can complete the course at their own pace
7 Cupslisteners and group chatonline chat• trained listeners
• self-help guides
Postpartum Support Internationalone-on-one and group callsvoice calls
video calls
online chats
• offers support for a range of identities
• offers chats with experts and peers
Therapy Aid Coalitiontherapy with a licensed therapistvirtual therapy• can filter by expertise and location
• offers various optional fees

According to the American Psychiatric Association, telemedicine and telepsychiatry are effective and suitable for a wide range of people and needs.

Teletherapy may be particularly beneficial for:

  • autistic people
  • those with physical disabilities causing mobility challenges
  • individuals from marginalized groups that traditionally have less access to mental health care.

In addition, some people may prefer online therapy sessions due to having limited access to in-office visits.

Online therapy sessions can take place via mobile app, video conference, email, text message, or any other platform where conversations occur virtually.

A person must also have reliable internet access in their home to participate in teletherapy. Online health services, including therapy sessions, may be less secure than in-office visits, as assistant devices, such as Google Home and Alexa, can record confidential information. A person may also be vulnerable to security risks from their internet connection.

Further, technical difficulties or limitations can make accessing effective online sessions difficult for some people. Someone with concerns about their online privacy and security may wish to explore in-person therapy instead.

Online video or phone therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy.

Researchers found that online therapy for people with mental health conditions seems to be as effective as in-person appointments. However, 2022 research shows that some of its 51 participants found finding a private space to have their therapy session difficult. It also found that others were anxious about being able to use an online therapy platform. Overall, there was a significant mix of positive and negative feelings regarding switching from in-person to online therapy.

A 2019 study states that online therapy can help reduce depression symptom severity, even in people who have not previously attended in-person psychotherapy sessions.

Additionally, another 2018 meta-analysis of high quality studies found that online cognitive behavioral therapy was effective for those with mental health conditions. These conditions included major depression, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.

The above study shows support for video or phone therapy. However, some online therapy services use text or email messaging. There is no evidence to support the efficacy of email- or text-based therapy, and these forms of online therapy may not offer the same benefits as other methods.

Additionally, a 2022 review found that there is no evidence that online therapy is better than in-person therapy for people with less common conditions or more severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Further to this, a 2019 study found that users of mental health apps may not engage with them in the long term. This reduction in engagement may indicate that therapy apps are ineffective for long-term treatment.

Sometimes, companies that appear to offer free mental health services may actually impose hidden fees or fail to provide the quality of care they advertise.

For this reason, a person should thoroughly research potential providers to ensure that they are reliable organizations connecting people with quality mental health support.

It is also important to ask if the therapy will be HIPAA compliant and if the organization will protect the person’s sensitive medical information. In addition, there are inherent digital security risks in any online interaction. A person should learn what a teletherapy company or organization is doing to protect people’s data before proceeding.

People who do not use free online therapy can seek help by exploring other options. These may include:

  • Online forums: People can join online forums and share their experiences with others who have been through similar situations. There may be no trained therapists in these forums, but a person can find support and encouragement from others.
  • Support groups: Online treatment can also take the form of support groups specializing in specific problems or conditions. Some groups help those with anxiety, depression, or addiction and take place in person. Others are available online. All groups enable people to meet other individuals in similar circumstances.
  • College mental health services: Students may be able to access their college’s counseling center, which can offer free or low cost therapy sessions.
  • Hobbies: According to Head to Health, people with hobbies are less likely to develop stress and symptoms associated with depression. Through hobbies, individuals can learn new skills, meet new people, and improve their communication skills.

Free online therapy is unsuitable for people with severe mental health conditions.

Individuals who have suicidal thoughts or are facing domestic violence need to speak with a doctor or psychiatrist immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-799-7233.

Those who have thoughts of suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. This service is available at any time of the day.

Other organizations that individuals may wish to contact include:

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 it’s safe to do so.

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.

Find more links and local resources.

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Yes, there is such a thing as free online therapy.

Some organizations offer free support for individuals with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. They provide a supportive community and a space to talk. They may also host group sessions where people can meet others with the same condition or issue.

Some services may offer free or discounted therapy with licensed professionals to certain groups, such as essential workers and people of color. Others may offer free group chats with trained volunteers.

That said, these services may not suit those looking for quick advice or people with serious mental health conditions, such as severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

Online therapy can be effective, with researchers finding that teletherapy can be as effective as in-person appointments. However, it may have drawbacks, as 2022 research showed. The study’s participants highlighted issues such as finding it hard to find suitable places to have an online therapy session and finding it more difficult to open up about personal issues in an online setting.

People can find therapists offering low cost or free services with national organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For essential workers, Therapy Aid Coalition helps people connect with therapists offering free or low cost therapy sessions.

People can talk with trained listeners for free on 7 Cups. These listeners are volunteers, and their experience in supporting mental health will vary greatly. People must pay for a 7 Cups subscription to speak with a licensed therapist.

Various organizations and companies offer free online therapy. People who cannot afford or attend in-person therapy sessions can benefit from this type of service.

A person can join group sessions with some organizations without registering and while staying anonymous.

Those who have thoughts of suicide or are experiencing domestic violence need immediate help.