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People who cannot attend in-office therapy sessions may find online therapy helpful. Some organizations offer free therapy sessions for those who cannot afford to pay for regular visits, and individuals may benefit from group sessions or from signing up for courses. A person can access free therapy via websites, apps, or college institutions. People with severe mental health concerns need immediate medical treatment instead.
This article describes what online therapy is and reviews a range of companies and organizations offering free online therapy. It also looks at some alternative options and when a person may wish to consider contacting a doctor.
Online therapy sessions can take place through mobile apps, video conferencing software, emails, text messages, or any other platform where the conversation occurs virtually.
Online therapy is also known as e-therapy, telepsychiatry, or cyber-counseling.
The New England College (NEC) states that online therapy can be helpful for people with:
Some mental health professionals and organizations offer courses about specific topics. Participants can learn to manage the symptoms associated with their mental health condition and deal with stressful situations through these courses.
In addition, some people may prefer online therapy sessions due to having limited access to in-office visits. For example, a person may be able to choose their preferred time slot for the appointment themselves. Online therapy may also be beneficial for those who are unable to leave their house.
However, according to the NEC, online therapy sessions can be less secure than in-office visits. Hackers may have access to a person’s personal information, and technical difficulties or limitations can make it difficult for people to access effective online sessions.
Is online therapy effective?
Online video or phone therapy can be as effective as in-person visits.
One 2014 study found that online therapy for people with depression was as beneficial as in-person appointments.
The above studies show support for video or phone therapy. However, some online therapy uses 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.
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 not effective for long-term treatment.
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, and they may also host group sessions where people can meet others with the same condition or issue.
That said, these organizations may be the best option for those looking for quick advice or those who have serious mental health issues, such as severe depression or suicidal ideation.
Individuals may also find companies offering free sessions for a limited time, which can help them determine whether or not they need further support.
Also, people can attend paid sessions with licensed therapists who specialize in specific areas. This also allows them to choose the schedule that best suits their needs.
People who have suicidal thoughts or are facing domestic violence should try to speak with a doctor or psychiatrist immediately.
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.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available 24/7 at 800-799-7233.
Other organizations that individuals may wish to contact include:
- the National Sexual Assault Hotline
- the National Center for Victims of Crime
- the Strong Hearts Native Helpline
- the National Dating Abuse Helpline
Free online therapy is unsuitable for people with severe mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety. People with serious mental health concerns need immediate help from a medical professional.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these services. All information presented is purely research-based.
Its sister company, Hers, focuses on women’s health, offering hair products, skin creams, and sexual health solutions.
Both companies offer free online group therapy sessions to those who join their anonymous support groups. Some of the issues that therapists cover during these sessions include:
- coping with anxiety
- irregular sleep patterns
- a lack of motivation
- relationship problems
Each session includes 15 people, and a person can reserve a session by booking their preferred time slot and topic. Then, before the session, they can submit any questions they might have so that the therapist can use them to guide the discussion.
During each session, the therapist also provides helpful tools and strategies for people to use in everyday life.
People do not have to turn on their camera, and they can just listen if they do not feel comfortable talking.
Pros and cons
This company’s online therapy sessions come with pros and cons.
Some pros include:
- People can choose the time and topic that suits them best.
- People can submit questions before the session.
- The platform guarantees anonymity.
- The sessions cover various topics.
Some cons include the fact that up to 15 people can join a single session. Also, other group members can be disruptive or offensive. If a group member is disruptive or offensive, however, the therapist is able to remove them from the session.
This is a free course consisting of eight sessions that can be ideal for people who are not ready to connect with a therapist yet. Participants can learn how to manage and improve their mood.
People can also use Bliss’s mood monitor, where they can see how their mood changes throughout the program.
Individuals can complete the course at their own pace with complete anonymity. According to the website, the company does not collect any information that could potentially identify a person.
Pros and cons
The 8-week course comes with several pros, including the fact that people can study at their own pace and that it may suit those who are busy.
According to reviews, some cons include the fact that the program does not offer any appointments with a therapist. Also, some exercises do not provide recommendations on how often people can do them.
People who have mental health conditions or feelings of emotional distress can connect with trained listeners on 7 Cups. This service is free, and individuals can chat with a listener any time of the day.
Those who are looking for more personalized help can connect with a licensed therapist for a monthly fee.
Self-help guides about anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and other conditions are also available on the 7 Cups website.
Pros and cons
People may wish to consider the company’s advantages and disadvantages before using its services.
Advantages include the fact that listeners are available any time and that people can join groups to chat with others.
However, some disadvantages include the fact that listeners are not licensed therapists and that there is a monthly subscription fee to connect with a licensed therapist.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a nonprofit organization. People who are pregnant and those with postpartum depression can find support with this organization.
People can speak with a trained volunteer and attend weekly group calls that the organization’s mental health professionals host.
There are separate calls for men and women, and individuals can share their experiences and learn more about symptoms and treatment options.
Pros and cons
People may consider using PSI’s services for various reasons. These include the fact that:
- A person can find healthcare professionals near them with the PSI directory.
- A person does not need to pre-register for the weekly calls.
- A person can join support group meetings if they have anxiety, are experiencing postpartum depression, or need help adjusting to their new routine.
However, people cannot choose their preferred time slot for the weekly calls, as they are planned in advance. As a result, some individuals may not always be able to attend the meetings.
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 and provide advice to other individuals.
- Support groups: People can join support groups that specialize in specific problems or conditions. Some groups help those with anxiety, depression, or addiction, and these take place in person. Some are also available online, and people can also meet other individuals going through the same problems.
- 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 who have 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.
There are various organizations and companies that 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 medical help immediately.