Talk to a top U.S. doctor from the comfort of home with PlushCare.

Book an appointment Feather-communication-phone

Blog Primary Care

Online Counseling Services

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

March 31, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

Everything You Need to Know About Online Counseling

Interested in online counseling services? You’re in the right place. In this ultimate guide to online mental health services, we’ll get into what online counseling is and how to determine whether it’s right for you.

Read on to learn everything there is to know about online counseling.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.


What is Online Counseling?

Online counseling, or online therapy, is a modern approach toward talk therapy, made possible with technology such as video chatting and text messaging. There are many different types of online mental health services, and the one that is best for you will depend on your individual needs.

So, what is online therapy, and is online therapy right for me?

Online counseling or online therapy, also known as e-counseling or e-therapy, are the practice of mental health services over the internet.

Read: Can You Buy Anxiety Medication Online?

These virtual tools are revolutionizing the therapy industry, enabling more people to receive the mental health services they need. Here, we’ll be taking a look at a wide variety of the platforms and plans offered, and how you can get started with online counseling today.

How Does Online Counseling Work?

During an online counseling session, a client meets with their healthcare provider through a HIPAA-compliant platform, such as video chat or phone call. Online counseling sessions are similar to face-to-face therapy sessions with one major caveat: you can access mental health care from the comfort of your own home.

What Conditions Does Online Therapy Treat?

Online therapy can effectively treat a wide range of mental health conditions and concerns, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder
  • Mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Stress and burnout
  • Family issues

Is Online Therapy Effective?

Yes, online therapy is effective. Research has shown that online mental health services are equally as effective as in-person therapy.

You might be exploring the world of counseling for the very first time, or you might be a seasoned participant who for one reason or another is looking to switch therapists.

Nonetheless, you still find yourself wondering, is online therapy legit?

Fortunately, online therapy is effective. Studies show that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy and that 98% of people say online therapy is more convenient.

  • A 2014 study by the Journal of Affective Disorders found that depression is treated just as effectively via remote communications. “From the data compiled, we conclude that ICBT (internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy) is useful in treating mental health and medical illnesses with psychiatric comorbidities. It has also been found to be cost-effective for patients and society,” according to the authors.
  • A different study, also conducted in 2014 by Behavior Research and Therapy, found that online counseling was effective when treating anxiety disorders. Further, the improvements from therapy were still present more than a year later.
  • A more recent 2018 study by the Journal of Psychological Disorders confirmed these findings, concluding that online therapy is just as effective at treating mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorder.

That said, it’s important to note that while online counseling services work well for many, there is no denying it is a different experience than going into a therapist’s office and it may not be best for everyone.

Who is a Good Candidate for Online Therapy?

Anyone with a computer and access to the Internet who is willing to to make an effort may benefit from online therapy.

So, should you try online therapy? It is always difficult to take the first step toward something new.

Online therapy can be an intimidating prospect, especially for those who have never been to in-person counseling sessions. To help you weigh your options, we’ll go over some of the benefits and disadvantages online therapy has to offer:

What are the benefits of online counseling?

  • First and foremost, online counseling can be more convenient. Online counseling saves the time and effort it would take you to travel back and forth to an office. For those who live in rural areas or lack transportation, online counseling may provide easier access than traditional services. 
  • Online counseling is private and less of a commitment. Unfortunately, many people still feel embarrassed about seeking out mental health services. Because online counseling offers ease of access and scheduling flexibility, some might find it easier to keep their treatment private and some sites even allow you to sign up for just one session.
  • It may be less expensive. Online counseling prices are generally lower than in-person session costs. This will vary among individual sites, as with individual in-person offices. However, online counseling comes in many forms and price points for any budget are easy to find.

What are the disadvantages of online counseling?

  • Technology issues may be a problem. You need high-quality internet access for services like video chats with a counselor. If your internet goes down, you won’t be able to contact your therapist.
  • Is online counseling covered by insurance? Simply put, it depends on your insurance plan. Although your insurance may cover the cost of in-person treatment, you’re not guaranteed coverage for online counseling.
  • Written expressions may be difficult. Online therapy comes in many shapes and sizes. Some services include texting or emailing with a counselor, while some platforms offer an online therapy app. For some, translating their emotions and thoughts into text just isn’t the same as communicating with someone face-to-face.

Related Quiz: Do I Need Therapy?

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.


Access Affordable Online Therapy at PlushCare

At PlushCare, we’re proud to offer premier online counseling services. Our licensed therapists can provide online mental health counseling and help with conditions such as depression and anxiety.

PlushCare therapy patients report feeling less anxious, improved self esteem, and general mood improvements.

Seeing a therapist with PlushCare is easy. Download our online therapy app or click here to set up your virtual therapy appointment.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.


Please Note: PlushCare does not have online psychiatrists at this time. That said, our primary care physicians are able to prescribe mental health medications such as antidepressants, and if necessary can provide you with a referral to a psychiatrist.

Read More About Online Counseling


PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

National Library of Medicine. Primary-care patients’ expectations and experiences of online cognitive behavioural therapy for depression: a qualitative study. Accessed on March 28, 2021 at 

Taylor & Francis Online. Best Practice in Online Therapy. Accessed on November 10, 2020 at

National Institutes of Health. The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Accessed on July 26, 2020 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

Our commitment to you.

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

  • right Tick Image

    Research from sources you can trust

  • right Tick Image

    Medical reviews by field experts

  • right Tick Image

    Frequent content updates

More to learn.

Home Remedies for Gastritis

Home Remedies for Gastritis

Components of an Effective Diet for Gastritis In this article we’re going to go over some of the best known…

Shannon Chapman 9 minutes
Are Ear Infections Contagious?

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

How Contagious are Ear Infections? Ear infections are not contagious, however viral and bacterial infections that cause ear infections are…

Margaret A Spera, NP, APRN 9 minutes
Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The purpose is to help increase awareness of breast cancer and help with early…

Jennifer Nelson 4 minutes