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Everything You Need to Know About Online Counseling

July 31, 2020 Read Time - 8 minutes

About Author

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.

Everything You Need to Know About Online Counseling

Interested in online counseling? You’re in the right place. In this ultimate guide to online counseling we’ll get into what online counseling is, your options (there are many) and if it’s right for you.

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

What is Online Counseling?

Online counseling is a modern approach towards talk therapy made possible with technology such as video chatting and in-app messaging. There are many different types of online counseling and which is best for you will depend on your individual needs.

Another common question we get is: what is online therapy, and is it right for me?

Online counseling and online therapy are very similar, if not the same. Also known as e-counseling, e-therapy is 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.

But first…

Is Online Therapy Effective?

You might be exploring the world of counseling for the very first time, or you might be a seasoned patient 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 indeed legit. As we’ll discuss later in this article, there are a number of sites which offer counseling sessions with trained professionals and doctors. The most popular platforms host hundreds of thousands of patients, all receiving very-real care. 

Read: How to Find a Therapist

But, is online therapy as effective as in-person therapy? Yes, online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy.

  • A 2014 study by the Journal of Affective Disorders found that depression is treated just as effectively via remote communications.
  • A different study, also conducted in 2014 by Behavior Research and Therapy found that online counseling was effective when treating anxiety disorders. Further, the results were still present 1 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 virtual counseling works 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?

Should I try online therapy? It is always difficult to take the first step towards 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 don’t have 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 of online counseling’s ease of access and scheduling flexibility, patients 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. For some, translating their emotions and thoughts into text just isn’t the same as communicating with someone face-to-face.

What is the Best Online Counseling?

A number of sites offer high quality online counseling. Here, we’ll be going over some of the best sites for you to try, as well answering one of your biggest questions: How much does online counseling cost?


BetterHelp costs $35-$80 per week depending on your plan.

The site has over 5,000 licensed therapists, a fully functional mobile app, and the option to video chat, call, or text with your therapist. BetterHelp offers online individual counseling, online marriage counseling, online couples counseling, online teen counseling, and more. 

Read: What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

If you select counseling for just yourself, you’ll be asked to start with a questionnaire that helps pair you the right therapist. If you’re looking for either couples counseling or teen counseling, you will be redirected to BetterHelp’s partner sites, ReGain and TeenCounseling.

BetterHelp is one of the largest and most trusted sites in online mental health counseling.


Talkspace is BetterHelp’s largest competitor, offering many of the same services. For $49 a week, you’ll receive unlimited asynchronous messaging with a therapist via video, audio, or text.

For $59 a week, you receive the same as the basic plan with one added live session per month. And for $79 a week you get all the same messaging features with 4 live sessions a month.

People often compare these two sites, and new users may find it difficult to decide between BetterHelp and Talkspace. Here are some general conclusions about the two:

  • BetterHelp plans all offer unlimited live messaging and phone sessions.
  • Only the premiums plans at Talkspace include live sessions.
  • Betterhelp is less of a commitment as you can sign up for a weekly membership.
  • Talkspace is the more affordable option starting at $49 a week. (Although BetterHelp technically offers a $35 a week plan, this plan is billed in a lump sum annually as opposed to Talkspace’s monthly billing – making it more expensive overall)

Free Online Counseling

No online service offers free live sessions with a therapist. Therapists and online counselors are highly educated and well trained, therefore their services aren’t free.

However, for those who are looking to save some money, there are alternative options for you to try. One of the most popular online counseling sites is 7 Cups of Tea.

7 Cups offers similar services to BetterHelp and Talkspace. However, 7 Cups also hosts free online chat rooms dedicated to conversation about mental health.

This platform is free for anyone to use, and only requires the creation of a user account.

From there, you can anonymously join an online chat room with real people to talk about your troubles and offer support to one another. Each chat room features a volunteer listener; someone over 15 years old who has completed a training course provided by 7 Cups. The site also has a popular Q & A page filled with user generated responses to mental health questions you might be asking yourself.

Give Online Counseling a Try

The truth about online counseling is it’s a great option for those looking for mental health treatment that don’t want an in office experience. It’s effective and often more affordable too.

That said, it’s not for everyone. If you have a serious mental illness that needs regular monitoring and medication management, then in-person therapy is recommended.

If you like what you’ve learned, the only way to find out if online counseling is right for you is to give it a try!

Read More About Online Counseling

Sources Teenagers Using Online Therapy for Treatment. Accessed on July 26, 2020. BetterHelp vs Talkspace: The In-Depth Review of Pros, Cons & Cost. Accessed on July 26, 2020. The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Accessed on July 26, 2020.

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.

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