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All There is to Know About Online Therapy

August 28, 2020 Read Time - 9 minutes

About Author

Riley has a background in international affairs and enjoys writing about health and public policy subjects. He hopes his work will provide readers with the tools to live happily.

Online Therapy | How it Works and if it’s Right For You

Curious about online therapy? Learn what it is, how it works, your options, and more. Read on to see if online therapy is right for you and take our therapy assessment quiz at the end!

What is Online Therapy?

Online therapy is another example of how traditional services are being translated into virtual experiences that you can take with you anywhere. With a variety of online platforms, therapy, chat rooms, and general mental health services, getting treatment online has never been easier.

Below, we’ll be taking a look at how to get the most out of your online therapy, as well as reviewing some of the most popular options you have to choose from. 

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

How Does Online Therapy Work?

Online therapy is revolutionizing the way people are able to access critical treatment. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online services were a growing industry with plenty of sites to choose from. Still, you may find yourself wondering, is online therapy legit?

Fortunately, yes, online therapy is legit and there are a multitude of services that host licensed therapists, psychiatrists and other specialists for you to talk with over video chat, the phone, or even text.

But does insurance cover online therapy? In many cases, yes. This will of course vary from one insurance plan to another, so make sure to read the fine print to find the right plan for you. Also be sure to check that the online therapy platform your using takes your insurance, before booking.

We’re going to dive into some of the most popular sites later in this article but for now, take time to consider these important factors if you’re interested in seeking out online therapy.

What to Consider Before Trying Online Therapy

  • What kind of therapy are you looking for? If you’ve been to therapy before, you might have a better idea of what you’re looking for. Whether COVID-19 has forced you to transition online, or whether you’re just trying something new, consider what you liked and didn’t like from in-person therapy. If you’re new to therapy, take a look below at some important factors to consider when choosing an online service.
  • How often do you want treatment? Is it important for you to have several appointments a week, or do you just want a monthly check up?
  • How would you like to communicate with your therapist? Over video chat, over the phone, through text, or email, a combination of these?
  • What is your budget? There are a variety of price points for any budget in online therapy.

Read: How Much Does Online Therapy Cost?


  • What kind of therapy are you looking for? There’s couple’s therapy, career therapy, grief therapy, family therapy, etc. Take the time to consider what it is you’re seeking help for.
  • What kind of environment do you want to take your therapy in? We recommend finding a space that’s appropriate for therapy where you can give it your full attention. Similarly, you’re going to need good wifi or cell service if you’re on the phone or video chatting.

Why Online Therapy is Gaining Traction

Online therapy is gaining traction for a number of reasons. First, let’s address the obvious: COVID-19. Like most things in our lives, therapy services have been forced to go online due to social distancing policy.


Related: Coronavirus Resource Center


It’s simply not safe to be in another room with someone who might be sick, and for that reason, therapy went virtual. However, long before COVID-19 struck, online platforms were hosting thousands of therapists for you to talk to.

Online therapy just makes sense. In this age, we communicate with one another constantly using our phones and computers. So, it’s only natural that therapy, a service at its core about communication, was made possible and popular online.

In-person therapy still has its benefits. For some people, speaking in-person makes all the difference by allowing them to connect with the therapist or loved ones better, or to just stay focused. But, by expanding therapy into online platforms, the number of people who have access to these services goes up and the costs are reduced.

How to Find an Online Therapist and What to Ask Before Starting Treatment

Unlike in-person therapy, finding an online therapist can be a very structured process. Just google some of the most popular services and explore their different offers. Before you start treatment, head to their FAQ pages to find popular questions about costs, plans, and different kinds of treatment. 

Before starting therapy make sure to have answers to the following question:

  • Do they take your insurance?
  • What are their areas of expertise?
  • How much experience do they have?
  • Where did your perspective therapist or psychiatrist go to school, including med school and residency?
  • Do they have specialty board certifications?

Just as with in-person therapy, you might find it useful to get a personal recommendation for a specific service. Having a friend or family member point you in the right direction can give you the extra boost of confidence in a service that might actually get you to sign up!

Additionally, your primary care physician can be a great starting point. The PCPs at PlushCare often help patients find mental health treatment, and can even provide mental health prescriptions themselves.


Read: How to Find a Therapist


Difference Between an Online Therapist and an Online Psychiatrist

Online therapists and an online psychiatrists differ in the same ways online as they do in-person

  • A therapist is a mental health expert, trained to help individuals resolve issues with their thoughts, emotions, behavior, and relationships. “Therapist” is used to refer to a wide range of specialists who provide a variety of treatment and rehabilitative options
  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who, like a therapist, specializes in mental health issues. However, a psychiatrist is qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. They are trained as physicians, and perform both medical and psychological tests to provide a concrete background of a person’s physical and mental state. In this way, a psychiatrist can write prescriptions for medication, such as antidepressants, that therapists cannot. 

Read: What’s the Difference Between and Psychiatrist and a Therapist?


Best Online Therapy Platforms

Whether you’re looking for online therapy for different mental health conditions or just trying to find the right virtual therapist, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular services below. So, what is the best online therapy site?

7 Cups of Tea

7 Cups of Tea does not include the ability to video chat or call. All communication with your therapist is via an unlimited confidential messaging platform provided by 7 Cups. Because online therapy costs can be expensive, 7 Cups also hosts free online therapy chat rooms where moderators help facilitate mental health discussions. 

BetterHelp

Betterhelp is one of the largest online networks of mental health professionals with 5,000 licensed therapists accessible on its site. They offer therapy and psychiatry services via video, phone and messaging. Their mission is to make professional counseling, accessible, affordable, and convenient. They have specialized therapists for individuals, couples and teens. Click here to visit BetterHelp’s site.

Talkspace

Talkspace offers different treatments for different prices, with messaging being the cheapest and video chatting being the most expensive. They start with an assessment to help match you with the right mental health professional for your needs.

Talk Space vs BetterhHelp

People often ask, which is better, Talkspace or BetterHelp? Both these sites are well respected and offer similar services. We encourage you to visit each site to see which may better serve your needs.

BetterHelp vs Talkspace Pricing

BetterHelp pricing is typically based on how long you sign up for, it can be billed weekly or monthly. The longer the commitment, the cheaper the weekly/monthly cost. If you know you’re in it for the long haul, Betterhelp may financially make more sense. That said, BetterHelp also has weekly plans, and while these may be more expensive, they’re great if you don’t know if you’re in it for the long haul.

Talkspace is billed monthly, there is no shorter option. Pricing is based on how often you meet with your therapist and through which mode of communication (messaging is cheapest and plans that allow live sessions are the most expensive). Talkspace offers the cheapest option which comes down to $49/week for unlimited text, video and audio messaging. Note these are not live sessions. The therapist will respond when they have time.

Talkspace vs BetterHelp Onboarding

The onboarding process differs between these two platforms. At Talkspace you can have a brief intake process where you answer some questions and then have the option to skip ahead to connect with a therapist.

At BetterHelp, you must go through an in depth intake process, answering questions that help the algorithm connect you with a compatible mental health professional.

Both companies allow you to easily request a new therapist if you are unsatisfied with your results.

Talkspace vs BetterHelp Services

Both Talkspace and BetterHelp offer psychiatric services, therapy and specialized care (i.e. couples therapy). They each have messaging services where you can write back and forth with your therapist. They also each offer live sessions. That said, BetterHelp offers more live sessions than Talkspace.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment PlushCare-App-Steps

Does PlushCare Offer Mental Health Serivces?

PlushCare does not currently have mental health professionals. That said, we are in the process of rolling out our mental health program and will have them soon!

For now, our primary care physicians can prescribe mental health prescriptions, such as antidepressants, to patient’s who may benefit from these types of medications. If you are looking for online therapy, we recommend you try one on the sites above and check back with us over the coming months!


Quiz: Do I Need Therapy?

Answer the following questions as accurately as possible to find out if you may benefit from therapy or mental health support.

Mental health disorders are extremely common and very treatable. The earlier treatment starts the better, so don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional if you're struggling. For many mental health disorders talk therapy combined with medication therapy is the first line of treatment.

This quiz is not a diagnostic tool but can be used to help determine tendencies associated with mental health disorders and recommend the appropriate treatment.

If you'd like to speak with a top online doctor about your mental health, book an appointment here.

I am concerned about a behavior, feeling, or something I am doing.
I find it more difficult to cope with things than usual.
I have trouble concentrating at work or school.
I read books or go on the Internet to discover more about the behavior or feeling that’s troubling me.
Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping because of all my worries.
I feel that there's something wrong with my body even though doctors tell me I’m fine.
I'm scared and nervous in public, and this is a big problem in my life.
I relive a terrible event that happened to me a long time ago.
I use more and more alcohol or drugs so I can deal with my problems better.
My drug or alcohol use causes problems in my job or relationships.
It’s hard for me to feel happy doing things I used to enjoy.
I eat a lot of food all at once and then make myself throw up.
I harm myself on purpose or do risky things without thinking.

Read More About Online Therapy


apa.org. A growing wave of online therapy. Accessed on July 9, 2020. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/online-therapy

apa.org. What you need to know before choosing online therapy. Accessed on July 9, 2020. https://www.apa.org/topics/online-therapy

talkspace.com. The Difference Between a Therapist and a Psychiatrist. Accessed on July 9, 2020.https://www.talkspace.com/blog/psychologist-psychiatrist-vs-therapist/

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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