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6 Best Online Therapy Services - 100% Free Virtual Therapy Apps and Online Counseling Chat Sites

For this article, MedicalWebTimes has reviewed 15 therapy services against benchmarks like counselor expertise, service price, and types of therapy available.

By MedicalWebTimesDec 2, 2020 12:00 AM

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In person therapy can be terrifying - letting your guts spill in front of a therapist puts you in an intimidating position where you may be tempted to lie or play things down. However, online therapy services remove some of that awkwardness.

They're also handy during a global pandemic!

Online therapy services allow you to chat with a qualified therapist via phone calls, video chat, video messaging, texting and more. This way, you can get help from professional counselors without leaving the comfort of your home.

For this article, MedicalWebTimes has reviewed 15 therapy services against benchmarks like counselor expertise, service price, and types of therapy available.  In addition, user reviews were compiled and evaluated to create a score for each site, resulting in the below list of the 6 best therapy sites available online.

6 Best Online Therapy Services

  1. Best online therapy overall - Talkspace

  2. Best free counseling online - Online-Therapy.com

  3. Best licensed marriage and family therapy - AmWell.com

  4. Best android app for online therapy - 7 Cups

  5. Best for teen counseling - BetterHelp

  6. Best online counseling for quick responses - Ginger.io

1. Talkspace - Best online therapy and counseling service overall

Pros

  • #1 Online therapy site in the world

  • Unlimited messaging

  • Sections for teen counseling, family therapy, LGBTQ+

  • Text, audio, live video messaging options

  • Over 3,000 trained online therapists

Cons

  • Not the cheapest virtual therapy

  • Sessions don't start immediately after signup

Talkspace is unique because it uses a "matching therapist" when you first sign up. This person's job is to match you with a therapist who best suits your needs, future goals, and walk of life. If you don't like your therapist, you're able to change them and find someone who's better for you.

That's a huge plus.

Talkspace also has numerous options for its mental health services, allowing you to speak to various teen, marriage and family therapists through video, audio, text messaging and more. It's not the cheapest virtual counseling in the world, but it's #1 for a reason!

Does TalkSpace cost money?

Yes, like most online therapy, Talk-Space is not free. 

TalkSpace pricing is between $65 to $99 a week depending on your plan and level of access.

Does insurance pay for Talkspace?

EAP insurance is accepted, but it doesn't seem like many other forms of healthcare insurance and accepted at this time.

2. Online-Therapy.com - Best free online counseling

  • Free online therapy (at first)

  • Just $32 to $64 per week (billed monthly)

  • Online therapy toolbox

  • Chat via phone, text, live video chat

Cons

  • Not free for long

  • Limited to office hours (not 24/7)

Online-Therapy.com is a unique mental health service in that it initially begins for free, allowing you to get a feel for the website and how it works. Most online therapy platforms charge you straight away, so this is a good way to try online therapy and mental health services if you're skeptical.

I know I was at first!

This brilliant counseling service is great for relationship issues, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and much more, using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as its main method of helping people. CBT is all about identifying negative thought patterns and challenging them in order to build new, healthier mental frameworks.

It works for many people, so maybe give it a try.

3. AmWell - Best licensed marriage and family therapy

Pros

  • 24/7 doctor on demand service

  • Telemedicine service w/ licensed professional therapists

  • Psychiatry services

  • Choose your therapist from a list

Cons

  • VERY expensive - $99 to $110 per 45-minute session

  • Technical problems common

  • Only real-time phone & video sessions

AmWell is a telemedicine site that provides online counseling services, as well as psychiatry services too. It's very uber-medical and professional, allowing you to speak to licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers about various topics.

However, you can only chat via live video sessions (or phone if there are issues) for 45 minutes at a time, so it very much has the vibe of "in person therapy" sessions just played out via live chat. If you're trying to get away from the scary nature of traditional therapy, then AmWell isn't the place to do it.

Still, you can choose your therapist and you do get a doctor on demand 24/7, so it may be worth the steep price if you can afford it.

4. 7 Cups - Most affordable mental health professionals

Pros

  • Speak to over 300,000 "listeners" for free

  • Live chat with a professional therapist for $150 per month

  • Teen listeners for 13-17 year olds

  • Unique concept

Cons

  • Health insurance not accepted

  • Problems with rogue listeners

The idea behind 7 Cups is to create an online mental health support network of over 300,000 "trained listeners" and 180 licensed therapists. You can speak to the "listeners" for free, but you'll have to pay $150 to speak to a professional therapist (that's still one of the cheapest online therapist prices you'll find).

However, the listeners aren't always perfect.

As is to be expected when dealing with non-professionals, there can be problems with rogue listeners who abruptly disconnect, pass judgment on you, flirt with you, or give poor and inappropriate advice. If you're already quite vulnerable, it may be better to speak to an actual therapist rather than roll the dice with these listeners.

Regardless, 7 Cups still has some of the cheapest online therapists out there, so it's a good budget option.

5. BetterHelp - Best for family & teen counseling

Pros

  • Specializes in various types of therapy

  • LGBTQ and teens counseling

  • A+ Better Business Bureau rating

  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Hard to cancel

  • Free trial is useless

  • Difficult to use for some

One of the most popular online counseling sites, BetterHelp has professional counselors and marriage and family therapists who are trained in a wide range of disciplines. 

Therapy types offered include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Person-Centered Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, Schema-Focused Therapy and more.

So yeah, that's a lot of therapy.

However, BetterHelp is difficult to cancel after you sign up, and while they offer a free trial, many users think that it's a bit rubbish. Nonetheless, you can find a therapist for issues such as eating disorders, substance misuse, anxiety, depression, relationship issues and much more.

How much does BetterHelp cost?

This service costs a reasonable price if you are billed annually. However, monthly billing will cost a lot more. Here's how it breaks down:

  • $80 per week  (weekly)

  • $65 per week (per month)

  • $45 per week (quarterly)

  • $35 per week (annually)

It might be worth trying one of the weekly or monthly options and then going with a cheaper long-term plan if you decide that you like the service.

6. Ginger.io - Best for quick responses

Pros

  • $129 per month (cheapest option)

  • 24/7 mental health support

  • Schedule same-day therapy sessions

  • Live video chats

Cons

  • Best therapy is expensive

  • No health insurance plan accepted

Ginger varies in price from $129 to $349 per month depending on the level of service you want access to. This makes it good for many people with mental health issues as it can fit into various budgets and lifestyles. Ginger's trained behavioral health coaches are on demand for help with anxiety, depression, and more.

After your therapist messages you, your video chat will begin!

In addition to connecting you with a mental health professional, Ginger also gives you tools such as mental health courses, helping you to improve your coping skills between live chat sessions. Sometimes you can also schedule same-day therapy sessions and get a reply in 60 seconds or less!

The fast customer service of this online therapy platform is a huge selling point.

Is online counseling legal?

Yes, it's perfectly legal to provide counseling services online. In fact, online therapy has been around in some form since the 1990s.

As long as the online therapy platform is using licensed therapists who are trained and qualified in their respective fields, then it's perfectly legal to conduct online therapy through live sessions, video, text chat, phone calls and more.

Some online counseling is essentially a traditional therapy session performed through live sessions online, whereas some use more "casual" techniques such as texting your therapist or sending voice notes back and forth.

Is online therapy private and confidential?

Online therapy is private and confidential if you're using reputable services such as Talk-Space, BetterHelp, and AmWell. The live sessions are usually encrypted and can only be accessed exclusively by your online therapist.

Some services may not keep records of your video and phone sessions at all - your licensed therapist will just take notes.

Every platform is different, but any reputable online counseling service worth its salt will have stringent privacy and confidentiality agreements in place. 

Check the FAQs of your specific website for more detailed information.

How do I choose an online therapist?

It can be difficult to choose an online therapist that suits you - if you're able to choose at all. Some sites allow people to choose their therapist from a list, while others automatically pair you with a therapist at random.

Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for a licensed therapist online.

What can you afford?

Before we get into the specifics of anything else, you need to think about your budget. Therapy can be very expensive, especially if you're using it regularly. Different online counseling providers have vary different prices that may suit different people:

  • TalkSpace is $65-$99 a week

  • Online-Therapy.com is $32-$64 a week

  • 7 Cups is around $35 a week

  • Ginger is around $33-$87 a week

  • BetterHelp is $35-$80 per week

  • AmWell charges $99-$110 for a single 45-min session

Some of those prices are approximate because some counseling providers list their prices as weekly, while others list them as monthly.

All of them are usually billed monthly, but they may advertise their price on a weekly basis because it "sounds cheaper" when you read $35 per week as opposed to $140 per month, for example.

Don't be fooled!

Even if your licensed therapist sessions sound cheap, be aware of how much that adds up over time. $35 a week is $1,820 in a year - many people just can't afford that.

Consider services where they let you try multiple therapists

Some services, such as AmWell, allow you to choose from a list of licensed therapists to find one who suits your needs. Different people have different skills and specialisms, so it makes sense to let users pick the people they want to talk to.

Then there's TalkSpace.

TalkSpace actually uses a "matching therapist" who you speak to and talk about your therapy goals. Then, they match you with a regular therapist who they think will be right for your needs. If you don't like them, you can return to your matching therapist and request to try someone else.

Different platforms have different rules for changing therapists, so make sure you check what the deal is with your platform of choice before getting stuck with people you don't like.

Do you want a therapist with a similar background to you?

Many people want a therapist who has a similar background to them. For example, you may want to speak to a specific therapist if you're:

  • A person of color (POC)

  • LGBTQ+

  • Religious

  • Female (or female identifying)

  • A teenager

  • Disabled

For example, a straight therapist might find it hard to relate to the problems of a gay person, while a white therapist may find it difficult to relate to the problems of an African-American person. This isn't always the case, but many people feel more comfortable speaking to someone with shared life experience.

Sites like TalkSpace have an LGBTQ section, a teen counseling section, and a couples therapy section.

Some services like Am-Well also let you pick between a list of different therapists, all of whom have different identities, backgrounds, specialisms and life experience. It's important to find someone who you feel comfortable talking about your true feelings with.

What are the benefits of online therapy?

You might think of online therapy as "second best" to traditional in person treatment, but this isn't necessarily the case. Lots of research has suggested that online therapy is just as good as traditional therapy in person.

It's not the setting that matters - it's the therapy itself.

There are actually a lot of benefits to online therapy in terms of the counseling itself and the convenience it gives you in your everyday life. Here are some of the main upsides of online counseling to consider:

  1. Increased confidence - people are often more willing to be truthful when speaking online because it doesn't feel as intimate and intimidating

  2. Therapy for All - people in rural areas and remote locations have an easier time accessing therapy without traveling to a city

  3. You can use pseudonyms - some online therapists allow you to use pseudonyms and nicknames if you're too shy to use your real name

  4. It's cheaper - speaking to therapists and clinical social workers online is usually always cheaper than in-person therapy

  5. It's more convenient - you can speak to licensed therapists at times that suit you without worrying about commutes, childcare, and other issues

  6. The ultimate privacy - all reputable online therapists are highly secure, and you'll never bump into someone you know in the waiting room!

These are just some of online counseling's many benefits. If you're having mental health issues but you're afraid to go to face to face therapy due to shyness or the current pandemic, give online therapy sites a try.

Can you get cognitive behavioral therapy online?

Yes, you can get cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) online through online therapy providers like BetterHelp and Online-Therapy.com.

If delivered by qualified therapists, then CBT online can be just as good as CBT in face to face therapy, with numerous studies finding that there's basically no difference between the two as long as the treatment itself is good.

Is there a way to get therapy for free?

While some online therapy platforms do offer free sessions and certain free services, you'll never really get a session with a licensed therapist for free unless it's some sort of starter offer to get people interested in the service.

However, 7 Cups has a network of over 300,000 trained listeners who are volunteers that you can speak to for free. It's important to note that these listeners are amateurs and are not trained therapists, so the advice they give you may or may not be good.

Sadly, good therapy always has a cost!

Online-Therapy.com allows you to use the service for free at first, but they will start to charge you soon after. You’re always going to pay if you want to speak to a professional on a long-term basis - they need to make a living, ultimately.

If you're a teen who's looking for online help, speak to a parent or guardian about what they can afford (if you're able to).

Does insurance pay for online therapy?

Your health insurance plan can sometimes pay for online therapy, but it's not very common and it depends on what type of health insurance you have.

Sigh.

Annoyingly, many of the insurance plans that cover in-person therapy do not cover online therapy. Make sure you check with the health insurance provider and the online therapist site.

Best online therapy according to Reddit 

It's always useful to get the perspective of real-life people who've used these services, and Reddit is a great forum for people to discuss these mental health services.

We've looked through subreddits like r/mentalhealth and r/talktherapy to give you some quotes and recommendations:

"I used talkspace and loved it. My therapist would text me back at 4 am. We talked as much as I needed. I’m in a better place so I no longer use it but I would definitely sign up again"

u/producermaddy

"i really only recommend it if you can do video chatting/tele-therapy. why? because even in the best circumstances, in therapy everyone tends to be defensive and tell things in the best possible light. a good therapist needs to see your body language and hear your tone of voice to read between the lines and know when to encourage you to open up."

u/todayonbloopers

"I used betterhelp.com and it's amazing. There is no limit to the amount of messages that go back and forth in a day plus you can do live sessions. Live sessions can be video, calling, or typing back and forth in real time."

u/jer1579

"I like the fact that I can message any time and I love the flexibility for scheduling live sessions. You can video chat, text chat, or voice call for those and they last 30 minutes. I don't know yet if there's a limit to how many you can schedule per week or not. It's been a good fit for me so far. Hope this helps, OP."

u/alexandermals

"I've had positive experiences with seeing therapists via Skype, though I didn't have a good experience with BetterHelp when I tried it. I think it's best just to do a Google search and look for therapists that specialise in the type of therapy or area you need help with"

u/WhiteTigerZimri

"I cry when I’m stressed. Mad. Sad. I hate it. It makes it so I can’t get my words out without hyperventilating. So I liked that I could write it out. And I liked that i had the option to talk via video if I wanted. And with them responding in text form; I could reread it over and over."

u/GCRobin

Is online therapy cheaper than in person therapy?

Most of the time online therapy is cheaper than traditional therapy. 

This is because licensed therapists working online have more flexibility in their schedule and can often see more people than if they were confined to traditional face to face sessions. There is also reduced cost and overheads (they don't have to rent an office and pay the electricity, etc).

However, if you want good customer service, unlimited messaging, and multiple ways to use the service (live chat, video, texting, phone calls etc.) then the price of counseling online will usually be higher and may come close to the price of seeing a regular therapist in an office. 

The cheapest online service often just covers texting back-and-forth.

The cost of online counseling service providers covered in this article ranges from $32 to $99 per week, though you will get many different features for those prices. In contrast, traditional counseling will cost an average of $90 per session in the US. Assuming that you see a therapist once a week, most of these online services would be significantly cheaper.

Conclusion - What is the best online therapy?

In my opinion, TalkSpace is the best way to speak to licensed therapists online.

It's moderately priced, covers EAP health insurance, and it can match you to professional therapists covering specialist topics including teens, couples, LGBTQ+ and more. With text, voice messaging and live chat sessions, there are numerous ways to get the help you need.

However, if you're looking for something a little cheaper, Online-Therapy.com is also a great recommendation thanks to its CBT counseling, mental health toolbox, and various different ways to use the service.

Whichever online mental health counseling service is right for you, we hope you find that help that you need at a price you can afford. Good luck!

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