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Seeking out therapy can be incredibly difficult, especially if you lack insurance. From combating the stigma associated with mental health care to finding a provider that is a good fit for you, the process can be overwhelming. Factor in carving out time from your day to get to a therapist’s office and you may find yourself turned off from the idea altogether.
Online counseling services can broaden your options for finding a therapist, and make therapy not only easier, but more affordable and accessible. Since you don’t have to worry about attending sessions in person and won’t be focusing on finding a provider in your exact location, you’ll have a wider range of therapists to choose from. Plus, you can schedule your appointment for before you begin work or on a midday break. The convenience of online therapy services is unmatched, but not all platforms are equal. We surveyed 105 users of 55 different online therapy companies and 180 users of 25 popular therapist directories, tested out the companies ourselves, and spoke with subject matter experts in order to find the best online therapy services. Here are our picks.
Best Online Therapy of 2023
- Overall: Talkspace
- Best for Availability: BetterHelp
- Best for Depression: Brightside Health
- Best for Couples: Octave
- Best for BIPOC Communities: Inclusive Therapists Directory
- Best for LGBTQIA+: TherapyDen Directory
- Best Relationship Course: OURS
- Best for Integrative Care: Hers
- Best for Substance Use: Mindful Care
- Best Matching Service: Two Chairs
When choosing an online therapy provider, we recommend that you read the company’s privacy guidelines before you sign up to better understand whether it is HIPAA-compliant and whether it shares any private information with third parties. There have been some concerns raised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several government officials about what user health information online therapy providers collect and what they do with any information they collect.
Overall : Talkspace
- Cost: $276 to $436 per month
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual, couples, and teen therapy; psychiatry
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
Talkspace offers various therapy plans and accepts insurance, making it a great fit for those who need flexible care that is covered by their insurance plan.
Easy access to therapists on a daily basis
Different forms of therapy (individual, couples, teens)
Psychiatric/medication management services available
Available in all 50 states
Recently documented privacy concerns
Expensive out-of-pocket costs
Talkspace is an online therapy platform that gained popularity for offering text messaging-based sessions. It has since expanded its services to include live video and audio sessions for individuals, couples, and teens seeking therapeutic support. Plus, you can also receive psychiatry services.
It is currently in-network with insurance companies like Cigna and Optum among others. Talkspace also partners with major corporations to provide employees with discounted or free therapy, so check in with your employer to see if this is an option for you. Additionally, it typically offers a $100 discount on the first month of services. You can find the code at the top of its homepage.
Heads up, though: Talkspace has come under fire for misusing user data. Be sure to read its privacy policies to make sure this platform’s security practices are right for you.
Talkspace offers three tiers of therapy plans:
- The first tier offers unlimited messaging with a therapist for $276 a month.
- The second tier gets you unlimited messaging and weekly 30-minute live therapy sessions (video or audio). It costs $396 a month.
- The third tier offers everything included in the first and second tiers, plus access to weekly mental health workshops.
Its couples therapy plan is $436 a month and includes weekly 30-minute sessions and unlimited messaging.
Psychiatry services are offered on a per session basis. The initial evaluation session costs $249 and subsequent sessions are $125.
Talkspace does accept insurance so if the company takes your plan, you will only be responsible for your copay.
The users we surveyed are pleased with the qualifications of Talkspace therapists, with 92% of those we surveyed giving them an overall positive rating of good, very good, or excellent. Seventy-five percent of users would use Talkspace again if they needed a new therapist, and 97% of those we surveyed said Talkspace beats out other online therapy services they’ve used in the past.
Best for Availability : BetterHelp
- Cost: $320 to $400 per month
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual, couples, and teen therapy
- Insurance Accepted? No
BetterHelp is an online therapy service that offers live chat, phone, and video sessions to individuals, couples, and teens in every state in the U.S. and 200 countries abroad. This makes it the most accessible online therapy platform of all the companies we reviewed.
Variety of treatment formats
Accessibility options for disabled users
Services available in 50 states and 200 countries
Not a fit for everyone
Fees can be cost-prohibitive
BetterHelp is one of the largest mental health platforms in the world, with services available in all 50 states and 200 countries. This alone makes therapy much more accessible. It vets its providers to ensure each therapist has at least three years of experience and passes a case study exam. The exam is known for being challenging, and just 25 percent of those who apply are actually accepted to serve as BetterHelp therapists.
The company offers services for individuals, couples, and teens ages 13 and above. This variety means someone can opt to seek out individual therapy for themselves, support for their relationship, and even help the teen in their life. Some of the mental health conditions BetterHelp treats include anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, ADHD, and self-esteem issues, making it a great fit for many. All therapy sessions are delivered through live chat, phone, or video.
BetterHelp isn’t the most affordable treatment option. It prices its services according to a surge model. This means that the higher the demand is in your area for online services, the higher your fee will be. Since there is already a high demand for mental healthcare nationwide, we find this practice problematic. Only 58% of BetterHelp users surveyed found the platform to be affordable. This means nearly half of those we surveyed struggled with the service’s affordability.
At BetterHelp, there is only one plan available and the exact price you’ll pay varies from $320 to $400 a month, because the company engages in surge pricing so the rate depends on where you live, your therapist’s experience, and demand for therapy when you sign up - The higher the demand, the higher the rate. The plan includes four live sessions and unlimited in-app messaging with your therapist.
Unfortunately, BetterHelp also does not accept insurance.
According to our survey, users are satisfied with their experiences on the platform, with 86% of BetterHelp clients surveyed giving it an overall positive rating. The sign-up process was pretty painless as well: 76% of users surveyed found it to be easy.
Best for Depression : Brightside Health
- Cost: $95 to $349 a month
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual therapy, psychiatry
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
Brightside Health is an affordable online therapy platform that offers both individual therapy and psychiatry. The company focuses specifically on treatment for depression, as well as anxiety.
Ability to easily track progress
Simple and efficient messaging options
Cannot prescribe controlled substances
Brightside Health is an online therapy platform dedicated to helping those with depression and anxiety feel better. It offers live therapy sessions, virtual therapy lessons, and psychiatry. The first therapy session is 45 minutes and subsequent sessions are about 30 minutes long. Psychiatry sessions last about 15 minutes, but the initial session may run longer.
We are specifically impressed with its psychiatry services for depression. Brightside’s psychiatrists can prescribe all sorts of antidepressants, including SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, and atypical antidepressants. For $95 a month, you’re able to receive ongoing medication management.
A huge issue with medication management is needing to get a refill or adjusting your medication swiftly. Brightside helps make this possible with its communication formats. You can message your psychiatrist at any time and track your progress within the platform. If you choose to receive therapy in addition to medication management, your mental healthcare becomes even more streamlined since all your needs will be managed through one platform.
Brightside offers three different plans:
- The individual therapy plan includes four weekly sessions and access to virtual therapy lessons that focus on self-care and mindfulness. This plan costs $299 a month.
- The psychiatry plan offers one session a month for $95. Any medications that aren’t covered by insurance will cost $15 each.
- To have access to both the individual therapy and psychiatry plans, it costs $349 a month.
Brightside does accept some health insurance plans so you could pay less than the amounts above, depending on your copay.
Brightside has an impressive user rating: 90% of clients we surveyed gave it a positive rating of good, very good, or excellent. Seventy-one percent of users considered it a good value for the money it costs. Over half of users are able to use their insurance benefits to fund their care, providing promising insight into the range of insurance plans it accepts.
Best for Couples : Octave
- Cost: $75 to $275 per session
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individuals, couples, family, and group therapy
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
Octave offers a variety of different types of therapy—individual, couples, family, and group—but we especially love its eclectic approach to couples therapy and its matching service that pairs you with a therapist.
Accepts some insurance plans
Wide range of services
Cost isn’t clear during sign-up
Not available in all states
Octave aims to provide quality mental healthcare to a wide range of clients. It accomplishes this mission by accepting insurance and working with therapists who are diverse in terms of credentials and identities. Octave offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy. It also offers workshops that focus on psychoeducation, coping tools, and self-care. However, it is our choice for best couples therapy due to its evidence-based approach. Therapists on the platform practice emotionally-focused therapy (EFT), the Gottman Method, and integrative behavioral couples therapy (ICBT).
Some virtual therapy platforms, like BetterHelp and Talkspace, offer therapy sessions that are as short as 30 minutes and might be offered in a live chat format. While that works for some couples, many may need longer than 30 minutes to delve into their issues. Sessions through Octave last at least 45 minutes and may vary based on the care plan you and your therapist develop.
However, a major drawback to keep in mind is services are only available in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
Session prices vary based on the type of treatment and location. Individual therapy will range from $170 to $250 per session. Couples and family therapy is $190 to $275. Group therapy is about $75 per session.
Octave users surveyed were satisfied with their providers, with 82% stating their therapist met most, if not all, of their needs. Seventy-four percent of users were impressed with the provider qualifications presented.
Best for BIPOC Communities : Inclusive Therapists Directory
- Cost: Free
- Types of Therapy Offered: Psychiatry; individual, couples, family, children, teens, and group therapy
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
The Inclusive Therapists Directory offers a roster of thousands of therapists dedicated to providing culturally informed mental health care.
Wide range of services and providers
Offers a therapist matching service
All therapists are thoroughly vetted
Services aren’t available in all 50 states
Doesn’t clearly disclose which state therapists can practice in
Finding a BIPOC provider can be extremely challenging since 84% of mental healthcare providers are white. Only 4% identify as Black, another 4% as Asian, and 6% as Latinx. If you’re a person of color who is hoping to find a provider that looks like you, it can feel like a daunting process. The Inclusive Therapists Directory makes the process much easier. It has aggregated practitioners across 46 states, Washington D.C., and Canada, providing plenty of options to choose from. The directory has providers that offer therapy for individuals, couples, families, children, and teens, as well as group therapy, psychiatry, reiki, and breathwork.
“BIPOC therapy seekers have a unique experience that is sometimes not accounted for in education and therapeutic models,” says subject matter expert Nic Hardy, PhD, LCSW. As such, he encourages those searching for a provider to be intentional in finding a therapist that has both the professional and personal experience they feel could meet their needs. The Inclusive Therapists Directory can make this much easier.
Pricing is dependent upon the provider, location, and type of treatment provided. Service fees can range from $29 to over $119 per month, though some do accept health insurance or offer sliding scale rates. In fact, of the 180 users of this directory in our survey, 79% used health insurance to pay for their care.
The majority of users surveyed (68%) classified the process of finding a provider with this directory as easy, and another 24% said the process was average. 81% of users were either satisfied or very satisfied with the therapist options listed in the directory. Another 77% of stated they were likely, or very likely, to recommend this directory to others.
Best for LGBTQIA+ : TherapyDen Directory
- Cost: Free
- Types of Therapy Offered: Medication management; individual, couples, family, children, teen, and group therapy
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
We thrive in community, not in isolation, and the LGBTQIA+ experience is no exception. TherapyDen is our pick for the best LGBTQIA+ therapy due to the sexual and gender diversity of providers on the directory.
Available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico
Emphasis on care for LGBTQ+ populations
Wide range of languages spoken
Cannot book directly through the site
No accessibility features on the site
TherapyDen is a social justice-oriented therapy directory that focuses on celebrating mental health for diverse populations. One of the first things you’ll notice when landing on the homepage is a section that states “Therapy for the Trans Community” followed by a listing with a wide range of trans-affirming therapists from all over the country. It is estimated that there are over one million trans folks in the United States alone and they face significant barriers to care. Some of these barriers include cost and experiences of discrimination. This makes the feature of highlighting trans-affirming providers all the more necessary.
Beyond its support for the trans community, TherapyDen offers the ability to filter your therapist search based on gender, ethnicity, cost, specialty, and insurance offerings. The directory lists a range of clinicians who offer individual, couples, family, children, teen, and group therapy. There are also psychiatrists who offer medication management on the platform, too.
“A platform that provides individuals with diverse options is a tremendous value-add,” says Dr. Hardy. He notes that even in communities with a niche focus, like the LGBTQIA+ community, diversity should still exist since no one population is homogeneous. We feel TherapyDen achieves this effort.
As with all directories, pricing varies based on the provider. Some providers offer sliding scale rates and accept insurance plans. You can filter based on your needs when performing a search on the directory.
TherapyDen has a generally positive reputation; its founder Jeff Guenther has over 2.4 million followers on TikTok. The majority of his video content has high engagement with positive user feedback.
Of the total 180 users we surveyed, nearly 30% indicated that finding a therapist with a similar identity or cultural background was most important to them in the search for care, and another 26% said that finding an affirming provider was one of their priorities. Keeping these stats in mind, about 12% of TherapyDen users felt the directory could improve by bringing on more therapists from a background similar to theirs. Despite this, about 70% of users reported they were either likely or very likely to recommend TherapyDen to others.
Best Relationship Course : OURS
- Cost: $400-$450
- Types of Therapy Offered: Video sessions and self-guided lessons for couples
- Insurance Accepted? No
OURS is a relationship course that reimagines the concept of couples counseling. It is an educational program that helps couples learn healthier modes of communication.
Unique approach to relationship-building
Perfect for those with busy schedules
Covers a wide range of topics
Isn’t considered therapy
Isn’t appropriate for couples with severe stressors
OURS makes the idea of getting help for your relationship feel fun, cool, and engaging. This course can be completed at your own pace and covers hot-button topics like family planning, common values, money management, and communication styles. You and your partner will meet with an OURS guide (who is essentially a relationship coach) for two private 45-minute sessions. Together, you and your partner will also complete four self-guided relationship lessons and will have a variety of communication prompts to try out between sessions.
This program is perfect for those who are newly partnered, about to get married, and everything in between. We like that it can fit a variety of lifestyles, so even couples who travel often can schedule their live sessions for when they’re together and can complete the lessons while they’re apart.
The OURS program costs $400-$450 and includes two 45-minute live sessions with an OURS guide and four 60-minute self-directed lessons. You’ll also be sent different prompts throughout the program to generate emotional intimacy and connection.
You can either pay $400 for all six sessions upfront or, if you want to trial the first two sessions, it's $50 then if you do want to continue, you can pay another $450.
Out of the OURS users we surveyed, 78% said most, if not all, of their needs were met. OURS users were generally satisfied, with 80% of those surveyed giving it a positive rating of good, very good, or excellent overall.
Best for Integrative Care : Hers
- Cost: Psychiatry starts at $49 per month, therapy is $99 per session
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual therapy, psychiatry
- Insurance Accepted? No
Hers is more than a mental health platform: it is a women’s wellness hub. It offers individual counseling, medication management, birth control, primary care services, sexual health support, and even supplements.
Integrative range of services
Affordable psychiatry options
Flexible treatment options
Doesn’t accept insurance
Is solely focused on women
Hers is an integrative wellness platform for women. When you head over to its website, you aren’t only offered mental health treatment in the form of individual therapy and psychiatry; you also have access to birth control, supplements, primary care, and sexual health support. This holistic approach to women’s health sets Hers apart from many other therapy platforms. While it doesn’t accept insurance, its offerings are reasonably priced. Its psychiatry services are especially affordable, starting at just $49 a month.
Its approach to women’s mental health is refreshing and non-stigmatizing. “Finding the right therapist can sometimes change someone’s feelings and beliefs around therapy and the surrounding stigmas,” says Dr. Hardy. We feel that Hers’ approach to mental health for women can combat that stigma while helping women in feeling heard and supported.
Therapy at Hers costs $99 per session, while psychiatry services start at $49 per month, depending on the medication prescribed.
Hers received one of the highest user satisfaction ratings in our survey, with 91% of users giving it positive feedback. Users were satisfied with the providers’ qualifications, with 89% of them giving it a high rating. Hers is also highly rated when it comes to therapist diversity, with 87% of users stating they found the diversity of providers to be good, very good, or excellent.
Best for Substance Use : Mindful Care
- Cost: $35 to $175 per session
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual and group therapy, adolescent and adult psychiatry, substance use counseling
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
Mindful Care offers support specifically for substance use, with medication, individual therapy, group therapy, and even addiction coaching.
Accepts Medicare and Medicaid
Offers same and next-day appointments
Addiction coaching is available
Only available in CT, FL, IL, MI, NJ, and NY
Mindful Care aims to make mental health care access much easier by offering same-day appointments and accepting insurance. It even accepts Medicaid and Medicare, which is rare for many online therapy companies. When someone is ready to get help for substance use, it can be essential to receive care immediately and to have support from others who can relate to the unique experience of substance recovery. Mindful Care offers a program called Mindful Recovery, which is a harm reduction program that uses medication-assisted treatment and therapy to help individuals recover from substance use. This program can treat both opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.
Mindful Care offers 20-minute and 40-minute individual therapy sessions for adults, as well as urgent psychiatric care. Virtual group therapy (held in 60-minute sessions) is also available.
While we appreciate Mindful Care’s offerings, its services are only available in six states, though it is working on expanding to other locations.
The prices at Mindful Care vary by service:
- An initial psychiatric evaluation costs $175 and lasts 40 minutes. Follow-up sessions are $75 and last 20 minutes.
- An initial therapy evaluation costs $150. Subsequent individual sessions are $50 for 20 minutes or $100 for 40 minutes.
- Group therapy sessions cost $35 each.
Mindful Care does accept a variety of insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, Oscar, UnitedHealthcare, and more, so you could pay less depending on your copay and deductible.
The users we surveyed loved this service, with 92% rating Mindful Care as good, very good, or excellent. The majority of users (84%) surveyed found Mindful Care to be especially helpful in connecting them to a therapist. Eighty-three percent of those we surveyed are so confident in Mindful Care’s services, they’d recommend them to a friend.
Best Matching Service : Two Chairs
- Cost: $215 to $250
- Types of Therapy Offered: Individual therapy
- Insurance Accepted? Yes
Two Chairs offers a unique matching service where a licensed matching expert will meet with you for 45 minutes to discuss your preferences and goals before pairing you with a therapist.
Will match you with a new therapist anytime
Offers both weekly and bi-weekly sessions
Supports you through submitting insurance claims
Out-of-pocket costs are expensive
Only available in California and Washington
Two Chairs is an online therapy service offering individual therapy for adults 18 and over. However, what makes it stand out from the competition is that it offers a unique personalized matching service, which makes it perfect for those who are worn out by the process of interviewing various therapists to no avail. By attending an intake appointment with a licensed matching expert, you can share all your needs and then let them take it from there. You can expect to get matched anywhere between a few days to two weeks, depending on your scheduling needs.
Two Chairs is in-network with Kaiser Permanente, which is a rarity for most mental health companies. For those insured by other companies, Two Chairs will support you by filing a claim from start to finish. You can think of Two Chairs as a concierge service that takes on the bulk of administrative work for you so that you can focus on feeling better.
Services are offered per session at Two Chairs—it is not a subscription service. The initial matching appointment costs $260 and all subsequent sessions are $215. Both weekly and biweekly appointments are available.
According to our survey, Two Chairs users felt the matching process accounted for diversity amongst providers, with 70% of those surveyed rating the therapist diversity positively. However, only 54% of users were satisfied with the number of therapists that speak languages other than English, making this an area Two Chairs could improve upon. The majority (63%) of users surveyed would be comfortable recommending Two Chairs to a friend.
While there is no shortage of online therapy options, we confidently recommend companies like Talkspace, which accepts many types of insurance and offers affordable subscription plans with many different therapeutic options.
Brightside also stands out for its focus on depression and its stellar psychiatric services. In addition, the Inclusive Therapists and TherapyDen directories make searching for an LGBTQIA+ and/or BIPOC-identifying therapist easy and accessible.
Other Companies We Considered
We reviewed a total of 55 companies and evaluated 25 online therapist directories, including some, like Headway and Alma, that help you submit insurance claims, or others, like Mental Health Match, that offer therapist matching services. While there are some top contenders that didn’t make this list, like Online-therapy.com, we focused on companies that felt uniquely innovative in their offerings.
For example, Talkspace offers text messaging therapy within an app, which is great for those with busy schedules. While Online-therapy.com offers live chat therapy, it is coordinated through a website, which isn’t the best for someone on the go. User satisfaction ratings were also very important, so we chose companies that excelled in this area.
Guide to Choosing the Best Online Therapy Service
How Does Online Therapy Work?
There are a few ways to approach online therapy. First, you can sign up for a therapy platform like the ones we’ve outlined. These will typically match you with a therapist and offer a monthly plan that provides a certain number of sessions. Alternatively, you can use a therapist directory that offers available therapists according to your search criteria. You can filter your search based on your insurance, presenting issue, and location, and then connect with therapists directly.
Who Is Online Therapy For?
Online therapy is perfect for those with busy lifestyles, budget constraints, or who want a convenient form of treatment. The types of conditions that can benefit from therapy vary on a case-by-case basis. However, those who are experiencing a severe mental health disorder or thoughts of harming themselves or others won’t be the best fit for online therapy. These issues need the structure and containment that in-person sessions can better provide.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
In short: Yes, online therapy is effective and has been proven to be just as effective as in-person services in many circumstances. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be successful in treating a variety of disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar, and OCD. However, those who aren’t the most up-to-date on technology may struggle. Online therapy services often require some level of tech-savviness, and this may be off-putting for those who are hoping to decrease their reliance on technology. Just a heads up to those who have roommates or are living in tight quarters: a private and secure space for therapy is essential.
How Do I Pick the Right Therapy Service for Me?
When looking into an online therapy service, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you’ll want to consider what you’re seeking therapy for, the fee you can afford, if you need to use your insurance and what your mental health benefits are, and if you’re open to medication.
Additionally, consider how you’d like your treatment delivered. For example, are you intrigued by text messaging therapy, or is it essential that you receive therapy through video sessions? If you’re not sure, signing up for a platform that offers different modes of treatment could be a great fit.
You’ll also want to consider what conditions the company’s therapists can treat and what therapy modalities therapists use. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is a commonly used technique in online settings and can be successful in treating various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. Somatic therapies can also be used virtually. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a somatic modality that is proven effective at treating trauma-related issues virtually.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Do Online Therapy Services Cost?
The cost of online therapy services vary based on the type of service, frequency of sessions, and whether or not they are offered as a monthly plan or on a per-session basis. There are some providers that offer sessions as low as $35 and others that can exceed $400. Again, have an idea of your budget in mind when seeking services to make the process a bit easier.
Does Insurance Cover Online Therapy?
Some insurance companies will cover online therapy services. Be sure to call your insurance provider and ask them to explain your mental health benefits. They might even be able to provide some recommendations for services within your network.
Can Online Therapists Prescribe Medication?
Yes, depending on their qualifications. Psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and primary care doctors can prescribe medication. Therapists like licensed marriage and family therapists, clinical counselors, and clinical social workers cannot prescribe medication.
Is Online Therapy Confidential?
In accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), confidentiality is essential in health treatment settings. When it comes to mental health care, the only exception to confidentiality is when a child, elder, or dependent is being harmed, or when someone is planning to harm themselves or others. This means that your provider is not allowed to share details of your treatment and must maintain privacy practices like providing your services in a safe and secure location, maintaining all your files in a confidential manner, and respecting your right to privacy.
Despite this requirement for all healthcare treatments, there are some understandable concerns regarding privacy. In June 2022, Elizabeth Warren and two other U.S. Senators wrote an open letter to Talkspace and BetterHelp expressing concerns about their data privacy policies. In this letter, they pleaded for increased transparency in the companies' privacy practices.
There are risks associated with any healthcare treatment. Be sure to read the privacy policies before you sign up for an online therapy company. If you feel uncomfortable with anything, such as its usage of your data or being automatically opted in to clinical trials, consider working with a different company. There is no shortage of online therapy companies to choose from.
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