Best Online Therapy Services in 2021 – Top Sites for Virtual Counseling – San Diego Magazine

Best Online Therapy Services

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If we observe the past couple of years, we will be able to notice a stark increase in the number of suicide cases. Suicide is often the result of many recurring and underlying mental health issues. Conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, panic disorders, eating disorders, depression are very common nowadays and result in recurring suicidal ideation, especially among teenagers and young adults. 

Such mental health issues can be treated to a great extent through therapy. However, therapy is often either marred by sigma or considered a luxury. Most people shy away from seeking therapy or counseling because they fear being shamed, while others simply cannot afford it.

This has resulted in the pop-up of many online therapy platforms. However, with so many websites claiming to offer counseling, one ends up getting confused and unsure of whom to trust. To help you navigate these online spaces and put your mind at ease, we have curated a list comprising seven top online therapy sites that offer the best online therapy services.

7 Best Online Therapy Platforms:

#1. BetterHelp: Overall Best Therapy Services Online

BetterHelp

Number one on our best online therapy platforms list is BetterHelp, a California-based online counseling platform formed in 2013. BetterHelp has a team of licensed mental health professionals who help and provide counseling to people struggling with anxiety, addictions, stress, eating disorders, anger issues, depression, PTSD, personal issues related to LGBTQ, and other similar issues. Individuals are counseled through video sessions, voice calls, chat, or messaging. You can easily access BetterHelp from your PC and cell phone.

Highlights

Accredited Mental Health Professionals

BetterHelp has recruited a team of accredited and certified therapists, psychologists, professional counselors, and social workers.

These professionals are required to have a master’s or a doctorate in their relevant field with more than three years of experience. This requirement has been set to uphold the quality of BetterHelp’s services and to ensure users get the adequate treatment they need. The recruitment process is so rigorous that only 20% of the applicants make it through and get recruited.

Evaluation of Recruits

BetterHelp has set a well-designed evaluation process for all its therapists, psychologists, and professional counselors. This process involves a case study exam, evaluation by a licensed clinician, and a video interview. BetterHelp also checks applicants’ state license status.

Doctor on Demand

Counselors will connect with you on an audio or video call or through live chat. 

Live Chat: For those that are uncomfortable speaking with a counselor or being on a video call, BetterHelp offers a live chat option. Through this method, you are assigned a live chat room through which you can send and receive messages from your counselor. You can send messages any time of the day, and your online therapy provider will reply once they see them. Both you and your counselor will receive an email whenever there’s a message on live chat.

Audio Calls: The calendar function allows you to mark your appointment for an audio call with your counselor.

Video Call: Video calls are scheduled exactly how audio calls are through the calendar function.

Pricing

BetterHelp comes with a payment plan that you can subscribe to. There are options to pay on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. The prices usually vary and depend on your location. Generally, the prices lie anywhere from $60 to $90.

Insurance companies don’t usually cover BetterHelp’s services. However, there is a financial aid option on the website for people who cannot afford online mental health services.

Privacy Protection

BetterHelp uses 256 encryption and has servers in various Tier 4-AWS data centers for 100% privacy and security to ensure that the user’s privacy remains intact. You also have the option to shred your live chat messages simply with one click.

Pros

  • 256-bit encryption to ensure privacy

  • Experienced therapists with more than 1,000 hours of professional experience

  • Licensed clinical social workers

  • Online therapy services

  • Therapist directory available

  • 98% success rate

  • Accredited with the Berkeley Well-Being Institute

  • High ratings

Cons

  • Can be costly

  • Not covered in insurance policies

⇒ Visit the Official Website of BetterHelp

#2. ReGain: Best Couple Therapy & Relationship Advice For Life

ReGain

ReGain is one of the best online counseling platforms for couples, especially married couples. The service was formed in 2016, and since then, its counselors have helped thousands of people.

Couples struggling with issues related to infidelity, loss of spark, lack of communication, and other such problems often reach out to counselors at ReGain for advice.

Highlights

Pricing

Pricing varies for each individual, but it ranges from $60 to $90 per week and is billed monthly. However, if you don’t find the result satisfactory, you can cancel at any point in time. ReGain does not work directly with insurance providers, however, you may be able to submit ReGain’s billing to your insurance company to request a reimbursement.

Privacy Protection

The communication between the couple and the therapist is 100% secured and protected by ReGain as per federal and state laws. These conversations are protected using encryption.

In addition, you also can shred the conversations that have taken place on the chatbot. The “Shred” option deletes all conversations in that particular thread. 

Professional Counselors

ReGain has ensured that all of its counselors and therapists are licensed, accredited, and trained. All of them offer their online therapy services independently to ReGain. They are counselors, social therapists, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, etc.

ReGain has set a minimum criterion that each of its counselors must hold a master’s or Ph.D. degree and be certified. In addition, each one of them must have a professional experience of 3 years.

Inclusivity

ReGain aligned its website with the requirements and guidelines set by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). By doing so, it is making itself accessible to disabled users.

Educational Articles

ReGain has uploaded many educational and insightful articles on its website. Some of their widely read articles include inner change, benefits of counseling for marriages, treatment of borderline personality disorder, discernment counseling, etc.

Pros

  • Online couples therapy platform

  • Users can hide identity when registering by adopting a nickname

  • Licensed clinical social workers

  • 24/7 access

  • Helpful FAQ section

Cons

  • Three-way sessions not supported

  • Does not accept insurance

⇒ Visit the Official Website of ReGain

#3. Teen Counseling: Live Therapy for Teen & Adults

Teen Counseling

The teenage years are the most defining and sometimes the most chaotic phase of one’s life. This is because many bodily changes are taking place and the change in hormones affect our moods greatly. As per research, 9.7% of teenagers face at least some sort of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, anger management, or suicidal tendencies. This is why giving proper guidance and counseling to teenagers is extremely crucial. For this reason, Teen Counseling was formed in 2013 to help teenagers navigate through various mental health issues and disorders with the help of 8000 professional counselors and therapists.

Highlights

Pricing

The services offered by Teen Counseling are priced between $60 and $90 per week. Payment is billed to your account every four weeks.

Privacy

All live chats and other chat boxes have been secured using 256-bit encryption and also the SSL encryption to ensure that user data and information remains private. To ensure further privacy, all counselors have been certified by the state, and even the client’s number isn’t shared with the counselors and therapists.

Sign-Up Process

First, choose whether you are signing up as a teen or as a parent. You will then be provided an information form to fill out. This questionnaire involves very basic questions and only took a couple of minutes to get completed. In the last step, you are required to sign up either using your email or by linking your Facebook account.

Pros

  • Online teen therapy platform

  • Licensed clinical social workers and licensed therapists.

  • Customer support contact form

  • Feasible pricing plans

Cons

  • Does not accept insurance

  • Does not prescribe medication

⇒ Visit the Official Website of Teen Counseling

#4. Talkspace

Talkspace is one of the most renowned therapy and counseling platforms out there. To date, it has helped over one million people struggling with various mental health issues and disorders.

Highlights

Pricing Policy

Talkspace’s pricing varies based on your location and network availability; however, it is one of the few counseling platforms whose cost is covered by some insurance agencies and plans. 

For psychiatry sessions, initial evaluations are $199 and follow-up appointments are $125. Psychiatry sessions can also be bundled to reduce costs.

Privacy

Talkspace ensures that all the data and chats of its customers are encrypted and complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All your data and identification will be password protected. However, Talkspace mentions in a disclaimer that some of its user’s data can be used for research purposes.

Online Tracker

Talkspace has an online tracker through its app that helps you track symptoms of various mental health issues and disorders.

The Process

After you’ve signed up using your email, you will be asked to answer basic questions in a questionnaire. The questions will be very generic and pertain to you, your life’s aims, goals, and your likes and dislikes. You will be asked to answer a scripted questionnaire, which will help find a suitable therapist for your needs. In the next step, a list of therapists will be shown to you so that you can choose the one you think fits best. After choosing a therapist for yourself, you will be directed to a Talkspace chatroom. It is an online therapy room that you can access 24/7 to chat with your choice of counselor.

Compatible Devices

You can access Talkspace’s website from your PC, laptop, and MacBook. In addition, you can also download its app which is available for Android or iOS.

Pros

  • Flexible pricing plans

  • Couples therapy available

  • Networked with some insurance policies

  • Licensed and highly-qualified professionals

Cons

  • You cannot delete chat records and history

  • Not available to children under 18

⇒ Visit the Official Website of Talkspace

#5. Online-Therapy.com

Online-Therapy.com specializes in providing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to users through an online platform. As CBT is among the most widely used therapeutic approaches, Online-Therapy has developed an entire curriculum to help users outside of their counseling sessions.

The platform works with many licensed counselors, therapists, and professionals to offer help and advice to people struggling with various mental health issues.

Highlights

Pricing

Online-Therapy.com has introduced three subscription plans, starting from $39.95 per week. They also offer new users a 20% discount on their first month.

Basic Plan:

The basic subscription package includes the basic online therapy programs and also includes daily responses from your therapists. The basic program costs $39.95 per week.

Standard Plan:

The standard program includes the basic online therapy program, including live messaging and 30-minute audio or video sessions. It costs $59.95 per week.

Premium Plan:

The premium program includes the basic online therapy program, including live audio, video, or chat sessions. In addition, it also includes express replies from your therapists. It costs $79.95 per week.

Sign-Up Process

You will need to register an account using your email. In addition, you will also be asked to answer a questionnaire containing 12 questions about your life and mental health. You will also be asked about the type of therapist you prefer (gender, experience, etc).

Counselor Criteria

Online-Therapy.com only recruits licensed and experienced counselors and must have served more than 2000 hours in their field. In addition, they must be trained for CBT and must know how to cater to patients with CBT on an online platform.

Online-Therapy.com has recruited therapists and counselors from all across the globe, and the majority of them hold a Ph.D. In addition, all the therapists and counselors undergo a rigorous screening process after they have applied.

Privacy

All the customer’s data and chat histories are protected using 256-bit encryption. You will also be asked to protect your account with a password. In addition, if you want to maintain the complete anonymity of your identity, you are allowed to keep a nickname for yourself.

Modes of Communication

Online-Therapy offers its services through messaging, voice calls, and video sessions.

Pros

  • HIPAA compliant

  • Entire program dedicated to CBT

  • Affordable subscription programs

  • Licensed therapists and counselors

Cons

  • No mobile application

  • Does not accept insurance

⇒ Visit the Official Website of Online-Therapy.com

#6. Calmerry

Calmerry is one of the most pocket-friendly online therapy platforms on our list. It gives you the liberty to select your therapy session timings as per your ease and convenience.

According to their website, approximately 88% of the clients who used Calmerry found it to be either more or equally effective than conventional face-to-face therapy. In addition, Calmerry has also had the honor of being featured by Oprah, Vogue, mindbodygreen, Goop, and Well + Good. 

Highlights

Pricing

Calmerry has three subscription plans. All plans are billed weekly and offer different features. They start at $42 for Messaging Therapy. You will be charged automatically every week for your subscription plan until you cancel it. However, these charges are not going to be borne by your insurance agency. The three plans offered by Calmerry are:

  1. The first plan gives you the option of unlimited messaging therapy with your therapists at any time of the day. The weekly cost is $52.99.

  2. In the second plan, you will be given the option of messaging 24/7, but you will also be allowed to live Chat with them every week for 30 minutes. It costs $89.99.

  3. This option gives you unlimited messaging therapy and guaranteed daily responses from your therapist. The weekly cost is $59.95.

Qualified Therapists

All the therapists and counselors at Calmerry are experienced and licensed. The majority of them hold a Ph.D. or a master’s in their relevant field.

Therapy Types Offered

Calmerry offers services for a variety of mental health issues and disorders. You will be provided with many online therapy options like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and much more.

Sign Up Process

You can complete the sign-up process within minutes in only a few steps. First, register yourself with your email and other basic details that are required. You will also be asked to protect your ID with a password. Then, you will be sent a code consisting of three numbers for further verification and asked to type the code to ensure that it is you and not someone else using your details. In the third step, you will be provided a survey. Here you will be asked basic questions and details about yourself. This survey will help Calmerry get to know you better and shortlist the right counselors for you as per your needs. In the fourth and final step, Calmerry’s system will choose a therapist for you based on your answers. Once you get matched, you’re ready to go.

Privacy Protection

Your privacy is Calmerry’s utmost priority. They have passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and ensure that all of their counselors adhere to the American Psychological Association (APA) and all their standards of ethics. In addition, their website is encrypted using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Pros

  • HIPAA compliant

  • SSL certified

  • Affordable subscription plans

  • $90 off during your first month

Cons

  • Does not give prescriptions

  • Not covered by health insurance

⇒ Visit the Official Website of Calmerry

#7. Pride Counseling

Pride Counseling is a one-of-a-kind online therapy and counseling platform that has been established specially for the LGBTQ community. Many individuals from his community choose to stay closeted because of the potential backlash they might receive from within their circle. While those that embrace their sexual orientation and identity in front of the world often face severe bullying or are shunned and treated as pariahs. Such instances take a toll on the mental health of people hailing from the LGBTQ community, and many succumb to depression or struggle with PTSD. These conditions can become life-threatening. Pride Counseling aims to provide the emotional support and counseling that such individuals need.

Highlights

Live Chat and Unlimited Messaging:

Pride Counseling provides an unlimited messaging feature that gives you the freedom to message your counselor at any time of the day. However, they might not get back to you instantly.

Live Chat is the opposite. You and your therapist both are both present in a live chat and can reply to each other instantly. This option is ideal if you want a history of your chat with your counselor.

Live Video Call:

Live video sessions are very similar to in-person therapy. Both of you will have your cameras on and will be able to talk to each other face-to-face.

Audio Call:

Audio sessions function much the same as video calling but remove the visual component of a session. This way, you can get participate in your therapy session in your pajamas if you like.

Pricing

Pricing is from $60 to $90 weekly. However, the online therapy cost will not be borne by your insurance provider.

Types

The counselors and therapists at Pride Counseling offer various types of online therapy. Some of them include cognitive behavioral therapy, therapy for trauma, therapy for mindfulness, etc.

Counselors also offer to counsel for underlying issues such as anger management, PTSD, depression, suicidal tendencies, trauma, anxiety, and others.

Counselor Requirement

Pride Counseling complies with HIIPA to ensure that the quality of therapists and counselors hired remains intact. Furthermore, it requires them to have a minimum of 3 years of on-hand experience and a master’s degree.

Privacy Protection

Pride Counseling adheres to the basic standards of privacy protection and encrypts all messages of its customers using 256-bit encryption. In addition, if you don’t like to disclose your identity, you can use a nickname on the platform.

Pros

  • Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating: A-

  • Online therapy platform

  • Easy enrollment process

  • Licensed therapists experienced in matters related to the LGBTQ+ community

Cons

  • Therapists and counselors are independent, i.e., Not regularly monitored by Pride Counseling

  • No medications can be prescribed

  • Only for people aged 18 or above

⇒ Visit the Official Website of Pride Counseling

 Online Therapy: How We Made This List?

While curating this list for you, we ensured that our selected online therapy platforms for mental health issues had the following features:

  • Credibility and Reliability

One of the biggest risks involved with online services is that not all that they are marketing is true. This means that there is a huge chance that many online therapy platforms offering their psychiatric services have either hired counselors who do not hold adequate work experience or aren’t qualified enough.

We ensured that all our selected platforms hired mental health professionals with more than 1,000 hours of work experience and that are licensed mental health professionals with a minimum of either a Ph.D. or a Master’s in their field of experience.

  • Affordable and Available on Demand

Many individuals turn their back from therapy because of the insane prices that many online therapy sites charge. This is why while looking for platforms, we ensured that they catered to the needs of people hailing from a middle class or lower-class socio-economic background by offering them various subscription plans with affordable prices or financial aid programs.

  • Privacy

Lastly, privacy is a huge concern for some people. The contact fear of your private chats or personal information getting leaked is a huge concern. This is why we made sure that all the selected platforms had their chats encrypted and all the user accounts were password protected.

Your Guide to Choosing the Best Online Therapy Platform 

While choosing the best online therapy platforms, there are a few criteria to consider:

  • Your Needs

This is perhaps one of the most pivotal factors you should consider while choosing a therapist for yourself. Many online platforms offer need-specific counseling and have recruited counselors that have specialized in curing specific conditions and disorders. 

For instance, Pride Counseling was established specifically for people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, ReGain was made specially to help couples, and TeenCounseling.com is for teenagers and parents.

Similarly, you should first recognize your needs and what kind of disorder or mental health condition you are struggling with and then seek a platform. You can do so by getting a diagnosis or self-diagnose yourself by simply googling your symptoms.

  • Qualified and Licensed Counselors

Secondly, you must always check if the online therapy platform of your choice has licensed and experienced professionals with either a Ph.D. or a master’s and at least 2-3 years of work experience.

  • Privacy

Lastly, you can never compromise on your privacy. This is why you should always check if the website is encrypted and that your account is password protected. 256-bit encryption and SSL encryption are two of the widely used and reliable encryption methods. 

You can check which encryption a website uses by visiting their website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Online Therapy

Q1. Is online therapy effective?

Yes, it is.

We can notice an upward trajectory in cases of suicides, depression, anxiety disorders, and many other mental health conditions during the last decade. Such issues have usually been attributed to either childhood trauma, familial issues, substance abuse, sexual abuse, etc.

Usually, people struggling with such issues are millennials and extremely reliant on their cell phones and laptops. This means that conversing with their therapists and counselors at any time of the day or leaving them a message whenever you feel the need to talk to someone is nothing but ideal for them.

According to research conducted in 2013 and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, online treatments over text, audio calls, or video calls are just as effective as a face-to-face session.

Q2. What are the benefits of online therapy?

There are many benefits of online therapy; some of them are as follows:

  • No Transportation Cost

One of the greatest things about online therapy and counseling sessions is that they are widely accessible to people living in any place. People living in rural areas often do not have any credible therapists in their vicinity, and in many cases, they have access to no therapist at all.

An online session means that now they can access many specialized and professional counselors and therapists without spending a large amount of money traveling to cities and bearing additional transportation costs along with their therapy charges. 

This logic also applies to people living in cities. There have been many instances when many individuals didn’t get along with the counselors or didn’t get the desired results from the counselors available in their state. Online therapy has now opened new doors for them.

  • Time Efficient

Therapy is often time-consuming, both for the therapists and their patients. Waking up, getting ready, and then driving to the clinic means spending around 2 hours for just a 30–60-minute session. By conducting an online session, both parties will be able to save valuable time.

As per research, an online therapy session saves a therapists’ time up to 7.8 times more than a face-to-face session, allowing clinicians to spend more time with their clients.

  • Ideal for Socially Anxious People

People with social anxiety often struggle with communicating their needs to other people, which is why they often hold themselves back from reaching out to therapists or searching for leads. An online therapy platform is a great option for them to seek help without putting themselves in uncomfortable situations.

Q3. What is teletherapy?

Teletherapy is a therapy that is conducted remotely using technology. It is simply jargon for online therapy. Teletherapy is conducted either over messages, audio calls, video calls, or a mixture of all.

Q4. Are there any disadvantages of online therapy?

Yes, there are certain risks and disadvantages involved in online therapy. They are as follows:

  • HIPAA

Many therapists and organizations are required to adhere to the terms and codes mentioned in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These terms have been set out to ensure that a client seeking mental health isn’t compromised in any way.

However, there are some organizations and professionals offering counseling that do not comply with these clauses and put their patients at risk. In addition, sadly, many websites claim to be HIPAA compliant, but in reality, they are not. Such deceptive marketing tactics are often adopted by organizations offering online services.

  • Technical Issues

Online therapy sessions are heavily dependent on a fast and stable internet connection from both ends. If either party doesn’t have access to a stable connection, then that can cause a major hindrance.

  • Client Anonymity

From a client’s perspective, many people are not comfortable in sharing their true identity and would like to stay anonymous. Many online platforms still do not offer such feature which results in holding back people from reaching out and seeking the help they need

However, from a counselor’s perspective, client anonymity is potentially harmful. People pursuing therapy are sometimes a risk to themselves or those around them. Such clients maintaining anonymity is a huge danger not just for themselves but also for others. Counselors must have access to details of such clients so that they can inform relevant authorities and loved ones in case of danger.

  • Legal Issues

A counselor has to comply with many state licensing board regulations to ensure client safety. Since they are offering their services on an online platform, all of their details can be readily accessed by a client.

In case they violate certain regulations or get into some other problems with their client, they can get into any legal issues and also have their license revoked in extreme cases.

Q5. Are online therapy charges covered by insurance?

Some online therapy providers make insurance claims, but many don’t. It depends. In addition, you will also have to ask your insurance company whether you are eligible or not.

Q6. Is teletherapy confidential?

Teletherapy platforms go to great lengths to ensure that their client’s data, chat histories, and other details remain confidential. There are many acts, regulations, and codes of conduct that a company follows to ensure maximum client confidentiality.

Furthermore, they recruit only licensed and experienced professionals to ensure that they have great work ethics and also know-how of how to go about things, and an idea of the repercussions they will have to face if they fail to comply with all the prescribed regulations.

Q7. What issues can online therapy help with?

There are many mental health conditions, disorders, and issues that online therapy can help with. Some of them include behavioral disorders, PTSD, cognitive disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), etc.

Q8. What are the payment options for online therapy?

The majority of the online therapy platforms accept payments via all the major debit and credit cards. Few platforms have their therapy charges covered by insurance programs.

 Wrapping Up

Getting therapy and counseling can prove to be significantly beneficial for your mental health. However, the primary determinant of your experience and its impact is the quality of service that you access. Therefore, choosing the right platform is paramount in this regard. This is why you must always go through reviews for the platform, at the very least, before giving it a go.

Lastly, you are brave for taking the first step and for trying to overcome all the internal battles you fight every day. Pat yourself on the back before you venture into this new era of healing. We are rooting for you!