Is Online Therapy Covered by Insurance?

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online therapy insurance

The world is becoming increasingly reliant on digital solutions to replace traditional, “real world” alternatives, and mental health services are no different. Therapists and psychologists are increasingly transitioning their patients to online therapy sessions, this could forever change the way people think about attending therapy, and insurance companies are starting to take note.

Why Are People Getting Therapy Online?

The ability to meet with their patients electronically provides ample benefits to both the patient and the clinician. The primary benefit of online therapy to patients is the convenience of meeting their therapist from anywhere they choose. This might be their desk at work or a favorite spot at home. No matter where they decide to conduct an appointment, it’s usually far more comfortable than a therapist’s office, creating an environment more suitable for dialogue.

Another positive of getting therapy online is that it can help therapists better meet the demand for care. By offering remote sessions, they are able to schedule appointments around the busy schedules of their patients and fill their days with more sessions.

Lastly, with online appointments allowing therapists to better fill their calendars, they are often able to offer discounts to those that need them. As with so many digital versions of in-person services, better time efficiency typically helps save money for end users.

What Are Some Companies That Provide Online Therapy?

For someone who is looking to get therapy during this era of social distancing – or simply prefers receiving counseling at home – there are quite a few options. In the case of people who already see a counselor or psychiatrist in person, their clinician may be providing their services online during this time. This is an easy solution for someone who is in therapy and wants to continue to see their counselor, because now they can just video chat with their therapist and continue their sessions as usual.

For those who do not already have someone that they see for therapy, there are online platforms that provide the care you want and need. In fact, web therapy can be very helpful, with some companies offering very attractive pricing and easy to use apps, including industry leaders such as BetterHelp, Talkspace and AmWell.

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These platforms offer their own take on how online psychotherapy should be conducted, all the while allowing users to receive help on-demand. The companies work to match users with a therapist that is suitable for their individual needs and then it’s off to the races.

However, when considering online counseling, it’s worthwhile to first understand if payment for these services will be covered by health insurance.

Does Insurance Pay for Online Therapy?

This is a highly nuanced question that depends on several factors — and it’s not as straightforward as simply knowing which company once if insured by. Such factors include location, type of coverage, and who the therapist is.

For example, if a person has been seeing a therapist face-to-face that was covered by insurance, and then only switched to online therapy when social distancing guidelines were put into place, then those sessions will likely continue to covered by insurance. When if comes starting out with a new therapist via remote sessions, the coverage varies depending on the individual carrier. 

The online therapy platforms themselves also differ when it comes to insurance coverage. Most are not covered at all, and when they are, coverage is typically very limited. Talkspace, on the other hand, partners with several US health plans to provide online therapy to employees through employee assistance programs and behavior health benefits. While this may not be applicable to those that do not have access to these programs through their employers, for those that do, it can result in significant savings.

Does Online Psychotherapy Work?

Some people have mixed feelings on the efficacy of online therapy. Some feel as if it is less effective to have your therapy sessions conducted electronically, but this is not the case. Although it can certainly differ from person-to-person, studies have shown that web-based therapy can be incredibly effective.

What is important when utilizing virtual counseling is to make sure that one is receiving care from a licensed professional. Before beginning counseling, it is worthwhile to check and see if sessions will be covered by one’s insurance provider. If not, the provider may be able to assist in finding a therapist that is covered. Regardless of how it’s paid for, those in need of counseling should make every effort to see a therapist with the same urgency they would any other health professional.

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Alexis Dent is an essayist, author, and entrepreneur. Her work is primarily focused on mental illness, relationships, and pop culture. You can find her writing in Washington Post, Greatist, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and more.
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