Best Online Therapy Services Compared - December 2018
Not sure about which online therapy service to use? Browse below and read our reviews for more detailed information. Our experts have tested the leading online counseling services based on a range of factors, including support and effectiveness, confidentiality and privacy, counselor qualifications, areas of expertise, usability and pricing.
Notes and disclaimers:The information presented on this has been compiled by our editorial team, and although we make every effort to keep it up-to-date, misrepresentations and inaccuracies in the data are possible. We recommend that you contact the providers listed below directly to verify any information that may be of interest to you. The ratings in our listings are based on our research. Some of the providers listed pay referral fees to this website and even provide us with additional access to their platforms, which may at times impact the order and manner in which they are presented. We take no responsibility for the accuracy of information listed below, though we do update it regularly. This information is subject to change at any time.
|Avg Weekly Cost||Therapists||Features||Rating||Learn More|
$35 average weekly cost
|Visit BetterHelp |
Best for Couples Therapy
$45 average weekly cost
|Visit ReGain Counseling |
$65 average weekly cost
|Visit MyTherapist |
$79 average weekly cost
|Visit TalkSpace |
$140 average weekly cost
|Visit Breakthrough |
A Summary of Online Therapy
Online therapy, the digital-age version of counseling services, is a more affordable, convenient and discrete method of receiving therapy. Several years ago, a few pioneers saw a large opportunity in the mental health industry. They noticed that millions of people were living without access to professional help. They also understood that physical services were being replaced with digital alternatives that can save time for customers. These innovators decided to create online therapy platforms, which essentially connect licensed psychologists and people suffering from mental health issues such as depression, stress and anxiety, among dozens of other clinically defined disorders. While the online therapy industry is still in its early years, as it currently stands, there is no shortage of online therapy providers available to people looking for professional help. There are close to a dozen services, each offering its own unique set of features that appeal to the needs of different types of patients. The number of providers will only grow as the demand increases over time. Therefore, we have evaluated each of the major online therapy brands, outlining all of the pertinent information one needs to make an informed decision.
Understanding our Online Therapy Reviews & Rankings
Therapy is a process. Oftentimes, it’s a long process. There are no quick fixes. Naturally, outcomes vary widely, and thus success fluctuates significantly from service to service. Understanding that the definition of success, specifically regarding therapy, is a positive end result, our rankings were heavily impacted by overall customer success stories. This information was collected over hundreds of hours of research from thousands of online therapy reviews. Additionally, E-counseling.com also employs several industry experts, including licensed psychologists, certified life coaches, and many individuals with years of experience in dealing with mental health. They understand the ins and outs of the online therapy industry and are therefore equipped to properly evaluate what each online therapy service offers. This includes the individual benefits of each provider, in addition to the effectiveness and drawbacks. Additionally, these reviews take a deep dive into the various areas of what the service offers including the features, sign-up process, pricing, usability, counselor support, confidentiality/privacy, counselor qualifications, and each service's areas of strength and weakness. It’s important to note that our reviews and rankings are based on of our knowledge and experience of using each service. Success can vary from person to person and thus it’s imperative to find the service that’s tailored to best suit your specific needs.
Best Online Counseling Services Reviewed
- All therapists are licensed and experienced
- Therapy by phone, chat, video and message board
- Mobile App
- HIPAA compliant
Betterhelp has earned the top spot on our list of best online therapy services, and it’s easy to see why. Most services have one standout feature that sets them apart from their competition. Betterhelp has a handful.
From sign up to overall usability, the verdict is in – Betterhelp is in a league of its own. Both their desktop and mobile app platforms are designed to simplify your journey. It’s essentially structured similar to WhatsApp or Skype, enabling easy chat, phone or video communication. Likewise, the questions posed in the initial sign up stage are not overly intrusive, and they allow you to remain anonymous throughout the entire process, including after you’ve signed up for an account and during your therapy sessions.
Moreover, while success varies from person to person, both expert and user reviews regarding counselor effectiveness and customer success rates are overwhelmingly positive. The fact that Betterhelp works with over 2,000 licensed U.S. based therapists, with thousands of hours of hands-on experience covering virtually every area of mental health, certainly plays a role in this feat.
Overall, Betterhelp is one of two to three online therapy services to both impress our experts and remain extremely popular among more than 500,000 individuals who use their service.
Additional features: pricing (low monthly cost), security, confidentiality.
- Specializes in relationship counseling
- Therapy by phone, chat, video and message board
- All therapists are licensed and experienced
Regain is the premiere couples counseling website online. They are one of the only websites to have close to 1,000 licensed psychologists specifically trained to help resolve relationship issues.
What has attracted so many people to couples’ therapy online via Regain is the fact that they don’t push both members of the couple to sign up. Instead, they realize that most people will likely start therapy on their own, and only then have their partner join in on the therapy sessions. Current success rates, according to countless online reviews, are moderately to very high.
Furthermore, many people who require couples counseling are also experiencing some form of mental illness (e.g. depression). The therapists that work with Regain are fully licensed and trained in all of the areas of mental health, making Regain a one stop online therapy solution.
So, while Regain is known for its professional online marriage counseling, it’s also known for providing quality individual online therapy as well.
- 256-bit SSL encryption
- Phone, video, and chat sessions
Though MyTherapist is one of the newest online therapy providers, they have managed to capture quite a large following, primarily through marketing themselves as a complete ‘introductory’ online therapy service.
In addition to this, MyTherapist initially garnered much attention by offering therapy on a cost per session basis (rather than ‘unlimited’ therapy). This certainly contributed to their rise among the best online therapy services. However, the ‘unlimited’ plan has become too enticing for most people looking for counseling. As such, MyTherapist has since changed their pricing model to this model.
And of course, we can’t forget to mention usability. For such a new service, it’s quite a surprise to see such an intuitive interface. Even in the event of limited technological knowledge, navigating and using the MyTherapist platform is a breeze.
- All therapists are licensed and background-checked
- HIPAA compliant
- User friendly
Over the past few years, Talkspace is one of two brands that has essentially become synonymous with the words “online therapy”. A primary reason for this is because they have done an incredible job of marketing themselves as one of the go-to therapy services. From online to TV advertisements, no matter where you look for an online therapy solution, Talkspace is seemingly always there, challenging you to sign up and use their service.
However, marketing isn’t their only strength. It also helps that Talkspace has competitive pricing, a user-friendly platform and generally positive reviews from people who use their service.
And, while there are other therapy providers who are ranked higher on this list, Talkspace is the only brand aside from Betterhelp that can boast about providing stellar mental health help to a whopping one million people.
- Video and chat sessions
- Easy to use appointment scheduler
- HIPAA compliant
Breakthrough online therapy, which was bought out by a major telehealth company called MDLIVE, has earned a top spot on our list, with real world users agreeing to their prestige.
One of the core benefits of Breakthrough is their on-screen scheduling system, which is rated best in class by both experts and users alike. What’s particularly impressive is its seamless integration via their mobile apps (found on both iOS and Android).
Another reason why more than 30,000 individuals have signed up to Breakthrough is because of their health insurance acceptance. They are the only large online therapy service to accept major insurance plans. Though with Breakthrough, the initial ‘listing’ cost is similar to what in-office therapy costs, which can be up to $300/hour if not higher. Subtract insurance coverage and most people end up paying a fairly affordable rate per session.
And for good measure, Breakthrough requires all therapists operating on their platform to conduct a minimum of 5-15 sessions/month in order to stay up to date on providing therapy online.
The Main Benefits of Online Counseling
Many believe that online counseling should not replace in-office counseling. Rather, it should complement your traditional counseling sessions, as online counseling offers a range of benefits to users. Others however, including thousands of satisfied customers already using online counseling services, boast that that level of connection they are able to make with their therapists online make in-person counseling unnecessary. Some of the most common benefits associated with online counseling are:
- No Boundaries: With online counseling, there is no longer a need to seek out help within your city limits. You have the ability to connect with a psychologist that’s not in your area. Best of all, should you not click with your therapist, you have the option to change therapists.
- Efficiency: If you’re working full-time, chances are you have very little personal time set aside. With online counseling, you can receive help 24/7, or while you are on-the-go.
- Communication Channels: Gone are the days of having to set pre-arranged appointments and then receiving counseling in person. Online counseling enables you to open your counseling app and get help right away. This includes SMS/chat, video, and phone counseling options.
- Stigmas: Oftentimes people don’t set therapy appointments due to the stigma surrounding counseling. In fact, some people who do in fact set appointments won’t show up for their session due to this unfortunate stigmatization. With online counseling, that stigma is gone.
- Privacy/Confidentiality: Using online counseling provides users with complete privacy and confidentiality. For starters, therapists on the platforms are bound by strict local and federal laws, as is the case with their brick and mortar business. Your counseling sessions are protected by HIPAA. Furthermore, your chat sessions are also secured by various bank-grade encryption levels, which only you and your therapist can access. Lastly, should you still not feel comfortable with counseling, even online counseling, you have the ability to sign up using an alias and dummy e-mail account.
- Pricing: Did you know that it generally costs someone roughly $200 for one therapy session? Even if you are covered by premium insurance, the co-pay on each session can be as high as $50. If you’re going in to therapy once a week, that’s $200 per month on therapy. On the other hand, some of the best online counseling services provide users with incredible pricing, starting as low as $32 per week ($128 per month). Moreover, some online counseling services even work with major insurance companies, which further reduce your costs.
But is it Effective?
As is the case with any service or product, there have been people who question the effectiveness of online counseling. Such concerns include:
- The absence of verbal cues
- Effectiveness in treating clinical disorders
- Technological complications
- Regulatory concerns
Though many of these concerns are valid, they vary on a case to case basis. Some have suggested that human/face to face contact is the only way a therapist can truly identify the feelings and behavior of their client. This may be true in some instances over chat therapy, however video therapy eliminates this issue, which in turn eliminates many of the ‘limits of effectiveness’ claim as well. Moreover, people living in rural areas may have spotty Internet connection. There are also some who point to transmission and server problems, an issue we found very little evidence of in our research.
Overall, the best measure of effectiveness is hearing from the thousands of existing customers already using these services. Most of them post testimonials and reviews on their websites. While some leave negative reviews, the fact that so many have had positive experiences is very telling. It means that at least to some extent, this is working. It's just a matter of trying it out oneself to make an individual determination.
Which Online Therapy Service Should I Choose?
While we have ranked the best online therapy services, it’s important to understand that these rankings are very general and thus may not be best suited for you. As we’ve noted above, outcomes and people’s needs vary. Every online therapy service caters to a certain individual and thus it’s important to understand and consider what type of issues you are dealing with:
General Mental Health Issues
The majority of people looking for online therapy are dealing with general mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar, grief, etc.
The next most common type of therapy people look for is online marriage counseling. Though many of these people are also dealing with general mental health issues, their primary reason for looking into online therapy is to help heal their relationship.
Religion is a major part of many people’s lives. If you are religious and are specifically looking for online therapy with religion playing an integral role in your therapy sessions, you will need to take this into account when choosing a service.
Being part of the LGBTQ community has its perks. One of them is the ability to receive online therapy specifically catered toward the LGBTQ community.
Conclusions on Online Counseling
Online therapy provides a wealth of benefits, including convenience, privacy, the elimination of stigmas, low cost, and many other positives. Because of this, it’s no surprise to see millions of people currently using online therapy as their go-to source of therapy. If you’re looking to make the switch to online therapy from in-office appointments, make sure your needs are clearly defined so you can make the best possible decision for yourself.