Is Online Therapy Worth it?
Therapy is widely accepted as one of the most valuable investments we can make in ourselves. Unfortunately, our busy lives and financial limitations can create barriers to accessing this important tool. For those who can’t seem to fit in-office therapy into our lives… Is online therapy a good alternative to traditional therapy?
Realistically, online therapy is not a perfect replacement for traditional therapy. There are certain aspects of the psychological healing process that can be lost in communication over text or video. However, this doesn’t eradicate the value of online therapy entirely. Online therapy is likely better than no therapy at all, and can be a fantastic supplement to the more traditional methods.
Online therapy is not going to be for everyone, but it could be a lifesaver for some. Let's figure out whether it's something you should try, or if you should just stick to the regular office visits!
(Be sure to read through to the bottom and check our comparison chart to determine the best online therapy service for you!)
What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy simply entails attending therapy or counseling online.
Internet therapy has become popular in recent years as society has shifted toward a “do-it-from-home” culture. Nowadays, many of us work from home, exercise at home, and even have our groceries dropped off at our front door. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before businesses found a way to deliver therapy to us from the comfort of our own homes.
With mental health awareness become more and more mainstream, we’re all aware of the importance of therapy. However, not all of us can afford the time or money required to attend traditional, in-office therapy sessions…
Online therapy sessions are trending right now for this very reason. Online therapy is cheaper, and often more flexible versus traditional therapy sessions. However, as great as this sounds, online therapy is not going to be the best option for everybody.
Let’s break down a few of the best and worst things about online therapy. This should help you get a feel for whether or not teletherapy could work for you.
Online Therapy Pros and Cons
Online therapy is worth it for some people, but not worth it for others. For some, online therapy can be a healing and rewarding experience. Others may find it a complete waste of time and money. If you’re thinking about trying text therapy or video therapy, here are some pros and cons you may wish to consider beforehand…
What’s Great About Going to Therapy Online
Most people are drawn to online therapy for the flexibility it can offer. For example, if you have social anxiety and suddenly learn you’ll have to attend a large gathering this evening, you may be wishing to speak to your therapist right now as opposed to at your scheduled, in-office appointment next week. This ability to talk to your therapist at nearly any time, and in nearly any place, is the main selling point of online therapy for sure.
For some people, especially those without insurance, online therapy may also be more affordable than traditional therapy. While I wouldn’t say online therapy is cheap, it can probably save you a few bucks compared to traditional therapy visits.
The last major advantage of online therapy is that it may be easier for some people to open up and speak about sensitive topics when they’re not sitting directly across from another human being. If you’re anything like me and are not used to regular therapy, pouring your heart out to a stranger can be difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable. Text therapy offers a compromise for those who want to speak to someone but prefer a certain degree of anonymity.
What’s Not So Great About Going to Therapy Online
For all the good going to therapy online can do, it’s far from a perfect solution.
First off, going to therapy online is not a substitute for going in person. It can definitely bring some of the same benefits of traditional therapy, but it’s unlikely to bring all of them. If you can only afford one or the other, you’ll probably benefit more from seeing a therapist in person. If you can afford to supplement your regular therapy with online therapy, however, this could be a great way to compound the mental health benefits of both.
Another major con to online therapy is that it can be a bit clunky at times. Many patients find themselves unable to form the same connection with a therapist over video or text that they might form with the same therapist by speaking in person. Text therapy can also feel a bit disjointed, as your conversations may be delayed or limited based on messaging limits or your therapist’s availability.
Finally, when trying online therapy out myself, I found it a bit awkward to find the right time and place for live video chats. This won’t be an issue for everyone, but if you share a wall with roommates or neighbors, it could be a bit uncomfortable discussing sensitive topics knowing that someone nearby could be hearing the conversation.
Wait… But is Online Therapy as Effective as Regular Therapy?
Honestly? Probably not.
Most people will probably find in-person therapy more effective than online therapy.
So, why bother? Well, aside from the advantages of online therapy we’ve already covered, I like to think of it like this:
We all know that dental hygienists can clean our teeth better than a toothbrush can. But many of us can’t afford (and don’t need) professional cleanings every week. So, even though it may not be “as effective,” we still brush our teeth every day! (Did that analogy make sense...?)
Traditional therapy is going to be more effective than teletherapy for most people. But, if you’re not already attending some kind of therapy, and don’t have any plans to do so… starting teletherapy is absolutely better than doing nothing. Consider it the bare minimum for taking care of your mental health – the “brushing your teeth” of the brain, if you will.
Hope I didn’t lose you there.
Should I Try Teletherapy?
Most people reading this article are probably wondering, “Should I try online therapy?”
While I’m not sure I would recommend online therapy to anyone and everyone, I would suggest most people at least give it a shot. There really is no way to know for sure whether you’d love it or hate it unless you try it yourself. If you’re someone who communicates and connects well in this format, it could be well worth the time and money.
Also, a bit of good news: The major online therapy companies know that this is a new and unconventional format for therapy. They know that people may be hesitant to give online therapy a try. To encourage new patients to take this risk, most companies offer some sort of trial period or first-time discounts.
Which is the Best Online Therapy Option?
When it comes to going to therapy online, you’re probably going to want to stick with one of the bigger providers: Betterhelp, Talkspace, Cerebral, and others you may have seen on social media ads. With hundreds of providers available, these companies allow you the most scheduling flexibility, plus the ability to easily switch online therapists if you just don’t quite connect with one.
As for which online therapy company is best for you, that will probably depend on a number of factors.
Let’s take a look at, and compare, a few of the best options.
Online Therapy Comparison Chart
To keep this online therapy comparison fair, pricing will focus on plans that include one weekly video therapy session + (almost) daily texting with your therapist. Cheaper plans may be available if you do not need weekly video sessions or daily texting; more expensive plans may be available if you require additional sessions or psychiatric consultations (this would be needed for prescription medications).
Live Video Chats
Accepts Certain Insurance
Psychiatric/Medication Option Available
(Initial $250 + $125 for Follow-up Appointments)
$360 (Discounts Possible)
(If any of this information is outdated, please let us know!)
Online Therapy Reviews
I'm currently in the process of (secretly) testing each of these popular online mental health platforms. When I've formulated my final opinions on each, stay tuned for the full online therapy reviews of each brand. In the meantime, I've posted their average Trustpilot and BBB scores to the table under "Customer Service," to give you an idea of how trustworthy and ethical each company seems to be!
Got a favorite teletherapy company that isn't listed here? Let us know in the comments below!
Some, but not all, online therapy companies will accept certain health insurance. If there’s a specific teletherapy service you’re interested in trying, you should check their website or reach out to see if they accept your insurance. If you still can’t find a teletherapy company that accepts your insurance, contact the member line on the back of your insurance card, or log into the online member portal, to find in-network mental health providers near you.
Most reputable online therapy brands are going to cost some money. However, some companies offer considerable discounts depending on economic or life circumstances. Additionally, most companies offer a trial period or a few weeks free when starting out. This can be a good way to try teletherapy risk-free while deciding whether or not it’s right for you.
If you can't find a way to fit therapy into your budget, here's a list of other tools and resources for anxiety that might help a bit.
Whether or not online therapy is legit will depend entirely on who you ask. The general consensus from users across all platforms seems to be that, while it’s not quite the same as in-person therapy, it can still be a great supplement to provide some emotional support and personal progress throughout the week. Ultimately, the only way to know if it’s right for you is to try it.
You won’t be able to receive a diagnosis from online therapy like you can from in-person therapy. Far too many important details regarding one’s behavior are lost over the phone (even with video calling). With that said, you may not necessarily need an official diagnosis. For most people, the goal will be to make personal progress toward better mental health; something online therapy can probably help you achieve.