Like the name suggests, online therapy is a term used to describe mental health counseling that you can receive from the comfort of your own home in front of your PC or right at your fingertips on your smartphone.
Often referred to as “e-therapy” or “internet therapy,” online therapy isn’t meant for people who are in the midst of a mental health emergency or who need urgent medical care. Instead, it’s a way for people to get easy, convenient, and reliable counseling that tends to be much cheaper than in-person therapy. In addition, it can also be a real help for people who have mobility issues or simply live too far away from a licensed therapist for it to be convenient.
Most online therapy companies offer 3 main types of counseling: real-time chat, video chat, and phone chat.
Email and text message counseling is popular with people who want to be able to think out their questions and write them out before asking. These tend to not be free-flowing conversations like with phone or video chats, but being able to write out what you want to say can be preferable. Typically these chats are done through your personal email to a special, secure email provided through the site, which can help safeguard your anonymity.
Video chat will require a reliable internet connection and will allow you to speak with a counselor face-to-face, if not in the same room. It’s intimate, personal, and allows you to establish a rapport that can be more difficult with the written word.
Real time chat puts you into a secure line and allows you to chat back and forth with a counselor in real time. Think of it like having your own personal, private chat room with a counselor who’s there to listen to what ails you.
When you sign up for an online therapy service, you’ll typically be asked to take a short quiz to determine which sorts of issues you’re dealing with, which can be used to help the service match you with a counselor who may specialize in your concerns. If you’re seeking out online counseling for your child, the quiz will ask you a lot of questions about what you think the child needs help with, before sending the child an invitation on your behalf.
The prices vary by company, but typically online therapy services charge a monthly fee to use the service, and don't charge by minute or hour or text. For instance, BetterHelp, one of the bigger names in the industry, charges a flat fee of between $40-$70 per week, including all messaging, chats, phone, and video sessions.
These memberships tend to be quite flexible, and allow you to quit at any time.
Most online counseling is not covered by insurance, so while it’s cheaper than in-person therapists, you will typically have to pay out of pocket.
Before you sign up for an online therapy service, do a little research. Take a look at how the company screens its counselors and if their certification checks out. You can also look at online testimonials by customers to get an idea about the quality of service.
You’ll want to decide which types of counseling you want—chat, video, or email—and if they’re available through the service. If you’re interested in using the service on your smartphone, see if the company has an app and if you’re allowed to have sessions with your counselor by chat on your phone.
In addition, check what type of security they provide and if your chats will be encrypted, and if you’ll have the ability to remain anonymous to your counselor.
Look at the price also, and see if it fits your budget. In addition, see if you can quit the membership at any time, or if its binding.