Most online therapy companies offer 3 main types of counseling: live chat, video chat, and phone chat. This is in addition to the texting/writing that you can do anytime you want, day or night. Writing things out is popular with people who want to be able to think out their questions before asking. These tend to not be free-flowing conversations like with live chats, phone calls, or video sessions. Typically these chats take place in your personal therapy space or room, or via a special, secure email provided through the site, which can help safeguard your anonymity.
Live chats are held when both the client and therapist are online at the same time. You write back and forth to each other in a secure space and see the entire conversation as it is playing out. It is similar to a video or phone call in that you are both live, but you are just writing to each other in real time.
Video chat will require a reliable internet connection and will allow you to speak with a counselor face-to-face via video. It’s intimate, personal, and allows you to establish a rapport that can be more difficult to attain with the written word.
A phone session is processed through the service provider’s system, so phone numbers are not exchanged. It allows for a similar intimacy, but if you don’t want to sit at a computer or prefer not to be seen, a phone session may be a preferable live option. Phone sessions typically range from 30 to 55 minutes.
When you sign up for an online therapy service, you’ll typically be asked to take a short survey about yourself and what brought you to therapy. This is used to help the service match you with a counselor who may specialize in your areas of concern. If you’re seeking out online counseling for your child, you’ll answer some questions about what kind of support your child needs before sending him or her an invitation on your behalf.
How Much Does It Cost?
The prices vary by company, but typically online therapy services charge a monthly fee to use the service, and don't charge by the minute or hour or text. Prices tend to run from $40 to $70 a week for some, while others charge a monthly fee which can be as much as $120.
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.
How to Choose the Right Online Therapy Service
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 make sure they’re available through the service. If you’re interested in accessing the service on your smartphone, double check that the company has an app and that 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. Also find out if you’ll have the ability to remain anonymous to your counselor. Each site has a Q&A section, so make sure to read it carefully.
Finally, an important thing to always remember is this: If you start working with a counselor that is not a good fit, find another! This is your journey and you need to make it work for you.