How Does Online Therapy Work? A Step-By-Step Guide

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerNov. 14, 2019
Online therapy from the comfort of your own home.
Online therapy is a huge innovation in the world of healing, and it is making real waves all across the world. In need of guidance, help, and support, people are turning to online therapy as an alternative to the pricey and hard to reach in-person sessions. Maybe you’ve considered the option yourself but don’t know enough about it, how it works, or even where to start.

If this sounds like you, or you just want to learn more about this intriguing topic, here’s everything you need to know about online therapy, so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Is it Right for You? 

Online therapy is not for everyone. If you have a serious psychological or emotional disorder, are dealing with a major life crisis, or have suicidal thoughts or tendencies, an in-person professional is your best address.

If you are looking for help with many of the everyday issues that come up during the course of your life though, online therapy can be an excellent solution. These qualified therapists are trained to help you with a range of life issues, including things like addictions and substance abuse, grief counseling, family counseling, eating disorders, intimacy issues, sleep issues, social behavior training, anger management, anxiety, trauma and abuse counseling, and so much more.

Online therapy has 2 major benefits over face-to-face sessions:

  1. Convenience

One reason that many people never get the help they need is because they simply don’t have time. In our fast-paced society, who really has the time to book an appointment, trek down to an office, and sit with a therapist for an hour every week? For the majority of people today, it just never happens.

Online therapy alleviates all of the time constraints that usually stop people from seeking counseling. Since you can contact your therapist from your smartphone or tablet, your session can be whenever you want and wherever you want. Have a half hour between errands? Book a therapy session. Can’t get out of bed because you’re too depressed? Your online therapist is there with you to help you through this struggle.

This tech-based remedy is making therapy more convenient and therefore more doable for thousands of people.

  1. Cost

The other aspect of online therapy that is really bringing the concept down to the average Joe is the financial factor. While we’d all love to pay someone to listen to our problems, coach us through life’s difficulties, and give us the tools we need to thrive, most people can’t afford such personalized assistance on a consistent basis. Even people who have gone for therapy often terminate their sessions because the practice gets too pricey after some time.

Online therapy is breaking the glass ceiling on therapy costs and offering people affordable monthly plans that give you access to your therapist as often as you want without the crippling costs.

Giving people a convenient and affordable alternative has made online therapy a growing trend that is only gaining in popularity and enthusiasm. Plus, therapists are available all the time, so you can get in touch when you really need them (and not have to wait until your session rolls around).

Getting in Touch

So, online therapy is pretty amazing, and it’s really opening up new possibilities for everyone. Now, for a bit of the technicalities. Online therapy is meant to be an easy line of communication between counselor and client. There are several channels of communication made available to you through this service. While each brand can vary slightly in which options they make available to you, the majority of online therapy services offer the following communication venues:

  • SMS texting

  • Live chat

  • Phone sessions

  • Video sessions

  • Some services also offer email sessions, but this is not as common

SMS texting

SMS therapy is probably the most popular feature of online therapy today. Basically, you sign up for a service, and they will create a chat room that is exclusively for you and your counselor. This is pretty much a WhatsApp line that lets you send messages directly to your counselor in real time. Only you and the counselor can see this line, so it’s totally private.

The counselor will check the messages and respond twice a day (in most cases), so you get frequent interaction with your designated professional. This is excellent because it means you have access to a qualified therapist 24/7, and you can get feedback every single day. Having a therapist on-call like that would normally cost you thousands of dollars, but online therapy makes it happen for much less.

What’s more, an open texting channel allows you to send messages to your therapist whenever you want. You can jot down a thought that pops into your head, and you can express yourself at the moment of tension without having to wait for a weekly appointment. You can also take your time, craft your messages, and relay exactly how you’re thinking and feeling, so the therapist can address your concerns and help you work through your issues.

Live chat

Live chat is also done through a chat channel, but the difference here is that you are chatting in real time with your therapist. You send them a text, and the therapist responds via text immediately. This is a good method if you want an answer or assistance on the spot or can’t wait until the therapist checks their messages.

Phone sessions

Phone sessions are one step closer to in-person meetings. You aren’t seeing the person face-to-face, but you can speak to your therapist directly, and you can hear their responses (as opposed to reading them through a text message). This is a good option for people who need to hear inflections, tones, etc. in their counseling to really understand the message. Many people will opt to have a weekly phone session to touch base, depending on texting for the rest of their week’s communications. This type of breakdown seems to work well for almost everyone using it.

Video sessions

Finally, some online therapy services offer video sessions. This is exactly like a Skype call. You will arrange a time that is convenient for you with your therapist ahead of time. At the time of the session, you’ll log into your account and confirm the session to get the video started. Video sessions are extremely helpful, especially if you are someone who prefers seeing their therapist in front of them during counseling. 

Many services offer a weekly or monthly video session included in the plan, while others offer them as an add-on that you’ll pay extra for. Most people use video sessions once a month just to check in with their counselor and make sure their therapy is on target.

Who You’re Working With

Every site has its own screening process. Some have certain questions and criteria that need to be answered before a counselor can join the network, while others do a full out background check. Any good online therapy site will have counselors that are fully accredited as marriage and family therapists (LMFT), psychologists (Ph.D./ PsyD), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC). Additionally, counselors must have at least 2,000 hours of real-life experience in their field of expertise in order to counsel. So, you’re really working with a professional.

Dealing With the Finances

Most online therapy services charge between $30-$70 a week for their services, and they charge that fee on a monthly basis. When you consider how much psychologists charge for one hour of their time, this is an unbelievable opportunity. Additional video or phone sessions may come with additional costs.

Finding the Right Fit

Again, every service is different, but the general process of getting matched with a therapist is the same. Either before or after you sign up, you’ll be asked several questions regarding yourself and life situation. These questions are meant to paint a clearer picture of who you are and what issue you are struggling with. The more information the service has, the better it will be able to match you with an appropriate therapist.

After reviewing your answers, the site will assign an online therapist to you. You’ll then be able to communicate directly with the counselor regarding your issues. If you aren’t happy with the counselor assigned to you, you can request another one from the website.

Get Professional Assistance With Online Therapy

Online Therapy is revolutionizing the way people get help today. Making it more affordable, more convenient, and more accessible to everyone, online therapy is truly the future of counseling.

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerJun. 13, 2019
Sarah Pritzker has years of experience and a keen interest in researching and reviewing the vast world of online consumer products. She enjoys helping readers make sense of the options on the market in industries including dating, DNA, meal delivery and psychic reading.

We invest a lot of resources into bringing you high-quality content. However, the information on this site should not be treated as professional advice, be it medical or any other. Before choosing an online therapy service, we recommend consulting with a physician or other professional healthcare provider. Please do not use this site if you or someone you care about are in a crisis or may be in danger. These resources can provide you with immediate help.