What's telephone therapy? Find support by phone services

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated January 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many individuals experiencing mental health or life challenges reach out to a therapist for support. However, scheduling in-person therapy appointments, finding time to commute to their clinic or office, and paying hundreds of dollars per session can be challenging. Due to this, more remote therapy options have become available, including over-the-phone therapy where you can connect with a therapist online.  

Telephone counseling may assist you with the same concerns you might address with a licensed therapist in traditional therapy. For example, telephone counseling can help with work-related events, family conflicts, anger management, relationship issues, or symptoms of a diagnosed mental illness. If these are frequent concerns for you, consider researching an online telephone therapy service or life coach as an alternative to in person therapy.

When you participate in online therapy, you can speak with licensed therapists in live video sessions, over the phone, by email, or through messaging services. Online counseling provides individual talk therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, and family therapy. Learning more about how telephone therapy works may help you feel more confident in pursuing it.

What can phone therapy do for you?

Talking to a licensed therapist, whether in person or on the phone, may help you alleviate emotional pain and find solutions or acceptance to the situations you are going through. 

Online, phone, or other distance therapy options make up the field of telepsychiatry. These remote mental health support services can include in-app messaging—many platforms offer unlimited messaging—or video conferencing. Online therapy, live video therapy, and counseling on the phone are available for everyone, not only those experiencing mental illnesses like anxiety or clinical depression. Online counselors can address a wide range of issues, including eating disorders, trauma, and concerns involving a partner or relationships in general. For example, when a breakdown of communication occurs among family or intimate partners, it may be helpful to relate these family conflict issues to a counselor. A licensed therapist may facilitate the communication process by examining options and healthy ways to resolve a situation. 

The results of a growing number of studies suggest that phone therapy is as efficacious as in-person therapy. In fact, many researchers who have found telephone counseling effective have also noted that it can be a more affordable and convenient form of mental health care. 

There are, however, some mental health services that an online platform cannot provide through phone therapy. Medication management is not available through many online counseling services; so, your online therapist may not be able to prescribe medication. Additionally, mental health diagnoses are often not available through online platforms. 

Getty/Anna Stills
Find flexibility with professional phone counseling

Benefits of telephone counseling 

Many of the benefits of remote therapy are the same ones you might receive from in-person sessions with licensed therapists. However, there are several benefits that you might only experience through telehealth treatment, including the following. 

Reducing mental health treatment stigmas 

You may have confronted the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health. Some people fear that they’ll be judged for seeking mental heath care, which can keep them from addressing their mental health needs. Some people write in a journal to express their feelings or memories that may be difficult to forget, for example, which has been shown to be helpful. However, outwardly expressing feelings with an impartial, empathetic therapist can be useful, especially when navigating complex emotions or symptoms of mental illness. 

Stigmas can dissuade people experiencing mental health challenges from openly seeking the help they need to make progress with their concerns.

The stigma is something that many people are aware of, although some don't realize it. People who are experiencing challenges with their mental health, whether it's anxiety, or depression, might experience shame because of this stigma. The shame may make them less determined to seek help with the management of symptoms or stop them from availing of services. 

When people reach out for phone counseling services, they may not have to commute and won't have to let others know where they're going. Teletherapy can offer more personal and safe space for these individuals. Virtual counseling can also be done from home, which widens the opportunities for online therapists. 

iStock/Jelena Stanojkovic

Availability of therapists

Online counseling allows you to connect remotely with a therapist licensed to provide mental health care services. This can be especially helpful for people who have put off scheduling their first session due to concerns about commuting, availability of therapists, or other challenges. Some of the reasons that people may not be able to see a counselor in person can include the following: 

  • Disabilities
  • Busy schedules
  • Social anxiety
  • Cost of therapy
  • Commute time to therapy offices

With telephone counseling, there are a few benefits that clients might find:

  • Clients may not have to leave home for therapy
  • Therapy clients can communicate with a counselor from more remote areas with an internet connection or cell service
  • Using a phone for therapy can be a less intimidating method of communicating

Additionally, online therapy platforms typically work with a large team of professionals, meaning you’ll have a good chance of connecting with someone who can address your specific concerns. And, if you aren’t connecting with one therapist, you can choose to switch professionals anytime. 

Lack of scheduling conflicts with therapists

Between juggling personal responsibilities, a family, and a career, it can be challenging to get in to see a therapist for regular appointments. Many in-person therapists may only work from 9 am to 5 pm, so many working individuals cannot schedule appointments without taking time off from work. 

However, online therapy services and telephone counseling may offer more flexible and convenient options than face-to-face therapy. You might find a therapist available for a therapy session on the weekends, in the early morning, or late at night. Once you've listed your preferences, the therapist can then confirm their availability at certain times.

Online therapy location flexibility 

Online therapy sessions can be more flexible for your schedule and allow you to receive mental health care from anywhere. Unlike with in-person therapy, office visits are not necessary with online therapy. Whether you live in a farm in New York, a suburb in Idaho, or anywhere else in the country, you can find a network of licensed providers. You can talk to a counselor or therapist from your car, on vacation, or from a hotel. Anywhere you have an internet connection can become a therapeutic setting. If you opt for phone counseling, you'll need a phone signal.  

Affordability of online counseling services

In-person sessions, especially those at practices, can be expensive. Forbes found that the average cost of traditional therapy in the US is $100 to $200 per hour. Over-the-phone, email, or messaging counseling services may be more affordable and help you start therapy.

Paying hundreds of dollars for each appointment can be discouraging because you might only be able to afford a limited number of appointments. However, with a more affordable option, you may be able to have more appointments with your provider and may be able to save money. Though many online therapy platforms do not accept insurance, their weekly membership costs are often as low or lower than weekly therapy sessions that are covered by health insurance. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to seek reimbursement for all or some of the fees associated with online therapy. Additionally, you may be part of an employee assistance plan through your employer. These programs often partner with online therapy platforms to provide low-cost or free care. For individuals who do not have an insurance provider and are experiencing financial hardship, many platforms offer reduced pricing. 

Getty/PeopleImages
Find flexibility with professional phone counseling

Phone therapy through online therapy services

Evidence suggests that mobile or smartphone-enhanced therapy platforms can help address symptoms of a wide range of mental health concerns. In one comprehensive study, researchers examined the effectiveness of mobile phone therapy treatments on mental health, finding that mobile phone-based counseling can be a valuable form of therapy. The report assessed the applications of smartphone-enhanced therapy for several mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder (previously called substance abuse disorder), and bipolar disorder. Researchers concluded that the benefits of these resources are wide-ranging. These findings align with those from other studies, including reports on the usefulness of mobile phone therapy for depression, anxiety, and stress. 

Telephone therapy or online therapy can be a valuable resource when you're seeking support with mental health concerns. Through a platform like BetterHelp, you can gain several online therapy options, including phone, video, message and live chat sessions. You can also reach out to your licensed counselor at any time and receive a response, often within 24 hours. Once an account has been successfully created, you may be matched with one of the site's licensed providers who are qualified to make a complete assessment and begin to address your specific needs. For specific questions, consider reaching out to contact@betterhelp.com. 

Takeaway

While you might have hesitations about remote therapy because of its relative newness, speaking with a licensed therapist through any channel may significantly improve your mental health. Whether you need it urgently in the short term to receive healthy tips on relieving symptoms or are looking at its long-term benefits, a subscription to an over-the-phone, email, or other distance therapy service can be beneficial.

Receive evidence-based counseling

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started