How Counseling Websites Can Differ From In-Person Therapy

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In traditional forms of talk therapy, a client and counselor may agree to meet at the counselor's office at a given time for 30 minutes to an hour. If the client cannot make the appointment, there may be cancellation fees, or the counselor may cancel future appointments. Additionally, traditional counseling costs, on average, around $100 to $200 a session cost a session or more without insurance. 

There are new options available for those who wish to engage in individual therapy or other therapy types but cannot, for one reason or another, visit a practice in person. These options include the use of a therapy website or online therapy service. Although the logistics may differ, online counseling can be as effective as in-person counseling. These platforms may cost less than in-person therapy and offer accessibility to those who face barriers to treatment.

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Counseling websites differ from traditional therapy

How counseling websites work

Online therapy platforms have become more prolific in recent years due to the increasing popularity of integrative health, especially post Covid 19 pandemic. Online therapy services may employ therapists or serve as a platform for contractors to find potential clients. Often, they must ensure mental health professionals are qualified and licensed and have a safe location to perform therapeutic practices. They may also provide technical services through online software, allowing therapists and clients to meet in an online chat room through phone, video, or live chat sessions.

These services are often not covered by health insurance. However, they can range from $30-$100 per session, which is cheaper than the rate for traditional in-person therapy. Financial aid may also be available depending on a client's needs. However, you may need to live in their state. 

By working with many therapists and psychologists, an online therapy service can cater to various needs and potentially match you with a counselor best suited for your situation. Forging effective professional relationships between patient and therapist isn’t always easy. In traditional therapy, it may be challenging to change your therapist. With online therapy, you might ask the platform to switch your therapist or choose a new one yourself. 

Obstacles to traditional counseling 

Many individuals may hesitate to consider counseling due to barriers. If you relate, you are not alone. Finding a therapist who works for you can feel stressful and time-consuming, and you might not get responses from all you are interested in. Online counseling may remove barriers from many areas, like the ones below. 

Busy schedule 

When feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or busy, you might struggle to know when to find time to fit in weekly appointments with a therapist. Commute time may be factored in, plus the time it takes to pick up children, run errands, or attend other appointments within the nine-to-five work hours. You might work during these times also contend with a typical work week and struggle to find a therapist to see you after hours or on the weekend. 

Online counseling may alleviate this problem. Online counselors might set a flexible schedule to work with you to find a time you're both available, even in the evenings or weekends. You can factor out any commute times and attend therapy with your clinician from home. You might also be able to message your counselor at any time and receive a response within 24 hours instead of waiting until your next session to ask a question. 


There may be mental health stigmas that make it feel embarrassing or difficult to reach out for support from a professional. In some cases, you might worry that others will find out you're seeing a therapist if they see you leaving home or checking your insurance. Potential clients for therapists may be deterred from visiting in person if they feel judged or ridiculed for attending.

Speaking to an online therapist can feel more discrete and less disruptive. You may participate at home away from others, allowing you to get care without worrying whether you're being watched. It might also feel more natural. If you are used to using online forums or social media to talk about your issues, using the live chat features available on many therapy platforms may be easy to navigate and could make you feel more comfortable starting out. 

Difficulty communicating

If you struggle to turn your thoughts into words or feel distress or anxiety when meeting with an in-person counselor, online counseling may remove this barrier. If you're uncomfortable talking to someone on the phone or over video chat, you can also use a live chat therapy website, where you message back and forth with your counselor for an allotted time.

Many people feel they can express their thoughts in writing more honestly. Other people feel more comfortable starting therapy through written messages and switching to video or phone sessions over time. In in-person therapy, you may be limited to seeing a therapist personally. 

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Limits of online therapy 

Online therapy websites and platforms often empower individuals by eliminating many of the barriers of traditional therapy. While its practice encompasses a large number of therapeutic methods, there are some things telepsychiatry is not capable of, like prescribing medication. In some cases, online counselors are not allowed to give a diagnosis based on platform terms and conditions. It can depend on the platform and professional. Some online platforms may offer online psychiatrists who can prescribe medications but do not offer therapy.

Some online therapy types, like family therapy, may be complicated by the number of attendees; more clients in a call may cause minor digital lag or some talking-over, which can be rectified with experience.

Finding an online therapist

Studies show that online therapy effectively treats common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and symptoms of loneliness or long-term stress. If you're interested in trying an online platform, sites like BetterHelp for individuals, Regain for couples, and TeenCounseling for those ages 13-19 are available. 

Whether you decide to use an online platform or a practice therapist who offers telehealth, you may be able to find many forms of therapy online. You may start by looking through different therapists' websites or profiles to find one that meets your needs. A therapist website may give you more information about the therapist themselves. Therapist websites also often talk about their experience working with similar clients. 

By looking through different therapist website examples you can get a feel for what services are offered and what they cost. You may also choose to look through website examples of the forms of therapy available to you. Popular forms include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma therapy. If you're interested in trying any therapy, consider reaching out to a counselor to get started. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Counseling websites differ from traditional therapy


Online counseling and in-person therapy have a few differences. However, they both offer the same quality of care, with online therapy being more effective in some instances. Visiting therapy websites can remove some of the barriers associated with in-person treatment while retaining the high quality of care necessary for treatment.
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