Insights From Online Counseling Service Studies: Which Conditions Can Be Helped?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There is a growing body of research investigating the efficacy of online therapy for a variety of mental health disorders. Studies report that online therapy is often as effective as traditional in-office therapy, and it can help with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, and PTSD. Insomnia, eating disorders, self-esteem issues, relationship difficulties, and challenging life events may also be helped with online therapy. However, severe mental illness is often best treated with in-person therapy.

Promising Studies On The Efficacy Of Online Counseling Services

Online Counseling Services Can Improve Mental Health.

While in-person therapy and online therapy often have pros and cons, research has shown online therapy can be a viable alternative to traditional therapy. 

A 2021 meta-analysis showed that video therapy is often popular, convenient, and effective. However, according to an APA survey, more than 50% of Americans polled believed that therapy for mental health conditions could be too difficult to get, which is why they may avoid in-office visits. One of the biggest advantages that life counseling services can offer may be their accessibility. It can be possible to send in-app messages to a therapist on your schedule and find a match who has live appointment times convenient for you.

With What Conditions Can An Online Therapy Service Help?

Online therapy sessions are currently being studied for their efficacy in treating severe mental illnesses. At this time, it is often best to treat major psychosis, suicidal ideation*, and antisocial personality disorders with traditional in-person therapy sessions. Sometimes, inpatient treatment may also be necessary. These types of disorders typically require a more intensive therapeutic service and the ability to execute quicker crisis management when urgent situations occur, so online therapy may not be an appropriate choice.

*If you or a loved one is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. This hotline is available 24/7 for help and resources.

An online therapy platform may be effective in treating mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, sleeping or eating problems, and PTSD. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis, online therapy may be helpful in addressing stress, self-esteem, challenging life decisions, relationship difficulties, and other situations in which an objective mental health professional’s guidance could be beneficial.


Depression is often classified as a chronically low mood or loss of interest that lasts more than two weeks and was not caused by a significant loss or negative event in someone’s life. Child and adult depression may affect nearly 15 million Americans, which is around 6% of the population. To be diagnosed, depression generally must be severe enough that it causes impaired functioning in several areas of your life, including social interactions, work or school, sleep, concentration, and activity levels. As this study explains, online therapy can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression.


The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that around 40 million Americans over the age of 18 may be affected by anxiety. That's about 18% of the population in the US. Anxiety can manifest as constant or excessive worry that is usually very difficult to control. It may involve physical symptoms like restlessness, fatigue, irritability, nausea, and panic attacks. Online therapy can be particularly helpful in treating anxiety and the effects of stress, according to this study.

Online Counseling Services Can Improve Mental Health.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder may affect about 2% of the population. This disorder is generally characterized by episodes of extreme mood disturbances that include periods of depression and mania. Online therapy may be effective in treating this disorder.

Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder may affect one in 10 Americans over the age of 12. Symptoms of this disorder can include needing an increased amount of the substance over time to feel satisfied, going to great lengths to obtain the materials needed to engage in the addiction, and spending a lot of time engaged in the addictive activity. Diagnosable substance use disorder usually disrupts daily life and functioning. This disorder can be addressed through online therapy. 


PTSD, affecting about 6% of Americans in any given year, is another mental health disorder that may be treated through online therapy. You may be living with PTSD if you have experienced a traumatic event or series of events that has negatively affected your life. Symptoms may include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hypersensitivity, hypervigilance, panic attacks, and changes in sleep patterns or appetite. 

Don’t Hesitate To Reach Out For Help

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of any of the disorders described above, or if you are facing other mental health challenges, therapy may be an excellent way to address them and improve your mental well-being. If traditional in-office therapy isn’t an option for you, or if you feel uncomfortable speaking with a therapist in person, you may find that online therapy can be a more accessible and convenient option. It can be possible to get the help you deserve from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have a reliable internet connection.

Online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy in treating a variety of mental health conditions and concerns, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for support and guidance from a licensed mental health professional.


As online therapy grows in popularity, studies looking into its efficacy have also grown in number. These studies show that online therapy can be as effective as face-to-face therapy, and it can help with substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, eating disorders, and more. Other potential reasons to turn to online therapy could include stress, self-esteem issues, challenging life events, and relationship problems. In some cases of severe mental illness and mental health crises, it may be best to seek out professional help in person.

A clinical psychiatrist can write prescriptions for medication, but a therapist generally cannot. Therapists usually provide therapy services and may recommend a psychiatrist for further mental health care. 

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