The Benefits Of Mental Health Counseling Online

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Despite the increased awareness of counseling and mental health services over recent years, many people do not have an opportunity for talk therapy or personal counseling, which is where online therapy can be a convenient option. Barriers to in-person treatment can include cost, distance, and availability of licensed therapists. For example, some Americans living in rural areas may not have therapy services, such as a licensed clinical social worker or a licensed professional counselor, nearby. As mental healthcare can be an essential service for those seeking it, many US adults are turning to virtual counseling, which cuts down on some of these barriers and may even accept insurance, helping to save money. In this article we’re going to cover online therapy’s unique characteristics and benefits, and help you find the best online therapy services available.

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What is online therapy?

While mental health care has traditionally been provided through in-person, face-to-face treatment, technological advances have made it possible for us to connect with professional counselors in new ways. Online therapy platforms allow clients to address life challenges, symptoms of mental health conditions, and a variety of other concerns remotely. Online therapy also makes it easier for clients to find a therapist. Through an online therapy platform, you can be matched with a mental health professional who fits your needs and preferences.  

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) and various online counseling service studies, therapy delivered via telecommunication devices is often referred to as telepsychology. You might also hear it referred to as web therapy, phone therapy, text therapy, or online therapy.

Online mental health counseling can be a convenient and affordable alternative to traditional therapy. But is online therapy effective? The results of a growing number of studies suggest that online therapy is as efficacious as in-person treatment. Researchers in a broad-based meta-analysis found that online therapy reduced symptoms of a range of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders, concluding that it is “as effective as face-to-face intervention”. In another study, researchers found that online therapy can alleviate symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.

Benefits of online mental health counseling

The availability of virtual therapy, including couples therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and evidence based therapy, has provided unique opportunities and a safe space for clients to receive support and care of the same quality they might find in person, which is one of the ways a licensed marriage and family therapist can help those who need help but don't have enough time.

In addition, online therapy provides opportunities for online communication and connection that may not be present in other forms. Below are several expected benefits of online counseling, such as an initial visit, for those seeking support. 

Flexibility in scheduling 

One of the most common benefits of online therapy is that it allows clients to meet with their providers—such as a clinical social worker, licensed marriage and family therapists, or licensed psychologists—at a time that works for them. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, telehealth behavioral health services allow you to “attend appointments without needing transportation, taking time off work, or arranging for childcare”. Many internet-based providers have early morning, late night, or weekend hours for clients to take advantage of. In addition, clients can schedule their appointments without being put on a waiting list for mental health diagnoses or medication management. 

Through specific online platforms, messaging might be a possibility. In these cases, clients can message their therapist at any time of day, and therapists will respond when they are able. Individuals can also attend sessions from wherever they feel most comfortable through flexible formats (phone call, video sessions, or live chat).  

Teams of professionals

Those who pursue in-person therapy are usually limited to working with mental health professionals who operate in a specific area. With an online therapy provider, clients can connect with a larger pool of therapists, who work all over the US (and beyond). With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist who fits your needs and preferences. 

The professionals an online mental health service may work with include licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, or psychologists. Online therapy providers are typically vetted to ensure they have the necessary qualifications to provide mental health treatment. For example, platforms will ensure that clinical social workers have met all the requirements for licensure, which typically includes gaining the requisite amount of experience, completing a specific educational program, and passing a licensure examination.

A wider reach 

Physically attending an appointment might not be possible for everyone. Online mental health counseling provides a viable option for those living in remote areas, people who travel for their jobs, and Americans living abroad. In addition, online counseling is often cheaper than conventional therapy sessions. Forbes found that the average price of in-person therapy is $100 to $200 a session. Online counseling costs significantly less per month. 


But how much does online therapy cost? And does insurance cover online therapy? Online counseling is often more affordable than conventional therapy sessions. Forbes found that the average price of in-person therapy is $100 to $200 a session. Online counseling costs significantly less per month. For example, BetterHelp memberships start at $65 per week (billed every 4 weeks). 

While some health insurance plans cover online therapy, many platforms do not accept insurance. However, membership fees are often as affordable as (or more affordable than) copays for therapy sessions covered by insurance. Additionally, those who have a health savings account (HSA) can often have fees from an online mental health service covered by their HSA provider.  


Some clients might avoid therapy, including substance use counseling or working with a family therapist, due to a disability. Physical health challenges, a lack of mobility, or difficulty getting out of bed may cause barriers to treatment. With online therapy, clients can attend counseling from home, even if they're working with medical doctors for their conditions. If they don't want their provider to see them when they're not feeling well, they can choose the live chat therapy session option.


There are several stigmas associated with mental health, and attending therapy can feel shameful or embarrassing for those experiencing them. It can be hard for some people to discuss their mental health history or broach topics like relationships or intimacy with others. Those who seek online counseling may appreciate the fact that their identities are hidden. Instead of visiting a provider in person or at a public location, they can attend sessions from home. They can choose a live chat session if they don't want to talk out loud with the therapist. In addition, some online platforms offer the possibility to go by a nickname instead of your real name. 

The ethical considerations of online mental health care

All therapists are required to adhere to ethical guidelines. With online therapy services, the text-based interactive communication between therapists and clients might lead to misinterpretation in tone and intent. If you are concerned with how your therapist communicates, try asking for clarification. In addition, you can switch therapists if you find that one therapist is not working out for you. 

Also, an online therapy platform may not be able to provide certain services. For example, many online therapists are unable to prescribe medication or diagnose mental health conditions. If you have questions about a particular service, you can read the terms and conditions of any platform you apply to use for mental health therapy. The policies a platform uses are in place to safeguard you, your therapist, and the platform from harm. Your counselor may be able to answer questions about a platform's policies. 

Feeling like you don't have a therapist who can help?

Utilizing online therapy services

There are many online therapists available. You can find one online through a special practice or sign up for a platform to get matched with a therapist without extra work. An online therapist practices the same types of therapy as in-person professionals and is licensed, trained, and vetted for quality. If you're looking for a therapist that takes your health insurance, you may fare best with a special practice therapist in your area that offers telemental health counseling services.

If you're unsure about the effectiveness of these processes, you can also check out what the APA has to say about online therapy. You can also read about the 17 studies that found online therapy more effective than in-person counseling in treating specific concerns like depression. 

With the low cost of online therapy and the increasing availability of health services, more individuals can find the support they seek. If you're interested in signing up for this type of treatment, consider a platform like BetterHelp, which offers over 30,000 licensed therapists specializing in various areas of mental healthcare. 

By choosing an online therapy service, you may be able to avoid extra costs and save money while still receiving quality mental health support.


Some of the BetterHelp benefits that in-person therapy does not provide, include increased services, flexibility in scheduling, and a low weekly cost. You can learn more about online counseling by signing up for a platform or contacting a therapist for specifics. 
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