Five Reasons Why Online Therapy For Depression Works

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 8% of people in the United States will experience at least one major depressive episode each year. Depression can take different forms, from postpartum depression to persistent depressive disorder to psychotic depression. However, despite the theory of depressive realism, all have the potential to significantly impact a person’s functioning and well-being and typically require professional treatment to resolve.

Some form of talk therapy is usually the first-line treatment for depression and related mental disorders. However, an individual may not be able to engage in traditional, in-person therapy to improve mental health for a variety of reasons. In cases like these, getting online help from a therapist through a virtual platform is another option for managing symptoms. Below, we’ll cover some key reasons why people may not seek treatment for depression and how online platforms for therapy may help reduce some of these barriers.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
It can be hard to navigate complex symptoms of depression

Why people may not seek treatment for mental health symptoms

There are many reasons why people living with depression may not reach out to get help. Let’s examine a few of these before we take a look at how remote counseling sessions with licensed therapists or licensed clinical social workers could help individuals in these situations.

They don’t realize that they may need care

Depression is a serious mental illness that typically requires treatment to resolve. Common symptoms like a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, persistent low mood and trouble sleeping can significantly interfere with daily functioning. 

However, a person living with this disorder might not recognize these as symptoms. They may mistake them for “the blues,” or they may not realize their experience differs from that of other people. Some individuals may also not be aware that effective treatment for depression is available, leading them to avoid remote therapy, in-person therapy, or other treatments because they don’t realize that these may be helpful to them. 

They are embarrassed of or feel shame around their mental health symptoms

The stigma that still surrounds mental health and mental health treatment stops some people from getting the help they may need. For example, an individual may fear being the target of negative and unfair labels like “weak” or “crazy.” This kind of harmful social stigma may make a person feel ashamed of the challenges they’re facing, leading them to live with their symptoms instead of reaching out to therapists, psychiatrists, or clinical social workers. 

Remember that, despite social stigma, reaching out to receive mental health support is a positive action and a sign of strength. For those who would prefer to attend online depression therapy from home rather than attending in-person appointments in a public office, virtual care can be a viable option.

They can't afford it

Not everyone has health insurance, and even those who do may not have any or adequate mental health coverage. Or, even if they accept insurance, therapists may not accept all plans or may frequently change the list of plans that they do accept. 

The result is that many people who may need mental health support are left without options due to financial barriers or the inability to find a provider who accepts the insurance that they have. Since the cost of virtual weekly therapy sessions through a platform like BetterHelp is comparable to the cost of most health insurance copays, this format can allow more people to receive care than if they were limited to only insurance therapists.

Seeking care seems difficult or impossible

Even if an individual living with this disorder or other mental health challenges wishes to seek out treatment, their symptoms may make it difficult to do so. Fatigue, anhedonia, and irritability can hold a person back from getting the motivation to call local therapists to find out about availability and then to travel to and from in-person weekly sessions. With remote therapy, a person can attend appointments from the comfort of home without having to commute.

Why online counseling for mental health conditions can be effective

In-person therapy has traditionally been the first form of treatment recommended to individuals with depression. However, recent studies reflect that virtual therapy may be a viable treatment option in many cases as well. For example, consider a study from 2021 that suggests that virtual help may be “no less efficacious” than in-person therapy. 

Qualified remote therapists can provide many of the talk therapy treatment types that in-person providers can, from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This format may be more effective and convenient for people in a variety of different situations due to the reasons outlined below.

1. It’s a more realistic option for rural populations

While those living in urban areas often have the opportunity to choose between multiple mental health professionals, individuals living in more rural areas may have to drive hours to meet with their own therapist. Or, the few providers that are within a reasonable distance may be fully booked or not a good fit for a given individual. Virtual therapy, in contrast, allows a person to tap into a much bigger pool of licensed therapists from around the country, effectively removing geographic location as a barrier to care. 

2. There’s no traveling or commuting required 

Individuals living with this disorder often experience decreased energy levels. This physical and mental fatigue can make it difficult to leave the house to go to an appointment or navigate new driving directions or bus schedules. However, online therapy sessions require no commuting. They can take place anywhere with a strong and stable internet connection. That means individuals can connect with their therapist via phone, tablet, or computer from their own home, their office, or another convenient location.

3. It can seem less intimidating than meeting with a provider face-to-face

For some people, meeting with a mental health care provider face to face can seem intimidating or awkward, and they might feel anxious or have trouble opening up as a result. With virtual therapy, in contrast, you can meet with online therapy providers via your preferred communication method: via video sessions or even via phone. That way, you don’t have to worry about your appearance or their expressions, which may help you feel more at ease—particularly when discussing sensitive matters related to your emotions and mental health. 

4. It can offer more flexible scheduling

When you seek online counseling to help depression, you’re likely to have more flexible scheduling options than may be available at a brick-and-mortar therapy office. If you need to have sessions in the evenings or on weekends, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to find therapist availability to schedule a virtual appointment since you have a greater number of providers to choose from. 

Plus, some platforms also offer the option to message your therapist outside of your scheduled meeting times to receive additional support, with them getting back to you when they’re able. So for those who have a busy or unconventional schedule due to work, school, or childcare responsibilities, remote therapy is often a better fit.

5. You can control your own environment

It can be hard to feel at ease enough to open up about your feelings if you’re in an unfamiliar environment. With virtual therapy, however, you can dress comfortably and have the freedom to control the temperature, lighting, and noise levels of your own space according to your preferences. For some people, this can help them feel comfortable enough to be fully present in their therapy sessions for maximum benefit. 

Seeking out online therapy for depression

Depression can make it difficult to find the energy to attend an in-person appointment. However, in-person therapy isn’t your only option when it comes to managing symptoms. Online therapy is another way in which you can meet with a licensed therapist for support. 

A growing body of peer-reviewed studies indicates that online therapy may be an effective way to help people living with depression manage their symptoms and improve their mental health. For instance, one study that focused on the intersection of technology and therapy for treating major depression suggests that those who received online therapy showed significant improvement in their symptoms. The study’s authors also point out this format’s cost-effectiveness and other benefits. 

Remote or in person, a therapist can help address your symptoms, administer a depression test, offer you a safe space to express your emotions, and provide you with healthy coping mechanisms. If you need psychiatry services to receive medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), they may also suggest you seek this and/or provide a referral to local resources.

If you’re interested in seeking online therapy, you might consider exploring a platform like BetterHelp. To get started, you’ll simply fill out a brief questionnaire regarding your needs and preferences, and you’ll be matched with a licensed therapist accordingly. You can then schedule meetings with them that you can attend remotely from anywhere you have an internet connection.

It can be hard to navigate complex symptoms of depression


Online counseling for depression can be an effective way to manage symptoms of this and other mental illnesses. It allows individuals to connect with a licensed therapist even if they live in a place with few providers nearby or if their insurance doesn’t cover online therapy or in-person therapy. It can also be a more comfortable and convenient way to seek support, especially for those who feel uncomfortable opening up with a provider face to face or who have trouble leaving the house because of their symptoms.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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