Get Free Online Therapy. Should You Use Free Counseling?
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 07, 2019
Although online therapy has been around for a while, many people still have no idea what it is or how it works; particularly as it relates to dealing with mental health issues with the help of a licensed therapist. Also, the people who do know what online therapy is tend to think it is not as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy or counseling, thus failing to realize that features like unlimited text chat, video chat, and phone sessions help many people reach their desired goals which scheduling the best suits their needs. The latter is one of the primary reasons that we continue to see an increase of people interested in using their internet connect to to a licensed professional therapist online.
Some think it is just a passing phase and many even believe that it may also be a hoax of sorts; simply calling the service therapy when it really isn't. However, online therapy is one of the most effective ways to get therapy for many people; and that includes not just people dealing with mental health problems. Especially those who are busy or do not want to take the time to find a therapist they like. This type of therapy by connecting their device to the internet and getting support online is also great for people with depression or anxiety disorders who have trouble committing to counseling.
The History of Online Therapy
Online therapy has been around since 1986 when Dear Uncle Ezra, an online advice column, was started at Cornell University. This online mental health advice service was provided free of charge; and wasn't necessary fully understood to be an excellent option for speaking with a therapist. Free sounds great, right? However, no matter how great it sounds... you cannot expect to get free counseling in person; despite how vital and impactful it can be to a person's life to have the support of a licensed therapist. After about 40 years of free service, Dear Uncle Ezra was discontinued (more info here). In 1993, Depression Central was started, which is an online depression support group that is still around today; but it's not considered "online therapy" in the traditional sense as the phrase is used today.
In 1994, the Samaritans, another online volunteer group, started a crisis center; website listed here. They are still around today and have 68 branches all over the world. Today, there are four basic types of online therapy: E-therapy, mental health advice sites, adjunct services, and telepsychiatry; all of which may or may not be considered "therapy"... it really depends on who you ask.
If You Need A Crisis Hotline
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - 1-800-662-4357
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) - 1-800-656-4673
- Lifeline Crisis Chat
- Veterans Crisis Line - 1-800-273-8255 (Press Option #1)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
- MentalHelp.net (An American Addiction Centers Resource) - 1-866-308-2184
- NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) - 1-800-950-6264
BetterHelp.com offers online therapy, at an affordable price (although we do occassionally offer a free trials with a licensed therapist), and you do not even have to leave your house. That's right, for those of you that are looking to get help using your technology online at a time and place convenient for you... you do not even have to get dressed up!
Is Free Online Therapy Really Free?
So, what about free online therapy? How could it really be helpful therapy if it is free? As previously mentioned, many counseling & therapy websites were free in the beginning, and some still are. Of course, there are many who are not and some that are more expensive than others. In all honesty, the price of the therapy is not an indicator of how effective it is. In other words, just like anything else, just because something is expensive does not make it any better than something that is free; particularly as it relates to the online therapy platforms that are unable to guarantee that a licensed therapist will be available to help... but we don't have that problem with our services here at BetterHelp.com.
Open Discussions & Support Online Is Not Free Online Therapy
There are thousands of websites online that offer free chat rooms (which is NOT the same thing as free online therapy with a counselor) for specific issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Of course, these are usually just chatrooms with others who share these conditions and want to talk about them; not necessarily professional mental health services or a licensed therapist that an individual might want or need. They are not actually online therapy service providers where you talk to a licensed therapist. If you are looking for that specifically, consider taking a closer look at our online licensed therapists that provide mental health services accessible to anyone with an internet connection; at this point we've helped initiate more than 37,000,000 (that's right... 37 MILLION) therapy sessions using the internet.
Yes, if it's not obvious at this point... BetterHelp.com offers free online counseling as a trial to help you determine whether or not it's a good fit for you. Also, please keep in mind that our more than 3,000 licensed therapists are here and ready to help you like they've done in MILLIONS of other counseling sessions.
Free Online Chat Rooms vs. Free Online Therapy
So, what are the differences and the pros and cons of a chat room (or support group vs an therapy service online? With free online chat rooms, you are basically sharing your troubles with anonymous people who have the same (or similar) issues as you... not necessarily professional therapists with experience and credentials. These anonymous people can also share their advice, what has helped them, what hasn't helped them, etc. and you can share your advice as well. There is no group leader or other online therapists overseeing the chat rooms. They are a free for all type of settings where anyone can pretty much say and do whatever they want. Depending on who you ask, that could be considered as both a pro and con.
While you have the freedom to say and do whatever you like, so does everyone else and there is usually no censorship, so you never know what is going to happen. However, with free online therapy, you are talking to a professional therapist or counselor who is trained in the issue you want to discuss in your real therapy session. So, for example, if you are depressed, you will talk to a therapist or counselor who specializes in depression. They are there for you and only you, but they do not give advice lightly and usually prefer to give guidance rather than solutions. They do give you tips and help guide you to the path that will help you heal the way you need to.
Does It Work?
According to studies, over half of all the online patients who participated reported less depressive symptoms and 65% reported less anxiety when using online therapy; this is excluding other studies involving other mental health issues. Other studies shown that those with PTSD responded almost 75% better with online therapy than traditional therapy. This is thought to be because they do not have to leave the house to go see the therapist. Being able to sit in the comfort of your own home makes it so much easier to try therapy even if you are not sure that you need it. Also, it is free so how could it not be worth it? Give it a try today and see what you think. If you're interested in reviewing some of the studies associated with this type of therapy, here are a few sources:
- Journal of Affective Disorders - Sciencedaily.com (does psychotherapy via internet (aka... online therapy) work?
- Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Networking US National Library of Medicine (the impact of online therapy sessions)
- Comprehensive Review and a Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Internet-Based Psychotherapeutic Interventions (aka... online counseling)
- Effectiveness of Web-Based vs. Non-Web-Based Interventions
Hopefully some of what has been mentioned about about free therapy services online has helped you better understand how this tool can help you address issues and concerns you have. If you have other questions about how this type of therapy can help you or someone you know personally, feel free to reach out to us via our contact page here.
If you're unsure about whether or not this type of therapy can be useful to you, at the very least... you might want to consider clicking one of the get started buttons on this page to sign up for a free trial offer of our therapy and counseling services with a licensed professional.