Free Online Therapy: An Overview

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 9, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When you find yourself juggling multiple mental health concerns such as stress, work, relationships, and more, it can be helpful to speak with an online therapist or an online psychologist. If you're struggling to find free online therapy or a therapist to talk to for free mental health support, it can feel overwhelming to examine your options, especially if you're skeptical about online therapy. You may need to vent to a friend or loved one about what you’re experiencing, but they might not know how to provide the support you need. There is a lot of information about free online therapy but connecting with a therapist online can be the first step in getting the guidance you need, navigating mental health disorders, or dealing with emotional distress.

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How do I find free online therapy?

Professional online therapy is designed to manage chronic mental health symptoms from conditions like bipolar disorder, eating disorders, social anxiety, substance use disorder (formerly substance abuse disorder), depression, and more. This is something you probably won't be able to find in free online therapy with wellness professionals or life coaches. So, if you need services for a serious mental illness, free therapy might not be your ideal solution. Free emotional support services can have certain restrictions or limitations. For mental health conditions that require specialized care, meeting with an in-person or online psychiatrist may be a better fit for your needs than free therapy. In some cases, your health insurance may even cover same-day appointments.

You may be able to find financial support for the cost of therapy through employee assistance programs at your place of work. Programs like this may be through your health insurance or sponsored by your company, and they can help with your burden of paying for mental health care. 

It is generally difficult to find a free online therapist who has the requisite experience and credentials to treat mental health conditions. Often, the individuals who provide support through free online therapy services are not licensed therapists, but simply internet agents or trained volunteer listeners hired to offer free advice. Free services should not be used for serious mental health issues like suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatments, bipolar disorder medication, or help for substance use disorders. Professional e-counseling support helps you to mitigate the effects of long-term mental health issues, but is not intended to replace emergency treatment. It's important to note that results you might see from a free online therapist or a free peer support group also differ from professional therapy.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, reach out for suicide prevention help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available for support 24/7. If you are experiencing a life-threatening mental health crisis, it's important to get to the nearest emergency room immediately instead of trying to find a therapist.

If you’re looking for advice, resources about affordable online therapy, or you just have general questions about mental health therapy, nonprofit platforms, like Therapy Aid Coalition, may provide free mental health resources. You may also be able to find websites or services that offer a free chat with trained volunteers to answer any of your immediate questions about mental health or finding free psychotherapy. 

Finding free resources online

Therapists are essential workers who help clients achieve their mental health goals through useful insights, emotional support, helpful advice, and professional assistance. Traditional therapy offers an opportunity to receive mental health care from a trained professional who has specific skills to help address your needs. Because these licensed mental health counselors must complete the appropriate routes of higher education in order to work with clients, the overall cost of online or in-person therapy may reflect the financial burden of pursuing a career as a therapist. Therapists may offer a free initial consultation, but, due to overhead costs, most likely won't offer free therapy sessions. 

However, many people may not be able to afford the costs of traditional in-person therapy, especially when they are dealing with a mental illness or mental health challenges. Online therapy services can provide affordable treatment for both individuals and couples to heal, as well as find support. 

BetterHelp offers an online therapy service for affordable mental health treatment, when compared to in-person therapy. This is because online therapy can negate travel expenses that come with commuting to an appointment. Here are various ways clients can engage with BetterHelp’s online therapy platform for mental health services and solutions:

Live chat sessions

BetterHelp has the option for clients to use online chat conversations (similar to text messaging) to communicate with a therapist in real-time. This way, participants can enjoy the convenience of receiving mental health care in live online chat rooms without any pressure to be on camera or speaking. Clients can schedule a live chat session with their licensed therapists in advance, according to both their schedule and the provider’s availability.  

Live phone sessions

Live phone sessions are another option for those who prefer to seek remote therapy via a cell phone or landline. Clients can schedule a time with their therapist and join an online therapy room to take the call. The therapist prompts the client to start a session and asks for a phone number to initiate the call. 

Live video sessions

A third option for mental health services that many users prefer is live online video sessions with a therapistr aka video therapy, which is comparable to Skype. This face-to-face setting allows clients and therapists to see and hear each other, which may be preferred for some clients. 
Online therapy platforms work by providing digital sessions for relationships and marriage, group sessions, community services, and mental health resources and online support groups. These services can be used to address mental illnesses—such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder (formerly substance abuse disorder). Different online platforms exist depending on a user’s age and needs, meaning there are affordable options for everyone to choose from.
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Find different kinds of online therapy


Type

FormatAvailability

free crisis text line

texting service (not therapy, not performed by therapist)available 24/7

free support hotline

listening service (not therapy, not performed by a therapist)available 24/7

free online therapy and counseling services

listening servicesometimes available online
online therapy through a nonprofit organizationtalk therapysometimes available online
online individual therapytalk therapy/CBT therapy/psychodynamic therapywidely available online
online couples therapytalk therapy/relationship therapywidely available online
online family therapytalk therapy/family therapyoften available online

Which counseling apps provide free online therapy services?

All BetterHelp professionals are certified in their state. BetterHelp aims to help people more easily obtain professional online help to manage anxiety, depression (and depression eating), substance use, eating disorders, intergenerational trauma, and other mental health concerns.

BetterHelp's online therapy services

Professional therapists at BetterHelp are licensed and usually have experience treating people through online therapy services. These trained professionals use evidence-based therapy techniques, like cognitive behavioral psychotherapy and talk therapy, to help individuals work through their mental health challenges. Their degrees range from psychologists (Ph.D. / PsyD), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), and LPCs. Furthermore, BetterHelp providers have over 1,000 hours of related work experience.

While it’s not free online therapy, BetterHelp provides a variety of options for affordable online therapy services with a licensed therapist, regardless of whether a client has health insurance for therapy or not.

Below is additional information on betterhelp services and pricing:

  • The mental health support offered includes video and phone chat as online therapy options, in addition to opportunities to participate in an educational online course. 
  • While it is not free, the cost of online therapy at BetterHelp ranges from only $65 to $100 per week (billed every four weeks) and is based on location, preferences, and therapist availability.
  • If, at any time, a client wishes to change their therapists or the online therapy services they are receiving, they are free to do so by heading to “Manage Settings.” Clients are also free to cancel their online therapy subscriptions at any time and for any reason.
  • Fees for online therapy services can be more affordable compared to traditional in-person therapy because clients don’t need to travel for a session.

Moreover, online therapy can be a positive alternative for many participants who don’t wish to meet a mental health professional in person. However, if you are opposed to traditional therapy in any format, you can pursue healing through an alternate route, such as Complementary and Alternative therapies (CAM therapies). Although it may not be your doctor's or therapist's suggested technique, some people find it useful and successful.

BetterHelp online therapy

BetterHelp offers only quality online therapy chat and online therapy sessions, and participants can start chatting with a therapist after creating an account via video sessions, phone chat, or chat messaging from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Using BetterHelp is easier than ever as clients can join therapy sessions via iOS or Android devices. Start chatting with a therapist to get support for healthier mental well-being. Though BetterHelp is not free, it does offer affordable payment plans and financial assistance for those that need it. Prices range from $65 to $100 per week (based on factors such as your location, referral source, preferences, therapist availability and any applicable discounts or promotions that might apply) to have sessions with a qualified therapist.

Once a client signs up, they will be matched with a digital therapist who meets their needs within 48 hours, with most matches happening within 24 hours. Then, clients can set up a live session from wherever they have online internet service. Participants can move at their own pace with their sessions as they receive professional help.

You can read more about people who have experienced a positive life change as a result of improved mental health through online therapy work here. All you need to do to get started with is take a brief survey, which will help gauge your needs.

Online therapy testimonials from real people

Peer-reviewed studies show that online therapy can provide strong support for people experiencing mental health challenges. Additionally, by choosing online therapy, you can remove traditional barriers such as cost, location, and scheduling. Key features of the BetterHelp app include live chat sessions, over-the-phone therapy sessions, video therapy sessions, and the option to message your therapist outside of sessions. 

Therapist reviews

"I was skeptical about this type of therapy but Leah made me feel confident from the beginning with her straightforward profile, thoughtful questions, and rapid responses. I feel that she truly sympathizes with my situation but also holds me accountable for finding solutions."
"Cole has been a great fit for a counselor for me. He is down to earth and doesn't sugarcoat anything. He quickly identified an emotional problem for me, which allowed me to continue researching it on my own as well as using the practical techniques he suggested. Just putting a name to it was tremendously helpful! He follows up when I haven't responded in a couple of days and keeps me on track to my target. The format fits my availability. I appreciate Cole's communication style, suggestions, and unwavering support."
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Takeaway

Free online therapy services do not always have true mental health experts available to chat. Instead, free online therapy may only be a starting point for receiving support and care. If you have a serious mental health disorder, are experiencing severe symptoms, or having suicidal thoughts, it’s vital to seek emotional support and immediate in-person attention from a licensed medical provider. For all other concerns, you may be able to take back control of your mental health with low-cost therapy options. 

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