Best Online Therapy Services: Top Features Reviewed In 2023

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Before online therapy became an option, people may have had to take time out of their busy schedules, tackle traffic to arrive at the therapist's office, and wait for their traditional therapy appointment to begin. These factors can be an inconvenience and may become barriers to treatment. The best online therapy platforms help remove these barriers, making it easier for people to get help in their time of need.

Knowing what to look out for when selecting internet therapy services can benefit those who are unsure where to start. Finding a service that offers the level of support and care that suits your individual needs is important. Asking yourself questions such as: “What types of therapy sessions are available?”, “Does this service fit into my schedule and budget?” and “Does the therapist have the qualifications and experience that I need?” can help you make an informed decision.

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Reasons to explore the best online therapy platforms

According to the American Psychiatric Association, nearly one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental health condition. One in 25 people has a severe mental health disorder, and one in 12 has a diagnosable substance use disorder. About 20% of Americans live with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

With online therapy, you can meet with a therapist at convenient times, which may eliminate travel time, wait times, and the stress of traffic or public transportation. Additionally, you can find a therapist suited to your specific needs and lifestyle. Clients may choose to work with a provider for individual or couples therapy. Some telehealth services also offer group therapy with licensed mental health therapists.

Virtual licensed mental health professionals work in psychology and may address your areas of concern or desired growth areas. These professionals can offer various therapy modalities and therapy services, including but not limited to cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other options. Research shows that virtual therapy effectively treats various mental health conditions and can help people manage life challenges. You may use this form of treatment to discuss the following:  

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Eating disorders 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Setting goals for healthier thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Managing grief or loss 
  • Career or school exploration 
  • Life transitions
  • Stress 
  • Chronic health challenges
  • Any other mental health conditions or concerns 

Today's clients seeking mental healthcare may be able to get support by chat, phone, or video sessions from wherever they have an internet connection. In some cases, virtual therapy sites can be more affordable than in-person therapy.

*BetterHelp cannot prescribe medication or offer medication management services. If you need this type of assistance, consult a local licensed psychiatrist or medical professional. Please also note that BetterHelp online therapy does not accept health insurance plans at this time.

Therapy sessions through an online therapy platform

Sessions with licensed professional counselors or family therapists can address various mental health concerns, including bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Regardless of your mental health history, you can find a type of therapy that is evidence-based to alleviate symptoms of various conditions and learn healthy coping strategies. 

Is online therapy effective? A growing number of studies suggest that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person sessions. However, it may not be ideal for everyone in every situation. The American Psychological Association, for example, recommends that whether through phone calls, in-app messaging, or video conferencing, it's important to ensure that the therapist is licensed to practice.

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BetterHelp online therapy

BetterHelp specializes in offering clients mental health services through over 30,000 licensed mental health professionals, making it consistently rated the best therapy platform. Below are some of the benefits of one of the best online therapy platforms available.

Experienced professionals

BetterHelp is the most extensive online platform offering talk therapy over the phone, via video, or through live chat sessions. Internet licensed professional therapists who partner with BetterHelp meet high standards of professionalism and experience. They are all licensed and must have a certain number of clinical hours, depending on their state. Working virtually does not reduce licensure requirements, and all providers practicing therapy virtually must have a license.

Each mental health professional working with BetterHelp is an experienced licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, or psychologist. All therapists on BetterHelp are experienced and hold an advanced degree in their field (a master's degree, doctoral degree, or both).

BetterHelp carefully verifies that every mental healthcare provider on the platform is up to date on their licensing and in proper standing. Licensing information is available for users to view in an easy-to-find format after getting matched with a therapist.

Therapists go through a thorough process of providing documentation of identity and licensure. BetterHelp cross-checks the licensing and identity of each therapist through the state licensing board that issued the license. In addition, all therapists on BetterHelp must complete a case study exam and be evaluated in a video interview. 

Multiple options 

BetterHelp aims to help clients find a therapist who suits their mental health needs and preferences. BetterHelp can match you with a therapist through their online therapy service that fits your goals and the issues you want to address. You can specify if you're going to meet with an LGBTQ+ counselor, a BIPOC counselor, or a female or male therapist. You can also choose between multiple formats of sessions, including video sessions with your therapist. 

Quick matches 

When you first sign up for BetterHelp, you will receive a therapist match often within 24-48 hours. After you are matched, you can check your therapist's profile and availability and make an appointment. If their availability doesn't work or you're looking for something different, you can change your therapist. 

Messaging 

On BetterHelp, you can text or message your therapist anytime, and they'll respond at their earliest convenience. You will get notified when your therapist replies, often within 24 hours. 

You will also be able to schedule live video therapy sessions with your therapist. In real-time, you can connect via live chat, phone call, or videoconferencing. A monthly subscription includes the option to schedule one live session per week through the virtual platform. 

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Regain online couples counseling services

Regain is an internet-based therapy platform for couples who want to improve their relationship with counseling. Regain specializes in providing the best online therapy, support, and resources for relationships. 

The platform offers therapeutic services to help couples or individuals find support in their relationships. Therapists can guide strengthening relationships, improving communication, and learning healthy steps to move forward after a breakup or a relationship change.

Licensed mental health counselors

Therapists on Regain are licensed mental health counselors with expertise in relationship counseling. They may be licensed marriage and family counselors, practitioners who utilize virtual cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or professionals who specialize in other therapy methods.

When you sign up for therapy through Regain, you will gain: 

  • Phone, video, and live chat sessions 
  • Messaging 
  • Discreet, affordable, convenient relationship therapy with a licensed therapist from any location with an internet connection 

Regain offers many features that BetterHelp has, focusing on couples, marriage, and relationships. 

Concerns around online platforms 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is intended to prevent the discovery of sensitive information without consent or knowledge of the patient. However, an internet therapy platform may reveal or discuss information under certain circumstances, so it's important to read a platform's fair processing notice. 

Insurance coverage

Many people wonder, "Will my insurance cover virtual therapy?" It depends. Some therapists working through certain platforms accept insurance. These platforms include Talkspace and Doctor on Demand. However, the scope of insurance coverage may depend on individual state laws and other requirements. Medicaid and other insurers may offer reimbursement for mental health treatment of a diagnosed mental illness, though you may still be responsible for deductibles and co-pays. 

When in doubt, it's advisable to check if the platform you are considering accepts insurance. You may also ask whether your insurance company will cover virtual therapy. For many people, virtual sessions with accredited therapists offer affordable therapy, even without insurance, when compared to per session costs of in-person sessions.

Other ways to pay

You can use funds from a health savings account (HSA) for mental health care. An HSA allows employees who have a high-deductible health plan to offset the costs of mental health service. These accounts can be opened by an individual or by an employer, and untaxed contributions can be made by an employer or the account holder. 

HSAs are also portable, which means that if you leave your job, you can still enjoy its mental health benefits. 

Other online resources

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new website featuring mental health resources on how to find professional counselors, and has contact information for a mental health emergency*.

*If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a mental health crisis, contact SAMHSA Helpline or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

How to get started 

Online therapy is often convenient for working with licensed therapists for professional support and guidance. You can connect from anywhere you have an internet connection and attend phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist match. Additionally, you can message them between meetings rather than waiting until the next session to connect with your therapist. 

Effectiveness 

Studies show that internet-based therapy is effective. One analysis found that some therapists felt that online treatment was preferable and more effective than in-person therapy. If you're interested in getting started, consider signing up with a platform like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples to gain insight into how these therapy processes can work. The first step to signing up may feel empowering—it can be the beginning of a positive journey toward productivity, healing, or support. 

Takeaway

Many online therapy platforms are available, and finding the right one for you can feel confusing. In short, the best virtual therapy services are the ones that fit your needs. Whether working with licensed clinical social workers or other therapy providers, virtual therapy sessions can be an empowering tool to improve communication, strengthen relationships, or provide mental health support. If you're unsure, consider creating a pros and cons list for each platform you want to try out. Some venues may offer a trial at specific periods, and many offer financial aid if you can't afford the virtual therapy cost. Don't hesitate to reach out to an online therapy provider today!
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