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10 of the Best Online Therapy Services in 2021

Find effective, affordable counseling programs you can use anytime, anywhere.
By Dan Dowling
Updated August 31, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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When you're juggling a whole host of responsibilities, finding time to prioritize your mental health and speak to a counselor can feel like another tedious chore. Not only is therapy emotionally taxing, but it's often expensive. Thankfully, online therapy is becoming increasingly common. The best online therapy providers offer professional mental health support that's reputable, more affordable, and customized to fit your specific needs.

Our recommendations for the best online therapy providers

Should you choose in-person or online therapy?

There are some cases that call for traditional in-person therapy—more complex psychiatric disorders, for example. But for many other mental health conditions, online therapy can be just as effective as in-person treatment. And it's far more convenient. Rather than traveling to an office appointment, online therapy lets you receive vital mental health support in the comfort and privacy of your own home. For those whose mental health conditions do not place them at high risk for harm, online therapy can be an effective, accessible, cost-effective option.

This guide highlights some of the best online therapy providers for various needs and explores the many benefits of speaking to someone if you're struggling. 

Note: If you're experiencing a mental health crisis and believe you may be at risk of hurting yourself or others, dial 911 or call the SAMHSA hotline.

Benefits of online therapy

India Simms, LCMFT, owner of The Haven Center for Therapy & Wellness in Pikesville, Maryland, tells Health that the biggest benefit of online therapy for counselors and help-seekers alike is the access. "People who can't leave their homes due to anxiety or phobias are much more likely to see a mental health counselor from their own safe environments," says Simms.

This often leads to better retention rates, which typically translates into better results. According to Simms, many clients are able to meet during their lunch breaks without having to worry about commute times, and online therapy is less costly than in-person therapy, which opens it up to a greater portion of the population. 

Psychiatrist Carlene MacMillan, MD, co-founder of Brooklyn Minds, an in-person and telehealth-enabled mental health practice in New York, tells Health that text-based therapies are viable options for people who lack privacy (like teenagers or clients who live with roommates). "Online therapy that involves texting allows clients to connect with their therapist in the moment without needing to make a phone call," says Dr. MacMillan.

Why trust our expert reviews? 

Our experts independently research and recommend online therapy platforms that we believe will provide value in the lives of our readers. Collectively, we've spent more than 1,200 hours conducting in-depth research on online therapy providers. Throughout this process, we did the following:

  • Engaged in ongoing independent research
  • Consulted with independent therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists
  • Mystery shopped the brands
  • Surveyed hundreds of online therapy users
  • Tested various types of counseling services and formats for online therapy
  • Interviewed experts in the field
  • Read thousands of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports

Top 10 online therapy services in 2021

Related Items

For Depression: BetterHelp

VISIT SITE

BetterHelp treats a wide variety of mental health concerns, but specializes in treating depression. That's evident in its extensive online library of articles on depression—including in-depth guidance on how to identify, treat, and manage depression.

BetterHelp also provides treatment for the following areas:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Relationships
  • Parenting 
  • Addictions
  • Eating
  • Sleeping 
  • Trauma
  • Anger
  • Family conflicts
  • LGBTQ matters
  • Grief
  • Religion 
  • Self-esteem

BetterHelp plans

  • The platform offers a weekly subscription that includes unlimited messaging (text, audio, and video), weekly live chats (messaging, phone, or video), and digital worksheets.
  • It costs $60-$80 per week, depending on whether you qualify for financial aid. Members get billed monthly.

Pros

  • 20,000+ licensed therapists that each have at least three years of hands-on experience
  • In-depth questionnaire takes health and eating habits into account
  • Financial aid can reduce the cost significantly
  • Effectively guides you through the process of starting therapy

Cons

  • Doesn't accept insurance
  • Only has one plan and no psychiatric services
  • Can't pay with FSA or HSA
  • Must be at least 18 to join

Read our in-depth review of BetterHelp here.

For Stress and Anxiety: Online-Therapy.com

VISIT SITE

Online-Therapy.com earns a top spot for its affordability, range of treatments, availability, and effectiveness. 

Founded in 2009, Online-Therapy.com is a subscription service that links global users to qualified therapists trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. The platform offers unlimited messaging and weekly online counseling sessions through video, phone, and live text chat.

Other perks

Subscribers have access to a happiness toolbox, which includes a self-guided course on mental well-being, journals, activity planners, and yoga videos. These resources are excellent for individuals with stress-related disorders, such as anxiety or insomnia.

Online-Therapy.com treats the following conditions:

  • Agoraphobia
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • OCD
  • Panic attacks
  • PTSD
  • Stress
  • Weight concerns

Online-Therapy.com plans

Basic
  • Online therapy program plus daily replies from a therapist on your coursework
  • 25 self-guided worksheets covering eight aspects of mental wellness
  • A journal, activity plan, and access to yoga and meditation videos
  • Does not include live therapy sessions or therapist messaging
  • Costs $31.96 per week
Standard
  • Includes everything in the basic plan, plus one live 30-minute therapy session per week and unlimited therapist messaging
  • Costs $47.96 per week
Premium
  • Includes everything in the standard plan, plus a second live 30-minute therapy session every week
  • Costs $63.96 per week

Pros 

  • In-depth therapist bios with user ratings
  • Broad range of therapies offered
  • Global access
  • Self-guided course provides valuable instruction between sessions
  • Low-cost options 

Cons

  • In-person video sessions can be difficult to schedule
  • Doesn't accept insurance (though some providers will reimburse online therapy)
  • Must sign up for at least a one-month membership

Best Counseling + Prescription Hybrid: Cerebral

VISIT SITE

Cerebral is a mental health subscription service that provides both counseling and affordable medication for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Membership plans start at just $7 per week for the first month and include medication deliveries right to your door.

Cerebral plans

Cerebral has three treatment plans available for patients 18 and older.

Medication + care counseling 
  • A short online questionnaire matches you with the appropriate care. A prescribing provider meets with you via phone or video chat and is available for follow-up appointments after treatment is determined.
  • The subscription is $85 per month without insurance and $29 per month with insurance (not including medication and copays). Prescriptions are billed separately and eligible for insurance coverage.
  • Includes monthly visits with a care counselor, who discusses progress and teaches new skills, including mindfulness. Unlimited Care Team messaging is available.
Medication + therapy
  • Includes everything in the "medication + care counseling" plan, but instead of monthly visits with a care counselor, you get weekly sessions with a licensed therapist. 
  • The subscription is $325 per month without insurance and $29 per month with insurance (not including medication and copays). Prescriptions are billed separately and eligible for insurance coverage.
Therapy
  • Includes weekly meetings with a licensed therapist, but does not include access to prescription services.
  • The subscription is $259 per month without insurance and $29 per month with insurance (not including copays).

Pros

  • Accepts insurance
  • Offers three different membership plans
  • Prescribes and ships medication to your door
  • FSA/HSA eligible 
  • Assists with insurance claim submissions if you're not in network

Cons

  • Not all care counselors are licensed therapists
  • Available in most states but not all
  • Potential surcharge for monitoring sessions
  • No savings bundle
  • Subscription cancellation must be done by email
  • Can't message therapists

Best Online Community: 7 Cups

VISIT SITE

7 Cups started as an online mental wellness community of volunteers who simply listened to each other's problems. Formerly known as 7 Cups of Tea, the group has since adopted a chat model of online therapy driven by licensed therapists. 

Can't afford therapy? 7 Cups connects you to a trained, compassionate listener for free. A 2015 study published in Journal of Mental Health concluded that these listening groups did prove helpful for some people in emotional distress.

7 Cups plans

Anyone can access the platform's listener support forum as well as a limited selection of self-guided courses, but 7 Cups also offers two paid membership programs.

7 Cups Collection
  • Unlimited access to self-guided courses on topics like pain management, grief, anxiety, sleep, and breakups
  • Costs $12.95 per month, but provides discounts if you opt for an annual subscription
Paid Therapy
  • Includes all the benefits of the free plan, plus unlimited weekday messaging with a licensed therapist—expect one to two responses per day
  • Costs $150 per month

Pros

  • Highly engaged community that offers emotional support
  • Free access to the forum
  • Unlimited messaging

Cons

  • You won't get to talk to the same therapist every day
  • No live therapy options
  • Doesn't accept insurance

Best Self-Guided Therapy: My Online Therapy

VISIT SITE

In-person therapy isn't for everyone, and studies have shown that internet-based therapy can be as effective as traditional forms of therapy in treating conditions like anxiety, depression, and certain phobias. 

My Online Therapy has a large catalog of self-care courses created by psychologists who specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy. Here are a few areas the UK-based startup can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Relationships
  • Stress 
  • Depression 
  • Sleep
  • OCD

Though the company is headquartered across the pond, you can still book live online therapy sessions at myonlinetherapy.com.

My Online Therapy plans

Self-care
  • Self-guided courses featuring audio and video learning segments—and narrated in a calming British accent
  • New exercises added monthly
  • Costs $14 for a monthly subscription or $84 for a yearly subscription
Therapy sessions
  • Pick between 30- or 50-minute sessions after you complete a free online assessment
  • Sessions can be completed via video or live chat
  • 30-minute video sessions cost $68 and 50-minute video sessions cost $138
Daily coaching
  • Message your psychologist anytime during a weekday for guidance and support
  • Psychologists respond once per day
  • Costs $105 per week

Pros

  • Highly qualified team of psychologists
  • Treats a wide variety of issues
  • Accepts some insurance (only covers live video therapy sessions)
  • Self-care audio and video has exceptional quality 

Cons

  • More expensive than other live online therapy programs
  • Self-guided courses inherently lack supervision
  • A la carte pricing structure

Largest Variety of Therapies: LifeStance Health

VISIT SITE

Many online therapy programs are only qualified to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia. But LifeStance Health provides telehealth services for a variety of mental health conditions, including PTSD, anger, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more.

The company's team of over 3,300 licensed clinicians allows it to serve a much broader base than other online therapy providers. LifeStance Health's therapy styles include:

  • Psychiatric care
  • Medication management
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy

Online therapy begins with a short assessment, and patients have complete control over which licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or therapist they end up working with. 

LifeStance Health plans

  • No fixed plans exist—online therapy plans are determined by you and your therapist.
  • Since each plan is tailored to the patient, there are no fixed costs for the services offered. To get more information on pricing, visit the Book Now page, select your state, and call the number provided. Make sure to have your insurance card handy.

Pros 

  • In-person appointments available, depending on your state
  • Accepts most major insurance
  • Independent medical examinations
  • Treats children and teens
  • Customizable—you won't get locked into a plan that doesn't fit your needs

Cons

  • Only available in 27 states
  • No phone app
  • Can be costly if you don't have insurance
  • No messaging services

For OCD: NOCD

VISIT SITE

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affects nearly 2.2 million Americans each year. Since many online therapy sites only treat broad conditions like depression and anxiety, NOCD could be a good fit for those with OCD who prefer not to attend in-person therapy.

Potential patients are screened through a 15-minute phone call to determine whether NOCD is the right type of care for them. If it is, they'll meet with a practitioner for a 90-minute diagnostic session. Each OCD-certified therapist uses the exposure response prevention (ERP) method, which is considered the standard in OCD treatment. Follow-up sessions are determined by the practitioner and range from 30 to 60 minutes. 

NOCD plans

  • Treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis during the initial assessment
  • The first 90-minute session costs $139, as does each 60-minute session that follows. 30-minute sessions cost $89

Pros

  • Ability to make special requests when it comes to your therapist (male vs. female, religion, ethnicity, etc.)
  • Accepts insurance
  • Therapists have video bios for better matching
  • Treats children and adolescents
  • Less than half the cost of traditional OCD therapy

Cons

  • No monthly subscription
  • Doesn't prescribe medication
  • Out-of-pocket expenses can be costly

For Eating Disorders: Equip

VISIT SITE

Generalized therapy may only cover the psychological component of an eating disorder, but Equip combines psychiatric, dietary, medical, practical, and therapeutic support for the best results.

Treatments are provided weekly by a care team of five, which includes a licensed therapist, a dietician, a physician, a peer mentor, and a family mentor. Equip currently treats the following:

  • Bulimia
  • Anorexia
  • Binge eating disorder 
  • Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
  • Atypical eating disorders

Equip plans

  • One standard treatment plan that lasts for a year
  • Family is heavily involved in the healing phase of treatment
  • As for cost, the amount varies based on insurance coverage

Pros

  • Highly collaborative and skilled therapists
  • Messaging between sessions and meal coaching
  • Open to children, teens, and young adults 
  • Treats co-occurring anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder

Cons

  • Limited insurance options (in network with Cigna and Optum)
  • Only treats patients ages 6-24, and all patients must be living with a parent/guardian
  • Expensive out of pocket

Best User-Friendly App: Talkspace

VISIT SITE

Talkspace is one of the largest online therapy platforms. Not only does it attract big sponsors (like Michael Phelps), but it also has a stellar app that's user-friendly. Some of the best features are:

  • A nimble interface
  • Guaranteed response times
  • Guided exercises for stress reduction and relaxation 
  • Visuals to track your progress
  • Text, audio, and video messaging with your therapist

The company has proven itself through ease of access, breadth of treatments, and a quality in-app experience.

Talkspace plans

Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus
  • Includes text, video, and audio messaging
  • Therapist responds five days a week
  • Costs $65 per week
Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium
  • Includes everything in the Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus plan, plus one 30-minute live session per month
  • Costs $79 per week
Unlimited Messaging Therapy Ultimate 
  • Includes everything in the Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus plan, plus four 30-minute live sessions per month
  • Costs $99 per week
Couples Therapy
  • Includes text, video, and audio messaging
  • Therapist responds five days a week
  • Four 30-minute live sessions per month
  • Pricing is similar to the Unlimited Messaging Therapy Ultimate plan
Psychiatry
  • Initial evaluation and follow-up sessions, plus medication prescriptions
  • The evaluation costs $199 and follow-up sessions cost $125

Pros

  • The matching algorithm gives you a choice of three licensed therapists based on your needs
  • Suitable for ages 13 and up
  • Offers psychiatry and couples therapy
  • Can pay with FSA or HSA accounts
  • LGBTQ-friendly
  • Talkspace accepts some insurance and may be covered by your employer

Cons

  • Average Glassdoor rating is 3.3 stars out of 5. Many Talkspace therapists claim they're not getting paid enough, which could affect quality
  • Responses can be hasty
  • Refund policy is a sore spot for many reviewers

Read our in-depth review of Talkspace here.

Best Therapy for Teens: Teen Counseling

VISIT SITE

Nearly half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14, and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among teens between ages 15-19. Teen Counseling provides much-needed online therapy to the underserved teenage population. 

Specializing in areas like family conflict and school issues, Teen Counseling is better able to address the needs of adolescents than more general online therapy platforms. In fact, several top-ranked therapy apps don't assist teens at all.

Here's a rundown of the therapy types offered:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Issues at school
  • Bullying
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Relationships with friends
  • Phobias
  • Family conflicts
  • Eating disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • LGBTQ issues
  • Addiction

Teen Counseling works with individuals between the ages of 13 and 19. In order to be accepted, parents/guardians must sign up first to provide consent. Each teen has access to a secure chat room—no parents allowed—but therapists will notify guardians of imminent safety risks.

Teen Counseling plans

  • One weekly subscription plan with unlimited texts and audio/video chat; weekly live sessions included
  • The subscription costs between $60 and $90 per week, and it can be cancelled at any time. Payments are made monthly

Pros

  • Large network of more than 9,000 therapists
  • Available in every state
  • Financial aid for qualifying families
  • Unlimited messaging

Cons

  • Can't fulfill court-ordered therapy
  • Many users have complained about a slow sign-up process
  • Refunds are difficult

Online therapy platform comparisons

Accepts insurance? Price Therapy options

N

$60–$80/week

Text/audio/video messaging, phone, video

N

$30–$60+/week

Messaging, video

Y

$29–$259/month

Messaging, phone, video

N

Free–$150/month

Messaging

Y

$120/hour

Phone, video, live chat, messaging

Y

Variable

Phone, video

Y

$89/30-minute session

Phone, video

Y

Variable

Messaging, phone, video

Y

$65–$99/week

Text/audio/video messaging, phone, video

N

$60–$90/week

Text/audio/video messaging, phone, video

Who is online therapy for? 

Based on expert feedback, the following types of people are all good candidates for virtual therapy, though this list is not definitive:

  • Frequent travelers
  • People with anxiety or agoraphobia
  • Homebound individuals 
  • People with good support systems
  • Couples with relationship struggles
  • Busy working professionals 

Mimi Winsberg, MD, chief medical officer for Brightside, an online therapy and psychiatry provider headquartered in San Francisco, tells Health that remote care isn't a good fit for people with certain conditions, including schizophrenia, psychosis, symptoms of mania, borderline personality disorder, and high-risk self-harm behavior. While a few specially designed online programs could potentially handle some of the more complex mental illnesses, "Most of the well-known platforms today simply are not equipped to handle this level of acuity," adds Dr. MacMillan. 

Bottom line

Online therapy isn't for everyone, but it is for almost everyone. 

There's a wealth of scientific and anecdotal evidence that proves online therapy is effective, and individuals struggling with their mental health can find reputable sites that employ highly qualified counselors and psychologists who are trained to help. 

Frequently asked questions

Is online therapy legit?

Without a doubt. Numerous studies have shown online therapy to be just as effective as traditional therapy in many cases. But, as is true with any industry, you will stumble upon companies that don't have legitimate business practices, so it's important to always do your research. 

Can I get free online therapy?

Yes, you can, but it could take some digging. Certain religious charities offer free online therapy for individuals who may not have access to other forms of therapy. And 7 Cups provides free emotional support from trained listeners on its platform.

How much does online therapy cost?

Paid plans typically start at around $30 a week and go up to hundreds of dollars, depending on the services you choose. Whether or not a provider accepts insurance also greatly affects the cost. 

Is online therapy cheaper than in-person therapy?

In most cases, yes. Low overhead and an abundance of therapists generally make for lower costs. 

Does my insurance cover online therapy?

Check with your insurance provider and the online therapy program you're considering to see if your insurance will cover all or part of your therapy. Even if a company isn't in network, you may still be eligible for a reimbursement.  

What can I do if I can't afford online therapy?

You have a few options to consider. Some online therapy providers offer price reductions based on income. "Academic institutions that have training programs often have clinics with low fee/sliding scale slots," notes Dr. MacMillan. "In addition, group therapy is less expensive than individual therapy and may be a good fit for some individuals."

What is the cheapest online therapy?

Online-Therapy.com has affordable messaging and self-guided services starting at a little over $30 per week. 7 Cups's Collection program costs just under $13 per month and offers unlimited access to resources on pain management, grief, anxiety, and more topics.

Dan Dowling is a health and fitness expert based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can find his work on Livestrong, Fitbit, Verywell, Healthline Media, and many other wellness sites.