Teen Counseling Online Therapy Review

Teen Counseling offers teens and their parents quick, easy access to qualified therapists using a wide range of communication methods.

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Teen Counseling Review Recirc

Teen Counseling

If you’re looking for therapy for your teen, or for yourself as the parent of a teen—without using insurance—Teen Counseling could be a good place to start. The service offers quick access to qualified therapists specializing in teen and family issues for a relatively reasonable fee.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Quick matching process
  • Appointments available within days
  • Can choose therapist when switching
  • Variety of communication options
  • Online journal available that therapist responds to
  • Teen and parent portals are separate
  • Parents and teens can participate in therapy together

Cons

  • You can’t choose your first therapist
  • Does not take insurance
  • Large, impersonal company
  • Not all therapists comfortable with live chat
  • Don’t know exact price until during sign-up

Even before the COVID pandemic, the U.S. was seeing a dramatic increase in teen mental health concerns. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40%, and the number of youths who reported making a suicide plan in the past year increased by 44%. Then came the anxiety and grief, as well as the isolation and stress of COVID-related closures. Add to that active shooter drills, increasing political attacks on LGBTQIA+ identities, growing racial tensions, and the potential impacts of climate change in their lifetimes, and you’ve got a recipe for a youth mental health crisis. 

What’s more, many areas of the country are what’s referred to as “therapy deserts.” These are places where there are no or few therapists within driving distance, and the few therapists there are often have waiting lists months long for in-person care. When it comes to therapists who are credentialed to treat teens, availability dwindles yet further. That’s where online therapy comes in. Teen Counseling hopes to increase mental healthcare accessibility for the growing number of teens in need of professional help. To assess how well the company is meeting this goal, we surveyed 105 users of the service, and my 15-year-old son and I tested it for ourselves.

What Is Teen Counseling?

Teen Counseling is a subsidiary of the general online therapy company BetterHelp. BetterHelp was founded by Alon Matas and Danny Bragonier in 2013 after Matas had trouble finding a therapist who was available for sessions at the same time he was. The company was acquired by Teladoc, Inc. in 2015. 

BetterHelp also accepts teen therapy patients, but it created Teen Counseling as a place where teens and their parents could access therapists specializing in issues specifically related to the needs of teens aged 13 to 19  as well as their parents. 

Despite its unique focus on a subgroup of people who certainly need more access to qualified therapists, that access may come at a cost. With its aggressive marketing campaigns and use of celebrity endorsers, BetterHelp and other online therapy companies seem more concerned with profit margins than patient outcomes. And the collection and sharing of patient data is another important issue consumers should be aware of. BetterHelp recently came under scrutiny for its handling of consumer data. In June 2022, after data mining allegations, the Senate asked BetterHelp to detail exactly how it secures user information.

What Services Does Teen Counseling Offer?

The company provides individual teen therapy, individual therapy for parents of teens, and family therapy involving the teen and their parent(s) or guardian(s). Talk therapy sessions range from 30 to 45 minutes and can take place via video, phone call, or live text. In between sessions, you can message your therapist in your portal, though I felt this was more for exchanging administrative information like who will be participating in sessions, scheduling issues, or technical problems. If you’re looking for therapeutic feedback between sessions, you can use the journaling tool to jot your thoughts down and receive asynchronous feedback from your therapist. The journal also has prompts if you’re having trouble getting started.

Who Is Teen Counseling For?

Teen Counseling offers therapy for:

  • Individual teens
  • Individual parents of teens
  • Families that include teens

The company asserts its therapists can help teens and parents address depression, anxiety, relationships, bullying, and trauma. Other specialties commonly listed by Teen Counseling therapists in their bios include:  

  • Stress 
  • Coping with life changes 
  • Grief 
  • Self esteem 
  • Anger management
  • Family conflicts
  • Isolation/loneliness
  • LGBT issues
  • Parenting issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Adoption and foster care
  • Attachment issues
  • Blended families
  • Caregiver stress

These therapy bios don’t specify any particular therapeutic modality preferences, but the most common forms of therapy for teens are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps patients identify and change negative thoughts and/or behaviors and replace them with healthier patterns of thought; dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which combines CBT and mindfulness to help address emotional dysregulation; and interpersonal therapy, which analyzes how your interactions with other people affect your own mental health.

How Much Does Teen Counseling Cost?

While you won’t know the exact cost of therapy until you’re in the process of signing up, Teen Counseling lists a price range on its website of $60 to $90 per week, billed every four weeks. Price differences are based on your location, therapist preferences, and therapist availability. The company also admitted to us that it uses surge pricing, meaning you could pay more if you live somewhere where the demand for services is higher. 

I live outside of Philadelphia and indicated I was interested in a therapist specializing in life changes and anxiety, and ended up paying $80 a week. Included in the price is one weekly 30- to 45-minute live therapy session on your choice of platform: video call, phone call, or live chat. 

The national average cost of a therapy session without insurance is $60 to $200, depending on therapist credentials and the type of therapy sought (individual, couples, etc.). This puts Teen Counseling on the cheaper end of the spectrum. 

In our survey, 70% of users felt Teen Counseling was a good, very good, or excellent value for the money, but only 49% felt the service was affordable. Industry-wide, most therapy sessions last 45 minutes to an hour, so Teen Counseling’s 30 to 45 minutes may leave some people wanting more for their money.

Does Teen Counseling Take Insurance?

Teen Counseling doesn’t take any insurance or provide a superbill to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. You can, however, pay for the service with flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) funds.

Does Teen Counseling Offer Discounts?

When you get to payment information section of the sign-up, you can click on “financial aid” or “I can't afford therapy” to see eligible situations (e.g. veterans and their families, disabled people, those financially impacted by COVID). Cost reduction is determined on a case-by-case basis. You may also be offered a different rate or payment cycle if you begin the cancellation process.

Navigating the Teen Counseling Website and App

The Teen Counseling website is pretty no-frills. There are six tabs at the top right of the page: Teen FAQ, Parent FAQ, Reviews, Contact, Login, and Get Started. In the middle is a large square touting its over 15,000 therapists and inviting you to choose between the “I’m a Parent” or “I’m a Teen” sign-up buttons. 

Teen Counseling Homepage

Underneath is a selection of therapist headshots and a short paragraph (in a very small font) outlining the services offered and what issues it can help with. Continuing to scroll down, you’ll find a description of how the service works and a scrolling selection of therapist reviews.

Teen Counseling2

The menu along the bottom has links to FAQs, reviews, contact, terms and conditions, privacy policy, cookie settings, and web accessibility. In addition, there’s a resources page of emergency mental health support contact numbers should you or your child be in crisis or immediate danger. 

FAqs

The FAQ pages have about 15 questions each, including information about the service, prices, accessibility, and how the different types of therapy work. On the “Reviews” page, you can read therapist bios that include the therapist’s photo, name, specialties, and credentials, as well as quotes from recent reviews by the therapist’s clients.

The website has no complimentary materials like a blog or newsletter and no links to any social media presence.

Does Teen Counseling Have an App?

Teen Counseling4

Teen Counseling does have an app that’s available on iOS or Android. It’s a pared-down version of the website, offering an overview of how the service works, several sign-up buttons, and menu options of FAQ, Reviews, Contact, Login, or Get Started. Once you’re signed up for the service, the app functions in the same way as your portal on the website. You can participate in video, phone, or chat therapy sessions via the app and use the journal just as you would on the desktop website.

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Teen Counseling?

Signing up for therapy is simple and takes about 10 minutes. When you click any of the sign-up buttons on the homepage, you’ll be sent to the “Help us match you with a therapist” page where you can read scrolling reviews of therapists. 

Teen Counseling5

The first question you are asked when signing up is whether you are inviting your teen or just want therapy for yourself. You will then enter your teen's gender, whether your teen attends school regularly, and whether your teen’s been in therapy before. You are asked if you have concerns about your teen’s:

  • Relationship with family or peers
  • Coping with life changes
  • ADHD/ADD
  • School challenges
  • Criminal behavior or substance use
  • Sexuality-related issues 

To find out more about the state of your teen’s mental health, you are asked whether your teen is experiencing: 

  • Panic attacks, anxiety, or phobias
  • Overwhelming sadness, depression, or grief 
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Anger outbursts 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Feeling down, hopeless, or depressed

It also asks if your teen is or has been experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts. Next, you enter your state of residence, name, and email, and complete a parental consent form. Then it sends you a code to enter to confirm your email address. Once you’re sent back to the website, you choose from the list of specialties you want your provider to have experience with:

  • Depression
  • Family conflict 
  • Stress 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Life changes 
  • Trauma
  • Anger

Finally, you are told how much your subscription will cost and asked to provide your credit card information or check your eligibility for financial aid. After you pay, you can access your portal. The first thing you are asked when you log in is to use the text box to explain why you are seeking therapy using your own words. Once you are matched with a therapist, they can read this explanation to get an idea of your needs and where to start during your first session.

I appreciated that the welcome page included a link to information for first-time therapy users, since I indicated this was my teen’s first time in therapy. The page also outlined what happens next, what to do if I don’t like the therapist I get matched with, and a reiteration of therapy costs. The sign-up process at Teen Counseling is clearly a well-oiled machine, but I did wish it was a bit more personalized.  In our survey, 59% of users said the sign-up process was easy or very easy.

Matching With a Therapist at Teen Counseling 

Teen Counseling offers a wide diversity of credentials among its providers, including licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and registered play therapist (RPT). The therapist we matched with even had a registered art therapist (ATR) credential. 

After signing up, the company says you will be matched to a therapist within 24 to 48 hours. I received a match within 24 hours even though I signed up on the weekend. Once matched, I was prompted to log in to the portal to schedule my first appointment and begin communicating with my therapist. 

On the appointment calendar, there were several time slots available in the coming week. The therapist also sent a personalized welcome message. It was nice to be able to message with my therapist before scheduling in case I needed to ask any questions about her experience, approach, or availability. 

Teen Counseling has thousands of therapists, which would take forever to sort through if I was able to choose any of them. However, I would’ve preferred to be able to choose from a small array of preselected therapists rather than just be matched to one.

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Teen Counseling?

When scheduling your sessions, you first choose your mode of communication. You can schedule a live chat, video, or phone call session. All sessions and messaging take place within Teen Counseling’s secured portal. I would have preferred if there was also an option to declare who was participating in the therapy session when scheduling, whether it was teen, parent, or teen and parent.

The main section of the portal is the “session” room, where you can message your therapist and view your message history. You and your teen have separate portals and cannot see what the other has written to the therapist. The other areas of the portal are the journal and the schedule. The journal can be private only to you or shared with your therapist, but its contents are not visible to any other participating parties. 

Among the menu options in the portal are Account, Therapy Tools, and Support. Account houses links to your account info, payment settings, and the option to change therapists. Under therapy tools, you’ll find “groupinars,” starred messages, and a place to do a video session test. Groupinars are regular therapist-led seminars covering various mental health topics; you can ask the therapist questions during the Q&A portion at the end of the event. The calendar of groupinars is visible after signing up for Teen Counseling.

Finally, in the support section are the FAQs and customer service contact.

Live Chat Sessions

For the first session, my son chose to do live chat. In fact, it was the only method of interaction my teen would concede to do to help me test the service. He was not interested in phone or video therapy. In this way, the fact that live text was an option meant he could participate in therapy at all. I’m sure my son is not alone in his preference for text-based communication. Research has long shown that teens prefer texting. 

“While text-based therapy is not usually an adequate substitute for in-person, video, or phone sessions, for some, it eliminates the anxiety of speaking with someone face-to-face,” says Hannah Owens, LMSW, a therapist and subject matter expert. “It is also more convenient and private, as you don’t have to worry about someone overhearing you and you can communicate with your therapist anytime, anywhere. This modality resonates with teens, especially, who have grown up with this kind of technology.”

When the therapist first got into the session, she asked my son if he wanted to do a phone or video session. Confused because we'd booked a live chat session, he came to get me to ask what he should say. I said to tell her he just wanted to do a live chat. She said OK, she would do it just for today, but this wasn't an optimal form of therapy for creating a rapport. This made the appointment get off on an awkward foot.

While I wholeheartedly agree live chat is likely not as effective as video/phone/in-person therapy, if the company purports to offer this form of therapy, I feel like all of the therapists should be willing to do it. But our therapist had a good reason for encouraging my son to try video therapy—it will actually help him address the reason we sought therapy: social anxiety. 

During the session, my teen wrote several long messages. She interrupted while he was typing to confirm he was still there because he was taking a few minutes to type. This made him preoccupied with his typing speed for the rest of the session. He said it was hard to find the right words and get his thoughts down quickly enough, but he wouldn’t be able to say what he wanted to say out loud on the phone or on video.

Despite her dislike of the live text mode of therapy, the therapist gave my son helpful, personalized information. She was very understanding and seemed genuinely interested in helping him, even giving him some homework at the end of the session.

Audio Sessions

The second session was via phone, which I attended on my own. I spoke with the same therapist my son had his live chat session with, so she had already introduced herself to my son and got a sense of his issues. I logged into the app and waited in the “session” tab as instructed, then my phone rang and I was patched through to the therapist. As an older millennial who grew up without smartphones, the 45-minute phone call was easier than live chat, for me at least. The therapist was warm and talkative and immediately made me feel comfortable. We had a great conversation and I left the session feeling energized about how to support my son.  

I know many therapists believe in-person or video sessions are the only truly effective ways to participate in therapy since the therapist can read your body language, but I think it’s possible to connect reasonably well with someone over the phone, too. I also think the visual element was less important in this case since this therapy wasn’t exactly for me: I was asking questions about my son and essentially seeking therapy on his behalf, that is, getting help on how best to support him. For this purpose, a phone call worked just fine for me.

Video Sessions

My son was not interested in participating in video sessions, but other testers and reviewers have noted they’ve experienced major issues with video quality as well as other tech problems when attempting to participate in live video therapy sessions. I appreciated that I could choose between video or phone for my therapy appointment, and I chose phone call to alleviate the self-imposed pressure of being camera-ready.

Messaging Your Therapist

You can message your therapist directly in the portal at any time between sessions. The teen and parent/guardian each have their own message board within their respective separate portal, so neither party can see what the other writes; it’s only between you and the therapist. I felt like this feature was for exchanging administrative or other non-therapeutic information. For instance, my therapist used it to let me know she was running a few minutes late, but would be with me shortly; I used it to let her know it would be me, not my son, participating in the second therapy session. This feature could be for therapeutic purposes and I just didn’t try to use it that way, or perhaps it depends on the therapist; you could always try asking for advice via message and see how it’s received. Some therapists on the portal may assign worksheets to help teens learn how to better express themselves and navigate their feelings.

Journaling Sessions

The therapist will provide asynchronous therapeutic feedback to what you write in the journal that you can access via the patient portal. You can make your journal private or choose to share it with your therapist. The parent cannot see what is in the journal; parents can use the journal also if desired, and choose to keep it private or share it with the therapist, but the teen will not see it.  If shared with your therapist, they will provide therapeutic feedback on what you’ve written. There are also prompts provided to help guide teens as they begin their journaling journey. This may be helpful for teens who don’t know where to start or who want to learn how journaling can help them process their emotions. My son was not interested in journaling, but it was something the therapist suggested I should encourage him to do since he found writing easier than talking.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at Teen Counseling?

You must cancel or reschedule your appointments at least 24 hours before your scheduled session time. There is a $15 no-show fee for missed appointments. Even if you cannot reschedule a session for that week, you are still charged the weekly fee. In this way, you pay for a therapy session every week whether you use it or not. 

For folks who may sometimes have last-minute scheduling changes, or who can’t find a session during a time they have availability some weeks, this could mean paying a lot of money for services not rendered. It’s also quite a big chunk of change to pay for each month upfront; people who get paid weekly may find it prohibitive.

Switching Therapists at Teen Counseling

Switching therapists is easy; you simply click “change therapists” under the account section of the portal. You’re then asked to complete a survey about why you are switching and rate your therapist. Afterward, you can request to see therapists who are a certain gender, over age 45, a person of color, LGBT, etc. Initially, I was offered 10 therapists to choose from, with an additional 12 options popping up after I clicked “more therapists.”

Once you choose a new therapist, the change is instantaneous and you can make an appointment with your new therapist any time they have availability. However, the message history between you and your first therapist disappears. I feel like it could be useful for subsequent therapists to see your progress and where you left off, but perhaps this data needs to be erased for privacy issues. 

Having a large pool of therapists to choose from has its pros and cons. It definitely increases the likelihood that you’ll find a therapist who will meet your needs. To me, it gave the impression this was a big, impersonal company. 

I really appreciated the shorter, curated list of therapists I got to choose from when switching therapists and wish a similar list had been provided at sign-up to allow me to choose my first therapist. Our research showed most people were satisfied with the therapist initially assigned to them or one they subsequently chose. Most of the users we surveyed stayed with their first or second therapist: 51% never changed providers and 25% changed once.

Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Teen Counseling

You can cancel your membership at Teen Counseling anytime for any reason. The cancellation button is under “payment settings” within your account information. If you pay for your subscription monthly, you must cancel before the end of the month to avoid another round of charges.

After clicking the cancel button, I was offered new payment options aimed at getting me to stay: $95/week paid weekly or $80/week paid monthly. The first option cost more, but changed how often I paid; the second option was the same as the plan I currently had. Declining to continue with either of these options, I was offered the option to see if I qualified for financial aid. When I confirmed I wanted to continue canceling, I had to answer a brief survey about why.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

The therapist we matched with was a good fit. She was very personable and clearly loved working with kids, saying she does whatever it takes to get them to open up. She had a plan for addressing my son’s social anxiety and helped me see things from a new perspective. And though I think all therapists should be willing to participate in all types of therapy the company offers, I know her goal of pushing my son out of his comfort zone and into video or phone therapy was a therapeutic one.

“When looking for a therapist for your child, it’s especially important to find a provider who specializes in that age group,” says Owens. “Adolescents have their own particular issues that it’s important for therapists to understand and to be able to address in the context of the adolescent’s stage of development.”

The majority of our surveyed users found the service acceptable: 66% were satisfied with the therapist options and 85% rated therapist qualifications positively. In addition, 76% of users surveyed felt all or most of their needs were met by their provider, and 71% said they would recommend Teen Counseling to a friend. When asked which factors were important to their search for a therapy provider, 13% cited the availability of multiple therapy session types (video, phone, text). However, only 30% of users said they’d likely still be seeing a Teen Counseling therapist six months from now.

Privacy Policies at Teen Counseling

Teen Counseling's privacy policy and terms and conditions are easy to find on its website, and easy to read since they have been translated from legalese. Knowing what I did about the service’s parent company in regard to the selling of user data, I was a bit concerned about providing my information to the service, and even more so about trusting the company with my teen’s biographical and mental health information. Potential clients should feel free to reach out to customer service if they have any concerns about privacy or data protection. 

Teen Counseling asserts interactions in its portal are secured. You do have to sign an agreement saying a second therapist at the company may have access to your communications in order to provide performance feedback to the therapist. Teen Counseling adheres to HIPAA regulations for protected medical information and cannot share any interactions between therapists and clients outside of the company.

Teen Counseling says it utilizes user data to enhance the experience of its clients, which may include recommending other services. Under account settings, you can request the erasure of, or a copy of, your personal data. You can also opt out of receiving emails.

Teen Counseling vs. Its Competitors

In our survey, 88% of users rated Teen Counseling positively compared to other services they’d tried. One of Teen Counseling’s main competitors is Wellnite, since it also serves people aged 13 and up, and offers both individual and family counseling. 

Eighty percent of Wellnite users reported overall satisfaction with the service, 75% felt all or most of their needs were met by their provider, and 71% would recommend the company to a friend. When you compare that to Teen Counseling’s results in those areas of 85%, 76%, and 71%, respectively, the two services are pretty evenly matched. Where Wellnite earns points is its acceptance of PPO insurance and its offering of medication management/psychiatry services.

A better-rated competitor is Teladoc. It takes insurance, accepts therapy patients aged 13 and up, and offers medication management/psychiatry services, though it does not offer family therapy. An astonishing 97% of users rated their overall experience at Teladoc positively, 80% said their needs were met, and 86% said they’d recommend Teladoc to a friend. One big perk is you only pay for sessions you schedule and can use the service for more general telehealth appointments in addition to therapy.

 Final Verdict

Overall, my teen and I had a positive experience at Teen Counseling, though I don’t think it’s something we could normally fit into our budget. If one of my kids needed therapy, I would choose a service that accepted our insurance. Of our surveyed users, 20% said a service that accepts insurance is important to them, and only 49% said Teen Counseling was affordable for them.

I would recommend Teen Counseling for people looking specifically for therapy for their teen or with issues regarding the parenting of a teen, and who don’t have or don’t want to use insurance. Still, Teen Counseling is one of the few online therapy platforms out there offering live chat counseling sessions. For a teen like mine, it was not just convenient, it was essential.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers.

Key Specs

  • Price: $60 to $90 a week, paid monthly; $95 paid weekly; some users may qualify for financial assistance
  • Is Insurance Accepted? No
  • Types of Therapy Offered: Individual teen, individual parent/guardian, family (teen and parents/guardians)
  • Communication Options: Live chat, live audio/phone, live video, journal
  • HIPAA Compliant? Yes
  • Is There an App? Yes
  • Accepts HSA or FSA? Yes
  • Prescriptions Available? No
  • Billing Cadence: Monthly; may be able to switch to weekly at a higher rate
Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Ally is a senior editor for Verywell, who covers topics in the health, wellness, and lifestyle spaces. She has written for The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.
and
Simone Scully
Simone Scully Headshot
Simone is the health editorial director for performance marketing. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering mental health, chronic conditions, medicine, and science.
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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Singh S, Roy D, Sinha K, Parveen S, Sharma G, Joshi G. Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations. Psychiatry Res. 2020;293:113429. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113429

  2. McCarthy C. The mental health crisis among children and teens: How parents can help. Harvard Health Publishing.

  3. Ehrenreich SE, Beron KJ, Burnell K, Meter DJ, Underwood MK. How adolescents use text messaging through their high school years. J Res Adolesc. 2020;30(2):521-540. doi:10.1111/jora.12541

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