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- Best for text therapy: eTherapyPro
- Best for teens: 7 Cups
- Best for depression support: Doctor on Demand
- Best for couples: ReGain
- Best for families: Therapy Aid
- Best for peer support: iPrevail
- Best for those with a busy schedule: Bliss by the Centre of Interactive Mental Health Solutions
Online therapy became increasingly popular in 2020 as people sought professional help to cope with the emotional and mental consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the
Not only is online therapy far more accessible these days, with more therapists turning to online platforms to continue their practice, but it has also proven to help people experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and even survivor’s guilt.
Online therapy is a great option for those who are unwilling or unable to leave the safety of home. It’s also a great solution for those juggling multiple responsibilities, such as parenting, teaching, and remote work.
Most health insurance providers now cover online therapy sessions, which can make talking with a professional low-cost and even free, according to American’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).
Some Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) also offer free trials and sessions for different online therapy websites, which could help employees gain access to a professional.
Here are Healthline’s picks of the best free and affordable online therapy and counseling websites.
”Online therapy is an opportunity to meet with your therapist online, using a HIPAA compliant platform,” says Dr. Tracy W. Lowenthal, a licensed clinical psychologist in California.
Also known as telemental healthcare, it’s often done over a messaging app, video chat, or even over the phone.
Because online therapy is accessible through an internet connection and a device, Marilyn Denovish, a multidisciplinary therapist, says that “online therapy can be as effective, sometimes even more so, than traditional face-to-face services.”
This is because people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they can talk to them from the comfort of their home.
We selected each free or low-cost online therapy service based on key features to ensure the mental health support offered is:
We also considered how long a patient needs to wait for an appointment, whether the service offers 24/7 support, and if the service offers video and phone chat, live chat, and text messaging.
|Therapy service||Price||Appointment type||Accepts insurance||Same-day appointments or on-demand messaging|
|eTherapyPro||free 3-day trial and then $40 per week||chat|
|7 Cups||free to chat with volunteer listeners and $150 per month to talk with a professional||chat||no||yes|
|Doctor on Demand||therapy ranges from $129 to $179, initial psychiatrist appointments cost $299 and 15-minute follow-ups are $129.||video||yes||no|
|ReGain||free 1-week trial and then from $60 per week||chat|
|Therapy Aid||free to $50 per session||video||n/a||no|
|iPrevail||free peer coaching and $9.99 per month to talk with a professional||chat||yes||yes|
Best for text therapy
This service can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for online therapy with a free 3-day trial before you commit to a paid membership ($40 per week).
The service also provides you with anonymity if you desire. The chosen professional will only see your username. Additionally, you can also opt to just text with your therapist to keep your identity completely hidden.
Best for teens
This free online counseling website provides access to trained volunteers who offer non-therapeutic advice.
Anyone can sign up for a free membership to 7 Cups, even teenagers who are looking for other (trained) teenagers to lend them listening ears.
However, if you feel like you might need professional help, you can upgrade your membership to give you access to a licensed therapist, who will offer coping mechanisms and a management plan for $150 per month.
Best for depression support
Doctor on Demand can provide medical mental health management from the comfort of your home.
This can be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people need access to a doctor that will prescribe the necessary medication to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
One of the best parts about Doctor on Demand? You can also talk to other professionals not related to mental health, such as urgent care doctors.
If you don’t have insurance, a 25-minute session is $129 and a 50-minute session is $179. Initial psychiatrist appointments cost $299, and 15 minute follow-ups are $129.
Best for couples
If you’re looking to improve your relationship or marriage, ReGain gives couples and individuals access to therapists and marriage counseling.
Aside from techniques to manage your relationship, ReGain offers discretion and anonymity. However, if you sign up with your partner, all communication between the couple and therapist is visible to all parties — though you may request one-on-one sessions.
ReGain starts at $60 per week, but the service also offers a free 1-week trial.
Best for families
Therapy Aid connects essential workers and their families to support groups and therapists.
This volunteer-based platform works with therapists willing to offer their services pro bono or for a very low cost. When you sign up, you fill out a questionnaire that asks what state you reside in and how much you’re willing to pay for your session (from $0 to $50).
Best for peer support
This service not only gives you access to therapists, but also to support groups of users going through similar situations as you, all while remaining completely anonymous.
What really makes iPrevail stand out is that the service has on-demand lessons about how the mind works to help users understand their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, and to help them refocus and find inner peace and purpose.
If you want to consult with a licensed online therapist, subscriptions cost $9.99 per month.
Best for those with a busy schedule
For people who don’t feel comfortable committing to a therapist just yet, Bliss offers eight free sessions that you can complete on your own. Bliss teaches you how to monitor your moods, manage situations, and improve your mental health with different techniques.
You can complete the lessons at any time, so if you’re a busy parent or juggle responsibilities and only get a break before bed, it can be doable.
Finding free online therapists is typically not very easy. A good place to start is by giving your employer’s benefit center a call or doing a quick search online.
Here are a few places that might help you find free or affordable online therapy:
- Your health insurance provider. With the ongoing pandemic, most health insurances have started to foot the bill of some online therapy platforms. Check with them before settling with a pricey program.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Most employers offer free counseling sessions with the platform of their choice. Don’t be afraid to shoot your benefits center or human resource official an email to ask if they offer any services.
- Your local college or university. If you’re a student or a professor, your campus most likely has a counseling center or a social worker who can help you. If the university has a psychology department, they may host free clinics where students can put their skills to the test and help the public.
- Mental health organizations. There are several national organizations, like Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), that can help you find free or low-cost online therapists or resources. These are usually trustworthy resources that they’ve worked with before and that they know can help you with your situation.
What are the benefits of online therapy?
- Accessibility. Anyone with an internet connection can participate in online therapy.
- Time efficiency. Online therapy and counseling eliminates travel time between appointments or support group meetings. You can also mold it to your schedule and don’t have to call out sick to work to make it to your appointment.
- Cost-effectiveness. Online therapy can be cheaper than in-person visits, and most health insurances cover part of the cost.
- Eliminates geographical barriers. If your ideal therapist resides in another state or country, you can still get treatment with them as long as they’re licensed in the state you live in.
- Comfort. Some people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they’re in the privacy and comfort of their own home.
- Safety. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth eliminates the risk of potential exposure.
Who might be a good candidate for online therapy?
Anyone who is willing to listen, focus, and is committed to bettering their mental health will benefit from online therapy.
However, someone with mental health conditions that need more direct management, such as schizophrenia or psychosis, might need immediate, face-to-face intervention. Online therapy might not be beneficial for someone with schizophrenia, because it might exacerbate the feeling of being secretly watched.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing significant suicidal ideation, in-person therapy might be a better choice.
Managing your mental health doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive.
There are various online therapy platforms that can help you find support groups or licensed therapists, who can teach you how to manage anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health concerns for free.