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Teen participating in online therapy.

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Adolescence is a key time for developing an identity and forming lifelong healthy behaviors. However, mental health conditions among teens are on the rise.

According to Mental Health America, in the United States in 2021, 15.08% of 12- to 17-year-olds reported experiencing at least 1 major depressive episode. Yet 60.3% didn’t receive treatment.

Globally, an estimated 14% of adolescents experience a mental health condition, and many of them receive neither a diagnosis nor mental health treatment, according to the World Health Organization. This is due to a variety of factors, such as stigma, lower mental health literacy, and lack of access to services.

Research shows that early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions is key in preventing more severe and long-lasting problems.

Online counseling is making mental health treatment more accessible for some teens. Increased access to mental health treatment can help teens navigate some of the unique life circumstances that affect them — such as social media; bullying; and physical, social, and emotional changes.

If you’re a teen wondering if you may benefit from online counseling, read on to learn more about it, plus which services pass our criteria.

Online counseling is also called telemental health, virtual therapy, e-therapy, or teletherapy. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that it’s a form of therapy that takes place virtually through texts, phone sessions, video sessions, and any other telecommunication method.

In online counseling, you and your therapist don’t have to be in the same physical space. Some services also offer messaging or chat services. These don’t limit you to communicating at a particular time, whereas video chats or phone calls are for more structured sessions.

Think about what your schedule is like and what type of services you’re looking for so you and your therapist can coordinate accordingly.

Many studies suggest that online counseling is comparable to in-person therapy and in some cases is more advantageous because of its cost-effectiveness and adaptability, especially in more isolated communities.

We only considered online services that provide therapy to people under the age of 18. We chose services that employ licensed mental health professionals, including counselors, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

These professionals can treat a range of concerns, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, bullying, self-esteem, and grief. We recommend making sure your assigned professional is equipped with the proper skills for your needs by asking them about their experience.

We also looked at factors like:

  • affordability or insurance eligibility
  • a commitment to privacy
  • expertise in issues concerning teens
  • good customer reviews
  • useful communication methods
  • accessibility

Additionally, all services have a simple sign-up and payment process, receive mostly positive reviews, and offer a variety of subscriptions, services, and communication options.

We only recommend companies we stand behind as being credible and ethical (learn more about our vetting process here). Healthline’s Medical Network is made of a diverse group of mental health professionals who bring experience from a variety of specialty areas. These experts review all our recommendations for mental health-related products.

Best availability

Talkspace

Talkspace logo
  • Cost: $69 per week, billed monthly for $276; teens can add live video sessions for $65 per 30-minute session
  • Insurance accepted: yes; Talkspace accepts insurance from some health insurance providers, including Cigna, Optum, GatorCare, Precise, and more
  • Who it’s best for: teens who would benefit from 24/7 access to a professional listening ear

Talkspace is one of the most well-known online counseling sites. They began providing treatment for teens in September 2018.

The Talkspace network includes thousands of licensed therapists in all 50 U.S. states and Canada. On average, therapists have 9 years of experience as mental health professionals. They may be covered under select insurance plans and you can check your eligibility here.

Talkspace matches teens ages 13 to 17 with a licensed counselor who has prior experience working with adolescents. Talkspace therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as trauma or depression.

Additionally, teens have 24/7 access to help with Talkspace. You can send your therapist unlimited text, video, photo, and audio messages through the website or mobile app, conducted in a private virtual chat room with a secure internet connection.

Pros

  • The payment model is subscription-based and they offer different subscription options to choose from.
  • You can communicate with your therapist through various digital channels like texts, video, voice messages, and live sessions.
  • You can send a message to your therapist at any time of day.
  • Talkspace accepts insurance from some health insurance providers.
  • You can switch your therapist and your subscription plan any time you want.
  • They also offer psychiatry evaluations and medication management services.

Cons

  • Talkspace cannot fulfill a court order for therapy.
  • You can’t see their pricing until you sign up on their platform.
  • You can’t delete your conversations with your therapist.

Best for teen specialists

Teen Counseling

Teen Counseling logo
  • Cost: $60–$90 per week, depending on the plan; billed every 4 weeks
  • Insurance accepted: no
  • Who it’s best for: teens who want a range of communication options

Teen Counseling is part of the popular therapy site BetterHelp. The service matches people between the ages of 13 and 19 with licensed counselors who specialize in working with teens on a wide range of issues, including coping skills, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, bullying, and anger.

Like BetterHelp, Teen Counseling does not accept insurance.

Counseling happens through private virtual therapy rooms where teens can communicate with their counselor. Teens can chat with counselors through messaging, live chats, phone calls, and video conferencing. You can also access services by smartphone, tablet, or computer. Phone calls may also be conducted on a landline.

Pros

  • You have access to your therapist through a chat room.
  • They provide multiple communication methods, including texts, phone calls, live chat, and video conferencing.
  • Your privacy is guaranteed except in a few cases, such as: thinking about engaging in self-harm or harming someone else, if you’re contemplating suicide, or if you tell your therapist that you or someone you know is being abused.
  • You can cancel your subscription whenever you want.

Cons

  • Therapists cannot provide diagnoses or prescription medications.
  • Therapy done through their platform cannot fulfill a court order.
  • The platform is not suitable for handling emergencies or crises.
  • You can’t decide who your therapist will be.
  • Teen Counseling does not accept insurance.
  • They’re not suitable for treating severe mental health conditions.

Best for younger kids

Amwell

Amwell logo
  • Cost: $109 per session for a master’s level clinician and psychotherapist, or $129 per session for a doctoral level provider; for a psychiatrist, the initial consultation is $279 with a $109 cost for each follow-up appointment
  • Insurance accepted: yes
  • Who it’s best for: elementary and middle school-aged children

While most online services start treating kids at 13 years or older, Amwell offers services for kids as young as 10 years old.

The Amwell network includes licensed doctoral-level psychologists and master’s level therapists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. They have the training and experience to treat children and teens ages 10 to 17.

Parents must set up an account for their teen and choose the service they’d like to access, such as therapy or psychiatry. Then, they’re able to review biographies and photos of the licensed mental health professionals available.

Licensed mental health professionals can work with children and teens on a variety of issues, ranging from anxiety to life transitions. All appointments are conducted through live video chats.

An advantage of their video platform is that you have the ability to hide the view of yourself on screen, which makes it feel more like a face-to-face conversation — something that can put teens at ease.

Amwell accepts insurance. But, if your sessions aren’t covered under your plan, out-of-pocket costs are still below the middle value for therapy, which can be between $100 to $200 per session.

Pros

  • They accept insurance from many providers.
  • You can meet with multiple therapists before making your choice.
  • You can connect with your therapist through live video chat or phone calls.
  • You can schedule sessions at any time.

Cons

  • Their payment model is per session and not subscription-based.

Best for a free consultation

Synergy eTherapy

Synergy eTherapy Logo
  • Cost: $100–$200 per session; considered out of network in most states
  • Insurance accepted: yes, but Synergy is considered out of network, so sessions may not be covered by insurance
  • Who it’s best for: anyone looking for a flexible, pay-as-you-go option (not a subscription plan)

Synergy eTherapy is a newer service, so they currently only offer online counseling in select states. Licensed therapists specialize in a range of mental health services online, including counseling for depression, anxiety, trauma, families, and teens.

They’re currently available in these states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin

A few of their therapists can also offer consultations to people based in states under PSYPACT, an agreement that allows psychologists to participate across state lines.

Psychiatric medication management is also available in select states.

Synergy eTherapy offers free consultations, so you can test the waters before committing. This is a great option for teens who are seeking help, if for no other reason than they’re hesitant to commit to therapy. During the virtual visit, you will have a chance to get familiar with the video platform, ask the therapist questions, and share what you hope to work on in therapy.

The service reports that the most common teen issues they treat are anxiety, depression, family conflicts, challenges with self-esteem, and stress related to social media.

Synergy eTherapists set their own rates and may offer several session lengths, ranging from 30 to 75 minutes. Additionally, there is no subscription plan, meaning you’ll pay for sessions one at a time.

Pros

  • You can choose your therapist.
  • Your first consultation with a therapist is free and you’re not obligated to continue after that.
  • They provide psychiatric medication services.
  • You can consult with their counselors-in-training at a lower rate of $50.

Cons

  • They can’t provide intensive treatment for more severe mental health conditions.
  • The cost is per session and varies based on your therapist and state.
  • They’re not suited for dealing with emergencies or crises.

Best for psychiatry

Doctor On Demand

Doctor on Demand logo
  • Cost: $74-$79 for a 15-minute consultation with a board certified clinician; $129 for a 25-minute video chat with a counselor; $179 for a 50-minute video chat with a counselor; $229 for an initial 45-minute assessment for medication management with a psychiatrist with follow-up visits at $129
  • Insurance accepted: yes
  • Who it’s best for: teens who may need prescriptions for certain medications

Licensed therapists are trained to provide therapy. Doctor On Demand psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medications.

Appointments are available any day of the week to meet your schedule, which is very handy for school schedules that teens contend with. Both psychiatrists and therapists can help screen and treat a variety of concerns for teens, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and loss.

If you or your teen are going through a difficult time, you can get a free assessment at Doctor on Demand. In less than 2 minutes, you may learn if you have signs of any mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

Psychiatrists can send prescriptions to your local pharmacy. However, they cannot write prescriptions for Schedule IV drugs, such as benzodiazepines, and drugs that may only be prescribed through in-person visits with a psychiatrist.

Pros

  • They accept insurance.
  • They offer prescriptions that their psychiatrists can send out to your preferred pharmacy.
  • You can complete a free assessment to help you understand if you may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition.
  • You can choose your therapist from their network of licensed therapists.

Cons

  • Payment is per visit.
  • You can only communicate with your therapist by video call.
  • They’re not as cost-effective as other online counseling providers.

Best for free and anonymous social support

7 Cups

7 Cups Logo
  • Cost: free online chats with trained volunteers; $150 per month for ongoing support chats with a licensed therapist for teens ages 18 to 19
  • Insurance accepted: no
  • Who it’s best for: teens who are interested in receiving peer-to-peer support

Sometimes, teens just need someone to talk with — someone who understands what they’re going through. That’s why 7 Cups offers anonymous emotional support to teen users ages 13 to 17.

This support occurs through the platform’s teen support rooms, where you can listen or talk with other teens. In order to connect to a listener through the support rooms, you have to sign up for a free account.

While 7 Cups does offer low cost online counseling sessions by licensed professionals for $150 per month, their free chat services are run by more than 300,000 trained listeners.

You can also connect with a trained listener on their chat site or app who may offer emotional support. That said, it’s important to remember that trained listeners are not licensed mental health professionals.

Volunteers go through active listening training from 7 Cups, as well as access to coaches, support, and certification programs, to boost their listening capabilities.

This service may be appropriate for teens who need a little emotional support or encouragement. But it’s not appropriate for teens living with severe mental health conditions or experiencing suicidal thoughts.

However, 7 Cups has special safety protocols to cater to this population. If issues like sexual assault or child abuse come up, or if the user expresses intent to harm themselves or others, listeners are trained to refer them to appropriate crisis resources.

Pros

  • They are less expensive compared to other teletherapy providers and cost $150 per month.
  • You have access to your therapist in a chat room who may reply a few times throughout the school week (Monday to Friday).
  • Trained listeners are available 24/7 to listen and chat with you at no cost.
  • They have a large community where you may get mental and emotional support from other teens.

Cons

  • You can’t choose your therapist.
  • They don’t accept insurance.
  • You can only connect with your therapist by chat.

Best for in-network care

Thriveworks

Thriveworks Logo
  • Cost: Typically $15–$40 copay, plus deductible and a one-time enrollment fee if your insurance is accepted; from $99 per session without insurance
  • Insurance accepted: yes; Thriveworks is in-network with most insurance plans
  • Who it’s best for: children under (and above!) the age of 10

The licensed therapists at Thriveworks can help teens deal with the unique challenges they might be facing — like bullying, learning problems, and behavioral issues — by video chat or phone calls.

All teens (and kids) are welcome, from toddlers through high schoolers. There is no age limit for accessing counseling through Thriveworks.

All Thriveworks child counselors and psychologists have experience working with children. This includes dealing with challenges such as mental illnesses, traumatic events, loss of family members, and difficult feelings and behaviors.

Thriveworks is considered in-network with most insurance plans. They will check your coverage before your first session, so there are no surprise bills.

Pros

  • They accept insurance from major insurance providers.
  • You can choose your therapist and they may also offer recommendations.
  • Counseling sessions happen by phone and video call.

Cons

  • You have to pay an enrollment fee.
  • They don’t offer medication management in all of their locations.
  • They don’t run on a subscription model. Payment is per visit, and it varies based on your therapist, location, payment method, and other factors.

We’ve put together a comparison table so you can get a quick look at some of the facts for our top picks:

ServiceBest forAccepts insurance CostProsCons
Talkspaceavailabilityyes, check eligibility here$69/week,
$276/month
• 24/7 chat
• can change subscription
• psychiatric evaluations available
• can’t see pricing until you sign up
• court orders can’t be fulfilled
Teen Counselingteen specialistsno$60–$90/week, billed every 4 weeks• multiple communication methods
• privacy guaranteed
•can cancel whenever
• doesn’t offer diagnoses or medication
• not recommended for severe conditions
Amwellyoung kidsyes$109–$279, depending on type of therapy and professional’s qualifications• accepts many insurance plans
• can meet multiple professionals before choosing
• no subscription option
Synergy eTherapyfree consultation yes, but it varies$100–$200,
$50 if you decide to consult with interns (select states only)
• can choose therapist
• offers psychiatric medication services
• no intensive treatment for severe conditions
• cost varies based on state and therapist
Doctor on Demandpsychiatryyes$74–$229 depending on type of service and professional’s qualifications• prescriptions available
• free assessments
• video chat only
• pricier than other options
7 Cupsfree, anonymous supportno$150/month, free chat services with volunteers• low cost to chat with therapist online
• free 24/7 access to trained listeners
• can’t choose your own therapist
• no insurance
Thriveworksin-network careyes, check availability here$15–$40 copay and deductible with insurance,
$99 without insurance
• can choose therapist
• phone and video sessions available
• enrollment fee
• medication management unavailable at all locations

Online counseling is a viable alternative to in-person therapy, and many young people experiencing mental health conditions may benefit from this approach to therapy.

Here’s how online counseling compares with in-person therapy:

  • Convenience: Online counseling may occur between you and your therapist anywhere. All you need is access to a stable network connection and a device to communicate. With in-person therapy, both of you have to be in the same physical space at the same time for therapy to take place. Depending on the platform, online counseling can sometimes be available on call or in an emergency.
  • Accessibility: Finding and connecting with a therapist and starting therapy is simple and more hassle-free than in-person therapy. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about transportation or commuting to an office.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Online counseling can be an inexpensive option compared with in-person therapy when it comes to paying for therapy and saving on transportation costs.
  • Time saving: Online counseling saves you the time of commuting to an office. You can also make appointments that are at more convenient times for you.
  • Communication limitations: To build a deeper connection between you and your therapist, in-person therapy may be a better choice. Both of you can also rely on nonverbal cues when communicating. During online counseling, you may have challenges with internet or phone activity that limit communication.
  • Less stigma: Online counseling may reduce the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and receiving treatment. Certain services may allow you to remain anonymous while in therapy.
  • Emergencies: Online counseling isn’t as well suited for handling emergencies and urgent crises as in-person therapy.
  • Receiving proper diagnosis and medication: Unlike in-person therapy, some online counseling platforms can’t provide diagnoses and prescribe medications to their clients.
  • Fulfilling a court order: Online counseling can’t fulfill a court order to receive mental health treatment.
  • Psychological treatment: In-person therapy is more appropriate for treating psychosis and some mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.

If you’re a teen experiencing distressing behavioral or emotional symptoms that interfere with your daily life at home or school, it might be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

Online counseling allows your therapist to meet with you where you are, instead of in an office environment. Therapists might communicate over text, video, phone, or a mobile app, depending on the service.

According to the NIMH, teens may benefit from evaluation and treatment if they experience:

  • changes in sleep patterns, including sleeping too much or too little
  • loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy
  • low energy
  • self-isolation and avoidance of time with friends or family
  • changes in appetite
  • a decline in grades or school performance
  • increased irritability
  • physical symptoms of anxiety, like stomach aches, muscle tension, and restlessness

Online counseling might not be a good fit for teens if they are:

  • engaging in high risk behaviors, including drug and alcohol use
  • performing self-harm behaviors
  • having suicidal thoughts — if you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
  • living with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive psychological supervision or psychiatric care
  • unable to access a reliable internet connection
  • expressing symptoms of an eating disorder, excessive diet or exercise, or fear of gaining weight

The above conditions and situations are not particularly suited for online therapy because they can require in-person treatment and care that goes beyond the scope of what virtual sessions can offer.

In these cases, telehealth counseling could supplement in-person treatment or be used for follow-up treatment to help manage a condition in the future.

If you know a teen who is dealing with any of these issues — or you are a teen going through them — reach out to a doctor or school counselor to help you find available in-person treatment options in your area.

If you’re having trouble coping on your own, it may be time to talk with a therapist. A therapist can help you understand your feelings. They can also give you helpful strategies on ways to cope with emotions like sadness, worry, or anger.

Also consider talking with a therapist if you’ve been previously diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and you feel like you’re not managing well.

If you suspect you may have one of these conditions, a mental health professional may make a diagnosis or point you in the right direction, depending on their credentials.

If you are having severe mental health symptoms, such as panic attacks, self-harming, or suicidal thoughts, it’s very important to get help.

Online counseling is probably not the best fit for severe mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or suicidal ideation, but it can be a good first step.

It is still highly recommended you reach out to someone you trust about these feelings or urges as soon as possible to make sure you’re safe. Online counseling can offer this initial support.

You can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to speak with a licensed professional at any time. You’ll reach a trained counselor who will listen carefully and understand how your specific issues are impacting you, offer support, and refer you to any necessary resources.

When choosing a therapist, it’s important to select someone who has expertise in the area of concern you’d like to focus on so you can receive targeted care.

Therapists may have extensive experience in helping people cope with various issues — like anxiety, depression, stress, or bullying — so choosing someone who specializes in counseling people going through similar things you are will likely be the most beneficial.

It’s also important to feel comfortable and build some sort of connection with your therapist. You’ll know from your initial meeting whether this person is a good fit, like if you feel you can easily talk with them, share your feelings, and they put you at ease.

Know that it may take time for you to find the right fit, and that’s OK. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular therapist or they’re not particularly helpful, it’s best to move on to someone else who you can really connect with.

Be honest with yourself about how you feel when you’re talking with your therapist. If things just don’t feel right, trust your gut. Find someone who you feel comfortable with — it will help a tremendous amount in the long run.

Does insurance cover online counseling?

Not all insurance providers cover online counseling, but out-of-pocket costs may still be lower than traditional in-person therapy.

Check with your insurance provider to see what’s covered under your plan.

Can a minor sign up without parental consent?

Most U.S. states require a parent or guardian to provide consent for teens under the age of 18 to start therapy. For example, parents may need to provide consent by video message before a teen can begin online counseling.

Additionally, parents may also have access to their children’s therapy records, but therapists will typically work with families to support their privacy unless there’s a safety issue.

However, each state has its own laws, so it’s important to check the guidelines for your state.

Is the information shared confidential?

Sessions are typically confidential. However, minors do not always have the right to full privacy.

If a teen discloses an instance of sexual assault, child abuse, or abuse happening to an older adult or disabled adult, or if they express intent to harm themselves or others, therapists are required to report this to child protective services, and sometimes to the police.

Can parents participate in the therapy?

Therapists may consult with parents before beginning therapy to discuss how parents can best support their teens during therapy and what to expect.

Are online therapists licensed?

The online counseling services on this list provide counseling by licensed therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. You should feel comfortable asking your therapist about their credentials.

Common professional designations include:

  • licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
  • licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
  • licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC)
  • licensed professional counselor (LPC)
  • licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • psychologist (PhD or PsyD)
  • psychiatrist

Is online counseling the best option?

Online counseling is typically not appropriate for teens who are:

  • having suicidal thoughts
  • engaging in high-risk behaviors like substance use and self-harm
  • living with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive management and supervision
  • have certain mental health conditions such as eating disorders

Mental health conditions among teens are on the rise, but teens often don’t receive the treatment they need.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key in preventing the more severe, debilitating effects of mental health conditions. Online counseling can be a convenient, more accessible, and cost-effective way to get teens the help they need to live healthier, happier lives.


Gulnaz Khan is a writer and editor covering health, science, and climate. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Popular Science, TED Ideas, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University and a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.