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Online therapy for teens is making mental health care more accessible. We compiled the best programs based on affordability, privacy, communication, and reviews. Compare the pros and cons of top-rated services like Talkspace, Teen Counseling, Amwell, and more.

Teen participating in online therapyShare on Pinterest
Teen participating in online therapy.

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

Globally, an estimated 14% of adolescents experience a mental health condition. For instance, Mental Health America found that 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.

According to the World Health Organization, many teens don’t receive a diagnosis or mental health treatment. 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 are 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.

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

ServiceAccepts insurance CostWhat it’s best for
Talkspaceyes, check eligibility here$69 per week,
$276 per month
24/7 access to a mental health professional
Teen Counselingno$60–$90 per week, billed every 4 weeksrange of communication options
Amwellyes$109–$279, depending on type of therapy and professional’s qualificationselementary and middle school-aged children
Synergy eTherapyyes, but it varies$100–$200,
$50 if you decide to consult with interns (select states only)
flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing
Doctor on Demandyes$79–$299 depending on type of service and professional’s qualificationsteens who need prescriptions for certain medications
7 Cupsno$150 per month, free chat services with volunteerspeer-to-peer support
Thriveworksyes, check availability here$15–$40 copay and deductible with insurance,
$99 without insurance
toddlers to high schoolers

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

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

Online counselingIn-person therapy
ConvenienceOnline counseling can occur between you and a therapist anywhere. All you need is access to a stable network connection and a device to communicate. Depending on the platform, online counseling can sometimes be available on call or in an emergency.With in-person therapy, you’ll need to be in the same physical space at the same time.
AccessibilityFinding 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 commuting to an office.It’s not as easy to find suitable therapists. You’ll also need to travel to the clinic or office for your appointments.
Cost-effectivenessOnline counseling can be an inexpensive option. You may also save on transportation. It’s typically more costly than online counseling.
Time savingOnline counseling saves you the time of commuting to an office. You may also be able to may appointments at more convenient times for your schedule.It may take time to travel to the clinic. You can also only make appointments during office hours.
CommunicationDuring online counseling, you may have challenges with internet or phone activity that limit communication.To build a deeper connection between you and a therapist, in-person therapy may be a better choice. You can also rely on nonverbal cues when communicating.
StigmaOnline 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.You may meet people while traveling to and having in-person therapy, which limits your anonymity.
Emergency helpOnline counseling isn’t as well suited to emergencies and crises as in-person therapy.In-person therapy can help during a mental health crisis.
Receiving medication and a diagnosisUnlike in-person therapy, some online counseling platforms can’t provide diagnoses and prescribe medications.An in-person visit with a psychiatrist allows for diagnosis and prescription medications.
Court order Online counseling can’t fulfill a court order to receive mental health treatment.In-person counseling can fulfill a court order to receive mental health treatment.
Psychological treatmentOnline counseling may not be suitable for psychosis and some other mental health issues. 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.

As teenagers transition into adulthood, their lives can be filled with a myriad of emotional and social concerns that can be difficult to manage.

Teen counseling is an effective way to provide support and guidance to those dealing with:

  • stress
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • self-esteem issues
  • relationship problems
  • any big life changes

Counselors work with adolescents to identify areas they may need help in and help them understand how their behavior affects emotions and the people around them. The goal is to provide teens with tools that help them better address their issues.

Many types of teen counseling are available depending on the individual’s needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help people recognize patterns in their thoughts and behaviors and challenge distorted thinking that could lead to negative beliefs.

Other forms of therapy include psychotherapy, which examines each person’s unique circumstances and helps them understand why they feel what they do so that solutions can be identified for change.

The goals of teen counseling are varied but generally include helping teens:

  • create positive coping skills
  • improve their communication
  • learn how to express feelings appropriately

It can also help teens identify healthy boundaries and develop decision-making skills.

Teens should also remember that seeking professional help does not mean something is wrong but that it serves as an opportunity for growth.

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 (MD, DO)

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.