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Until recently, you could use your health insurance for face-to-face therapy but not online services. That’s changed dramatically within the past year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been taking advantage of telehealth services than ever before.
Telehealth allows you to see doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals online from the comfort of your home. While the technology for telehealth has been available for many years, the pandemic has made it clear that access to online care is a vital service.
This change has caused more care platforms to start and has caused many insurance companies to begin covering the service.
Many online therapy providers do take insurance. Online therapy is available from large platforms that specialize in online services, like Talkspace or Better Help, and from individual therapy practices.
Not all online platforms take insurance, but most do. Many therapists who offer online sessions also take insurance.
As a rule, if you have insurance, you can likely find an online therapy provider who will take your plan. However, the exact coverage for online therapy available to you depends on your insurance plan, the therapist you choose, and the regulations of your state.
You can start by looking at the website of the mental health professional you’d like to use. Most online platforms will have a link you can click to see which insurance companies they work with.
There might even be a form you can use that will check your coverage for you. You’ll just need to provide your plan name, your name, and your policy number to see whether you’re covered.
Many providers will include a list of insurance plans they accept on their websites. However, it’s always a good idea to call the office of any therapist you’re considering. They’ll be able to verify whether they accept your specific insurance plan for online therapy.
Another option is to start by calling your insurance company. The company can let you know whether you have coverage for online therapy and what copayments or coinsurance costs you’ll have. They can also point you in the direction of therapists who are in-network.
Some insurance companies even work with specific therapy platforms. A customer service representative from your insurance company will let you know whether that’s the case and can tell you how to access the platform.
Advantages of online therapy
- You can have an appointment from the comfort of your home or office.
- You don’t need to drive to an appointment or arrange transportation.
- You can often see a therapist in the evenings and on weekends.
- You can often get an appointment very quickly.
Disadvantages of online therapy
- You need a strong internet connection to access the service.
- Videos can break up or lag, causing a stressful therapy experience.
- Online therapy can feel less personal, and therapists may miss some nonverbal cues.
- It can be harder to talk in private if you don’t live alone.
Just like private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid have also increased their coverage for online therapy during the pandemic.
Medicare is now covering online therapy for all Medicare members. Medicare Advantage Plans also cover online therapy.
When it comes to Medicaid, your coverage depends on your state. However, there have been large expansions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all states are currently allowing Medicaid enrollees to access online therapy.
You can call the number on your Medicaid card for more information, or contact your state’s Medicaid office.
Online platforms and providers will generally state whether they take Medicare or Medicaid. You can contact the provider if you’re not sure.
If you’re looking at using a private therapist or practice, someone at the office should be able to help you. If you’re looking at a larger therapy platform, a customer service representative can answer your questions.
You can find online therapy from several companies. The best companies for you will depend on your needs and your insurance coverage. Some companies offering online therapy include:
- Talkspace. Talkspace allows you to text your therapist throughout the day. You can also have live video therapy sessions. Therapy and psychiatry services are available.
- MDLIVE. You can use MDLIVE to talk to a therapist online or over the phone. The platform will help you choose the right therapist for you. You can also see a psychiatrist using this platform.
- Amwell. You can see a therapist or psychiatrist online with Amwell. The company offers video visits, and providers have been trained in telehealth therapy.
- Doctors on Demand. You’ll start with an assessment to get matched with a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you when you use Doctors on Demand. You can have an online video appointment 7 days a week with this platform.
- Teladoc. You can have a video or phone appointment with the therapist you choose using Teladoc. The service will ask you questions to help match you to the right therapist for you. You can also see a psychiatrist.
Online therapy is also available from several smaller providers. You can search for providers online or ask your insurance company to help you find online providers.
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It’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with. That might seem extra challenging when you’re looking at online services. Here are a few tips to help you find a great provider:
Consider the initial cost
Some services will have a free trial or free first appointment. This can help ensure you’re choosing the right therapist and program before you commit to sessions.
Understand how payment works
Services might want your copayment or coinsurance before your sessions or in monthly payments. Other services might bill you later. Make sure you know how you’ll be billed to avoid surprises.
Review the therapist selection process
Different platforms will have different ways of helping you select a therapist. For example, you might be able to chat with a therapist and interview them before your first appointment.
Look for therapists who understand your experiences
In some cases, it can help to talk to a therapist of a certain, race, gender, age, or similar background to you. Many platforms will display this information upfront and can filter out therapists who don’t match your preferences.
Verify the therapist’s credentials
Always make sure you’re talking to degreed and licensed therapists.
Check the therapist’s location
It can help you know that you can see your therapist in person if you need to. Check for local online therapists if this is important to you.
Ask what types of providers are available
Not all therapy providers are able to provide the same services. For example, if you need medication in addition to therapy, you’ll need a psychiatrist. Make sure the platform and provider can give you the support you need.
Your online therapy sessions will work just like a face-to-face therapy session would. You’ll be connected to your provider in a video chat. You can normally do this online or by using an app on your phone.
You’ll be able to talk to your therapist as soon as the session begins. They’ll ask you questions and help you manage your mental health, just like they would in person.
Some providers also let you talk to your therapist over the phone without a video call. This can be even more convenient in many cases.
If you’re using Talkspace, you can also send messages to your provider throughout the day. You’ll get an answer once or twice a day, Monday through Friday. This can be a great way to manage your mental health on the go.
When you have an online therapy visit, it’s important to be in a private location. Your therapist will be in an office, so your privacy will be protected just like it would during an in-person appointment. However, your location can have a big impact on privacy.
If you’re at home during your session and live alone, you don’t need to take any other steps. If you live with other people, it’s a good idea to go into a bedroom or other space where you can close a door.
If you have your therapy session at work or another public location, you should go somewhere private. Find a room with a door, and use headphones during your session.
You have a couple more options if you can’t find privacy in your home or office. If you own a car, you can sit in it during your appointment, as long as you’re not driving.
Another option is to have your session while you’re outdoors or taking a walk. If you can find an area that’s not too crowded, this can be a great way to get fresh air and therapy at the same time.
After your session, you can schedule the next visit. Some platforms will allow you to request additional visits whenever you need them.
Remember that if a session didn’t go well or you’re not comfortable with your therapist, you can switch at any time. Most platforms allow you to switch therapists by simply scheduling an appointment with someone different.
Yes. There are a few options for free online therapy.
You can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline 800-950-NAMI (6264) to be connected with a mental health professional for free. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a veteran, you can contact the Veteran’s Crisis Line by text, chat, or phone.
You can use your insurance to access therapy online. With the rise in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more options for online therapy than ever before.
Start by contacting your insurance company to see whether you have coverage for online therapy. They can confirm your coverage and point you in the right direction to get the support you need.