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- Best subscription: Talkspace
- Best for individual appointments: MDLive
- Best for prescriptions: Amwell
- Best for working with a full care team: Doctor on Demand
- Best for video appointments: Teladoc
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.
The technology for telehealth has been available for many years, and the pandemic has made it clear that access to online care is a vital service. This change has caused more care platforms to start.
As a result, many insurance companies have begun covering this service. Although this change was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, all signs indicate it’s here to say. In fact, 97 percent of psychologists surveyed by the American Psychological Association in October 2021, agreed that online therapy should remain an option after the pandemic.
Telehealth allows you to meet with doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals online from the comfort of your home.
Online therapy is an especially popular option. It allows people to have sessions with fully licensed therapists using phone apps or their computers instead of going to an office. For people who’ve been considering therapy but are intimidated or overwhelmed by the thought of office visits or in-person care, online therapy might be the best way to get care.
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
- state regulations where you live
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.
It’s always a good idea to call the office of any therapist you’re considering and 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 and the specific therapy platforms they work with.
Here’s a top-level glance at what some of the major insurance providers offer, but you’ll still want to call and confirm what’s covered in your exact plan:
- United Healthcare. United Healthcare covers Talkspace and any other online therapy as long as the provider is in-network.
- Aetna. Aetna members can receive online therapy through MDlive, Teladoc, and any other in-network therapist.
- Humana. Humana plans cover online therapy from in-network providers.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield. Blue Cross Blue Shield plans cover online therapy through Amwell and other providers depending on your specific plan. In-network providers are also covered.
- Anthem. Anthem members have access to therapy from Anthem’s own telehealth service, LiveHealth Online, as well as care from in-network providers.
- Cigna. Cigna covers Talkspace and any other in-network online therapy.
- Kaiser. Kaiser covers online therapy from in-network providers.
Advantages of online therapy
- You can attend 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 mental health professionals will generally state whether they accept Medicare or Medicaid. You can contact the online platform or private practice 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:
- Insurance coverage: works directly with health plans, employers, and most major insurance providers, including Premera, Cigna, Optum, Gatorcare, Aetna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Average cost: $69 to $129 per week
Talkspace allows you to text your therapist throughout the day. You can also have access to live video therapy sessions and therapy and psychiatry services to manage medication.
No matter what services you’re seeking, you’ll start by taking a brief assessment that will ask you questions about your mental health and current social situation. You’ll then be matched with several potential therapists to choose from.
Talkspace accepts multiple insurance plans and is a workplace benefit from some employers, but it’s also available without insurance.
- Service provides access to 24/7 care.
- Couples therapy is available.
- Flexible plans are available.
- Service only offers 30-minute live sessions.
- No financial aid is available outside of insurance.
- No family sessions are available.
Use code “SPACE” for $100 off your first subscription
Best for individual appointments
- Insurance coverage: accepts insurance from many major providers, including Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Humana
- Average cost: $108 to $284 for an initial appointment; $108 per follow-up appointment
You can use MDLIVE to talk with a therapist online or over the phone. The platform will help you choose the right therapist or psychiatrist for you.
MDLIVE can be used to set up regular therapy sessions to help manage stress, depression, anxiety, major life changes, PTSD, grief, addiction, and more.
You can also receive prescriptions and monitoring support if medication is appropriate to support your mental health.
MDLIVE also offers virtual acute medical urgent care and dermatology consultations. They take insurance from most major insurance providers. Without insurance, costs per therapy session can go up to $108.
- You can choose your own therapist.
- Children’s therapy is available.
- Appointments are available 24/7.
- Therapists cannot prescribe certain medications.
- There’s limited availability for weekend/evening appointments.
- Per-appointment scheduling comes at a higher price point.
Best for prescriptions
- Insurance coverage: accepts insurance from many major providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Cigna, and Aetna
- Average cost: $79 per appointment
You can see a therapist or psychiatrist online with Amwell. The company offers video visits, and mental health professionals who have been trained in telehealth therapy.
Initial sessions with a therapist are 45 minutes long, and you can schedule sessions during evenings, weekends, or holidays. You and your therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan and set the number of sessions that will be most helpful for you.
Your Amwell therapist can work with a psychiatrist or your primary care physician if you would benefit from a supportive antidepressant, antianxiety, or other medication.
It’s covered by many insurance plans, but it’s also available without insurance.
- You can choose your own therapist.
- Therapists can prescribe medication.
- Appointments are available 24/7.
- Insurance does not cover all types of visits.
- No subscription option is available.
- Therapists cannot order lab tests.
Best for working with a full care team
- Insurance coverage: Works with many major insurance plans and employers and you can check your eligibility in the app
- Average cost: $75 to $299 per appointment
You’ll start with an assessment to see if online therapy is appropriate for you. Depending on your results, Doctors on Demand will then match you with a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you.
You can have an online video appointment any day of the week with this platform.
The therapists and psychiatrists are able to treat a wide variety of concerns, but the service specializes in depression, anxiety, trauma, loss, postpartum depression, substance misuse, and relationship concerns.
Costs can range from $75 to $299 before insurance depending on the length of the session and the type of medical professional you meet with.
- You can choose your own therapist or psychiatrist.
- Therapists are trained in a wide range of specialties.
- You can work with a full care team — primary care doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist — to create a treatment plan.
- Therapist availability may be limited in certain locations.
- Prescriptions for stimulants or benzodiazepines not available.
- You may need to wait a few days for an appointment.
Best for video appointments
- Insurance coverage: Accepts many major service providers. You can also create an account to see if your insurance is accepted
- Average cost: $0 to 99 for therapy; $0 to $299 for first psychiatry visit; $0 to $119 for every visit after
Video or phone appointments are available with the therapist you choose using Teladoc.
The service will ask you questions to help match you with a therapist. You can also see a psychiatrist. You’ll be able to see a listing of therapists and their specialties.
A Teladoc psychiatrist can prescribe medication if needed to further support your mental health.
They do take insurance, and visits start at $75 without insurance depending on the type of mental health professional you meet with.
- You can choose your therapist.
- Appointments are available 24/7.
- Same-day appointments are available.
- No text messaging option is available.
- Therapists cannot provide services for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
- Reportedly, their software can be glitchy.
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. Try searching by region or specialty on Good Therapy or Online Therapy.
If suicidal thoughts are surfacing:
If you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please reach out. There’s help available right now:
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 online provider and mental health professional:
Consider the initial cost
Some services will have a free trial or a free first appointment. This can help ensure you’re choosing the right therapist and program before you commit to sessions.
Understand how payment works
Service providers might want your copayment or coinsurance before your sessions or in monthly payments. Other providers 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 with 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 with 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 professionals 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 therapy professional 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 mental health professional in a video chat. You can normally do this online or by using an app on your phone.
You’ll be able to talk with 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 service providers also let you talk with your therapist over the phone without a video call. This can be even more convenient in many cases.
If you’re using Talkspace or Betterhealth, you can also send messages to your mental health professional 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.
There are a few options for free or low cost online therapy. Many services offer free trials, pay-as-go services, discounts, peer counseling, and more ways to try online therapy without insurance.
For example, eTherapyPro does not accept insurance, but they do offer a three-day free trial. You can use the trial to decide if online therapy is right for you. If you decide you want to keep using the service, eTherapyPro costs $40 a week. You can sign up for a membership that will last until you cancel your weekly payments.
By comparison, Betterhelp costs between $60 and $90 a week without insurance depending on your location and the services and therapist you select.
For free therapy options in your area, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline at 800-950-NAMI (6264) to be connected with a mental health professional. You can also email them at email@example.com.
If you’re a veteran, you can contact the Veteran’s Crisis Line by text, chat, or phone.
Can you talk with a therapist for free online?
Online therapists typically charge a fee for their services, but there are some free resources you may be able to use. These include:
- 7 Cups, where you can chat with volunteer listeners for free
- Therapy Aid Coalition, which offers four free therapy appointments
- Bliss by the Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions, which offers free self-guided lessons
- Crisis Text Line, which can be used in situations where you need immediate support
You may also be able to have your online therapy services from some platforms covered 100% by your insurance company, meaning your out-of-pocket cost would be $0.
Before choosing an online therapy service, you should check to see if the company accepts your insurance plan and if there will be a copay.
How much does therapy cost?
On average, in-person therapy can cost anywhere from $75 to $150 per session. It can be more expensive depending on the services received and the company providing the service. Insurance may cover some or all these costs, depending on your plan.
How much does online therapy cost?
It depends on which service provider you choose. Some online therapy providers offer a subscription plan that costs anywhere from $69 to $129 per week before insurance.
Others have a per-appointment cost and can range from $75 to $299 depending on the service. However, you may be able to get these costs completely or partially covered by insurance, dropping the cost considerably.
You can use your insurance to access therapy online. With the rise in telehealth use 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.