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The teenage years offer plenty of opportunities for self-discovery, individuality, and personal growth — but they can also involve plenty of challenges:

  • hormonal changes that affect moods and emotions
  • friend group shifts
  • bullying
  • school or family stress
  • stress related to global concerns, like COVID-19 or climate change

These issues represent just a handful of the possible obstacles standing in the way of good emotional and mental health. In short, adolescence can be a rough time — something parents might remember from their own youth.

Plus, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use disorders often begin during adolescence, even if they go unrecognized and untreated for years.

Take depression, for example. According to 2021 statistics from Mental Health America:

  • nearly 14 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 had one or more major depressive episodes in the last year
  • almost 10 percent live with major depression
  • just under 60 percent of teens with depression never get professional support

Why do so many teenagers never get the help they need? A number of reasons. They might find it tough to tell someone what they’re dealing with, for one. Many teens and their families also lack access to quality, affordable care.

Teen Counseling is a service that aims to remedy this lack of access by offering online therapy to teens ages 13 to 19. Read on to learn more about how Teen Counseling works, plus get details on its cost, effectiveness, and more.

Many online counseling platforms only offer support to adults. Anyone under the age of 18 can’t use those services, even with parental permission.

But teenagers can benefit from online therapy, too. In fact, they might find the idea of texting their therapist more appealing than sitting in an office. Since feeling more comfortable with the therapy format can make it easier to open up, they might get more out of therapy.

Teen Counseling, a sister site of BetterHelp, helps teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 get support for:

Teen Counseling therapists can also teach coping skills to better manage stress, offer guidance on navigating challenges in friendships or family relationships, and more. Guardians can also use the site to get guidance and support with improving their relationship with their teen.

Users share any emotional and mental health symptoms with their therapist in a private messaging “room” (that parents and caregivers can’t access). They can write to their therapist whenever an issue comes up, and the therapist will respond when they have the chance.

They can also book telephone, video, or live chat sessions that happen in real time, just like face-to-face therapy sessions.

It doesn’t take long to get started with Teen Counseling. Users can access the site with their computer or download the app for Android or iPhone.

Here’s an overview of what the process involves.

Signing up

A parent or legal guardian will need to complete the sign-up process, providing information about the teen’s age, living situation, and emotional help. Teen Counseling will then select a therapist and send an invite code.

Teens can also sign up, but they’ll still need a parent or legal guardian to provide confirmation before they can continue with the therapy process.

Once they’re connected with a therapist, a parent or legal guardian will need to enter payment information (or request financial aid).

Options for therapy

Therapists might specialize in one or a few different approaches to treatment. Their approach will generally depend on their educational background and specialties.

Therapists who specialize in working with teens and young adults might offer:

Some therapists might also offer treatment informed by principles of other approaches, such as humanistic therapy or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Since users can’t select their therapist, there’s no way to choose someone who specializes in a specific approach.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s the option to request another therapist. If the user is interested in a particular type of therapy, they may want to mention this preference when requesting the change.

Counselor qualifications

All therapists who provide therapy on the Teen Counseling platform hold current licenses to provide mental health treatment.

Types of professionals might include:

  • licensed professional counselors (LPC)
  • licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT)
  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • psychologists (PsyD or PhD)

Not only do the professionals have up-to-date licenses and certifications, but they’ve also provided therapy for at least 3 years and have 1,000 or more hours of experience.

Privacy considerations

Teen Counseling protects security and confidentiality with HIPAA compliant software. The company also uses, in its own words, “industry standards and best practices” to help prevent any unauthorized use of the user’s information.

Of course, some teens may wonder whether what they tell their therapist will be confidential. Laws about privacy in therapy can vary, depending on the user’s state and age.

In some states, the HIPAA Privacy Rule may allow teens to consent to their own treatment, protecting their right to privacy.

At the start of therapy, the therapist will go over what kind of information they might share with a parent or guardian. They might, for example, provide general updates about therapy progress or goals:

  • They might tell a user’s parents their teen is working on building new friendships without sharing the details of what happened between them and their ex-best friend.
  • They might let a caregiver know that the user is reporting improvement in day-to-day emotions without describing exactly what feelings they’re trying to manage.

That said, a therapist will need to break confidentiality if a user:

  • has a plan to hurt themselves or someone else
  • reports neglect or abuse that affects anyone under the age of 18
  • reports neglect or abuse of a vulnerable adult

The cost of therapy can vary, depending on location and therapist demand. Users won’t know exactly how much they’ll pay until they complete the questionnaire.

According to the FAQ section of the website, therapy costs range from $80 to $100 per week, though the service only bills once a month.

Teen Counseling offers financial aid in some cases, but the site doesn’t offer any information on the criteria used to determine financial aid eligibility. Users will need to provide details about household income in order to be considered.

Teen Counseling doesn’t accept insurance. That said, guardians can request a bill and apply for out-of-network benefits from their insurance. Some plans offer partial reimbursement.

It may help to get information from the insurance company beforehand to find out what they cover and how much of a reimbursement they’ll offer.

Research suggests online counseling is beneficial for teens and young adults:

  • Research from 2016 described online therapy as an effective approach for treating depression and anxiety in children and teens. The research authors noted that internet-based approaches may have a particularly positive impact, because they make therapy more accessible.
  • More research from 2016 suggested teletherapy for adolescents is an effective therapy format that increases access to mental health support for a range of mental health concerns.
  • A 2019 study exploring how 217 adolescents felt about online therapy found that 72 percent said they’d seek support for mental health symptoms online, and 31.9 percent said they’d prefer online support to in-person therapy. In other words, more teens may be willing to consider counseling when they have the option of teletherapy.

Teen Counseling reviews

Many teen users and their guardians found the counselors supportive, helpful, and understanding. Some reviewers said it took a few tries to find a therapist they could connect with but emphasized that finding the right therapist really made a difference.

Some people report issues, though.

A few people express disappointment that the service couldn’t offer support for their symptoms. Others describe difficulties reaching customer support for billing and account questions, plus some technical issues with the app.

Several users also point out that they were charged for services right away — even if they had to wait a few weeks for a video or phone session. These sessions depend on the therapist’s availability, and some users had trouble booking more than one live session a month. Others say their therapist cancelled sessions at the last minute.

Teen Counseling can generally help with:

  • mild or moderate mental health symptoms, like depression, stress, or anxiety
  • challenges at home or school
  • problems in relationships with parents or other family members
  • emotion regulation

This service won’t be a good fit for severe mental health symptoms or conditions that might require prescription medication.

A therapist may recommend getting support from a local mental health professional if a user:

Virtual therapy won’t work for everyone, and it’s not ideal for serious mental health symptoms. But it does offer a less-intimidating way to start the therapy process and get support, especially if there aren’t many local options.

Crystal Raypole writes for Healthline and Psych Central. Her fields of interest include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health, along with books, books, and more books. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and a lovably recalcitrant cat.