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Children can carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, but don’t always show it. If you’re starting to suspect that your child needs support to work out their problems and concerns, you may wish to consider counseling. Counseling can be beneficial for people of any age, including children. Finding the right counselor for your child can be pivotal at helping them work through the challenges they face. It may also help prevent or manage mental health conditions as they move through various phases of development.

Online counseling (a form of telehealth) is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods for receiving mental health services. Telehealth is a highly accessible form of counseling: It can be easier to find the right therapist, make and attend appointments, and it’s often less expensive than counseling in person. All you need is a computer or smartphone.

It’s also a safe and convenient way to access mental health treatment for your child from the comfort of your own home.

Key signs that it’s a good idea to enroll a child in counseling include:

  • changes in behavior
  • loss of interest in school, hobbies, friends, etc.
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • changes in appetite
  • increased irritability, sensitivity, and feelings of being overwhelmed
  • lack of self-esteem
  • isolation from family or social activities
  • big life changes
  • witnessing a traumatic event
  • giving away their prized or personal possessions

“If there’s any mention of [suicidal thoughts], or if you notice dangerous behaviors, it’s important to get help quickly,” notes Virginia Williamson, LMFT, a licensed therapist. “Most parents can feel when there’s a shift that just doesn’t seem like their child.”

Counseling can also be helpful if your child has recently undergone a big life change, such as moving to a new state or being affected by divorce. Speaking with a therapist can help children learn to identify, communicate and manage emotions in a healthy way. If your child has witnessed something traumatic, this may call for counseling, too.

If your child is not in immediate danger, but their behaviors or emotions seem “off,” monitor them closely over the coming weeks and months. Make a plan for when you will take action if your child doesn’t seem to improve.

Keep in mind

Online counseling isn’t a substitute for urgent or emergency services.

In the event of a mental health emergency — if your child is thinking about harming themselves or someone else — you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

You can also call 911 for mental health emergencies.

However, it’s important not to wait for a crisis to occur before seeking out counseling for your child.

Some parents seek counseling for their child as a preventative measure, or as an additional support for difficult emotions or behaviors.

We considered many criteria when choosing the best online counseling programs for kids, including:

  • Licensure. All the mental health professionals affiliated with each program are licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, or counselors.
  • Accessibility. Some of these programs accept health insurance, and most are at a lower cost than in-person treatment. The programs here also feature easy sign-up processes.
  • Reputation. We chose programs with positive customer feedback and reviews.
  • Offerings. These counseling programs offer a wide range of services for anxiety, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders, stress, bullying, anger, and more.

Best overall

Synergy eTherapy

  • Price: The cost of sessions with Synergy eTherapy varies based on the therapist you choose. For a typical 45- to 50-minute session, the cost ranges from $100 to $200.
  • Coverage: Some Synergy therapists are in network with insurance providers. Others are private pay only and set their own out-of-pocket rates.
  • Features: There’s support for both phone and video sessions, evening and weekend sessions are available, and there’s an opportunity for prescription medication in some states.

Synergy eTherapy offers online counseling in multiple states. Licensed therapists offer free consultations, so you can make sure it’s a good fit.

Sessions are available by phone or video. All information shared is confidential. Evening and weekend options are also available for scheduling sessions.

Synergy eTherapy is also able to prescribe psychiatric medication in certain states.

Pros

  • free consultation
  • evening and weekend sessions available
  • psychiatry

Cons

  • only available in some states
  • not all services are in network

Best for teens

TeenCounseling

  • Price: Pricing ranges from $60 to $90 per week, billed every 4 weeks. Costs depend on your location, preferences, and therapist availability. While this is a monthly membership, you can cancel at any time.
  • Coverage: TeenCounseling services are usually not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. However, coverage and benefits for counseling services vary from one insurance company to another. It’s important to take a closer look at your benefits.
  • Features: There’s a focus on teens, multiple communication methods available, and the ability to message counselors at any time.

TeenCounseling is an online counseling platform for teens ages 13 to 19. The platform is part of BetterHelp.

More than 16,000 licensed therapists are available for affordable, discreet, and professional counseling services via computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Therapists can help teens cope with issues like anxiety, stress, self-esteem, depression, bullying, anger, eating disorders, and other challenges.

Teens can communicate with their counselor through a dedicated virtual counseling room, which is private and secure. Communication methods include messaging, live chat, phone calls, and video chat.

Pros

  • multiple communication methods available
  • can cancel membership anytime
  • clients can message their counselors at any time

Cons

  • usually not covered by insurance
  • users can’t choose their therapists
  • therapists cannot diagnose users
  • psychiatry not available

Best app-based service

Talkspace

  • Price: $260, billed monthly. This includes text, video, and audio communication.
  • Coverage: Talkspace accepts health insurance. See their full partner list to determine if your employer or health insurance provider covers mental health services through Talkspace.
  • Features: There’s specialized counseling for teens, as well as communication through phone, video chat, or text messaging available.

Talkspace is one of the most well-known online counseling platforms. They’re highly rated and have been used by more than 1 million people.

Users can communicate with their counselors through text-based messages, video chats, or audio calls.

Teens ages 13 to 17 can get specialized counseling on Talkspace through Talkspace for Teens by signing up through the iOS or Android app.

All teen counselors on the app are licensed and have experience working with adolescents.

Pros

  • easy access to therapists
  • accepts health insurance

Cons

  • pricey

Best for younger children

Amwell

  • Price: Visits range from $99 to $110, depending on the experience and credentials of the therapist. If your visit is covered by your employer or health insurance company, the cost of your copay may be lower.
  • Coverage: Some health insurance providers cover Amwell visits. During the sign-up process, you can check your eligibility.
  • Features: There’s counseling for children younger than 13. You can also communicate with your therapist through the app or website. Plus, there are weekend, holiday, and evening sessions available.

While most online counseling programs have a minimum age requirement of 13, Amwell provides counseling for children 10 years and older.

Amwell offers a variety of telemedicine services, including telemental health.

Teens and young adolescents can speak with their therapist face-to-face using the Amwell app or website. Sessions usually last about 45 minutes and can be scheduled during weekends, holidays, and evenings.

Amwell has a network of more than 350 licensed psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals.

Pros

  • accepts some health insurance providers
  • psychiatrists are available to prescribe medication
  • weekend, holiday, and evening sessions are available

Cons

  • no subscription payment plans
  • video sessions only

Best for psychiatry

MDLIVE

  • Price: Talk therapy costs up to $108 per visit. Psychiatry appointments are $284 for initial visits and $108 for follow-up appointments.
  • Coverage: MDLIVE accepts health insurance, which can lower some or all of the cost.
  • Features: Prescription medication is available. Children as young as 10 can receive therapy through the platform, and appointments can be requested as needed (no monthly fee).

MDLIVE is a telemedicine service for non-emergency medical, mental health, and dermatological conditions.

Unlike some online counseling platforms, MDLIVE has psychiatrists who can prescribe medication when needed. Parents must provide consent for children 10 years and older to be seen by a therapist or psychiatrist.

This platform may be worth considering for counseling and psychiatry visits as needed. MDLIVE is not a subscription-based service, so signing up is free, and they’ll only charge you when you schedule a visit.

Pros

  • can prescribe medication to treat mental health symptoms
  • accepts health insurance
  • choose your own therapist or psychiatrist
  • request an appointment at any time

Cons

  • therapist availability is often limited
  • psychiatrists cannot prescribe certain psychiatric medications

Best for choosing your child’s therapist

Doctor on Demand

  • Price: Counseling visits cost between $129 and $179, depending on the length of the visit. Psychiatry appointments are $299 for the initial consultation and $129 for follow-up appointments.
  • Coverage: Doctor on Demand is covered by some employers and health insurance plans. Add your insurance during registration to see if your health plan supports Doctor on Demand telehealth visits.
  • Features: You can choose you therapist. Live video calls are used for sessions, and you can pay per visit.

If you prefer to choose your child’s therapist instead of being matched with one, check out Doctor on Demand.

On average, the licensed psychiatrists and therapists in their network have 15 years of experience.

Communication methods are more limited than other platforms. Doctor on Demand uses live video calls for their sessions.

If you need help determining if counseling might be helpful for your child, Doctor on Demand offers a free mental health assessment.

Pros

  • covered by some employers and health insurance plans
  • choose your own therapist

Cons

  • therapists may be limited in your area

Best cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for teens

Online-Therapy.com

  • Price: The platform is subscription-based, starting at $39.95 per week. Plans that include counseling sessions cost up to $79.95 per week.
  • Coverage: This service does not accept health insurance.
  • Features: A holistic approach to therapy that includes journaling and yoga, and there are multiple communication options available.

With the written consent of a parent or guardian, teens can seek remote CBT on Online-Therapy.com.

The site offers more than just a chat box or digital chat room for teens who want a more complete toolbox. In addition to counseling sessions and multiple communication methods, counseling can include yoga, worksheets, journaling, and more.

The site is not geared toward young children, but adolescents can join with parental permission.

This service may be suitable for mental health conditions treatable with CBT, such as depression and anxiety.

Pros

  • multiple communication methods available
  • offers additional mindfulness-based activities

Cons

  • does not accept health insurance
  • does not prescribe medication

Best affordable service

7 Cups

  • Price: Chatting online with trained volunteers is free, anonymous, and available 24/7. Ongoing support from a licensed therapist is available for $150 per month.
  • Coverage: 7 Cups does not accept private insurance.
  • Features: There’s free therapy through a peer-to-peer network, as well as the ability to speak with a licensed professional.

7 Cups is an online resource available to people who are looking for someone to speak with for support. Teens ages 13 to 17 can chat with volunteers who are specifically trained to speak with teens at no cost.

7 Cups also offers free chat rooms exclusively for teens who are seeking other young adolescents to speak with.

In addition to speaking with unlicensed, trained volunteers for free, 7 Cups offers a paid membership where teens ages 18 or 19 can speak with a licensed therapist on a regular basis.

Teens can send as many messages as they would like to their therapist. Messaging uses a professional and confidential mode of communication that’s compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Pros

  • therapists respond within 24 hours
  • chatting online with volunteers is free

Cons

  • does not accept private insurance
  • no psychiatry

Best for family counseling

Rethink My Therapy

  • Price: After a 7-day free trial, counseling starts at $99 per month. The family/children program costs $159 per month.
  • Coverage: Rethink My Therapy does not accept insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • Features: Family counseling and kids therapy are available. There are also multiple communication options, and you can choose your own therapist.

Looking for therapy sessions for the whole family? Rethink My Therapy offers both family counseling and individual treatment for kids.

You can search through the thousands of therapists and psychiatrists on the platform to find one that’s right for your child. The platform supports video calls, phone calls, and secure messaging.

Many therapists have availability on evenings and weekends.

Pros

  • choose your own therapist
  • book a family therapy session or let your child speak with a therapist one-on-one
  • evening and weekend sessions available
  • psychiatry is available

Cons

  • does not accept insurance

Best for diversity

Thriveworks

  • Price: If you’re not using insurance, you can expect to pay between $65 and $140 per session. Prices vary by insurance provider. The enrollment fee for all clients costs $39.
  • Coverage: Thriveworks is in network with most insurance plans.
  • Features: There are many therapists to choose from, and video and phone sessions are available.

Thriveworks is known for the wide array of licensed therapists they offer. You can select from therapists who have a variety of different backgrounds, including CBT, mindfulness approaches, and other methods. Choose a therapist who speaks your native language, or select a different type of mental health professional, like a psychiatrist or life coach.

Thriveworks provides online counseling for kids via video or phone. Same- and next-day sessions are both available.

Pros

  • accepts insurance and has more affordable pricing
  • same- and next-day sessions available
  • choose your own therapist

Cons

  • mixed reviews
  • some clients report issues with payments

Therapy serviceDo they accept health insurance?Outreach optionsCan they write prescriptions?How to get started
Synergy eTherapySome therapists in the network accept health insurance, others don’tPhone and videoIn some statesClick “Let’s Get Started!” and then follow the prompts
TeenCounsellingUsually not covered by insurance, check your planMessaging, chat, phone and videoNoClick “Consult with a Therapist” to get matched with a provider
Talk SpaceYes, most plansTexts, video and phoneYesClick “Get Started” to choose the type of service you want and to create your account
AmwellSome plans are acceptedVideo through the app or websiteYesCreate an online account to enroll, then choose the type of service you’re interested in
MD LiveYes, most plansVideo through the app or websiteYesClick “Get Started” to create an account
Doctor on DemandAccepts most plansLive video sessionsYesRegister for an account, then follow the prompts
Online-Therapy.comNoLive video sessions, messages, in-app worksheetsNoChoose individual or couple’s therapy and then follow the prompts to answer some questions about your treatment options
7 CupsNoChat rooms and one-on-one chats with volunteers or therapists, messagingNoClick “Get Started” to create an account
Rethink My TherapyNoVideo, phone, secure messagingYesStart by using the platform’s 7-day trial to sign-up
ThriveworksYes, most plansIn person and online sessions, texingYesClick the “Book a Session” button to connect with a provider near you

A child therapist can have a degree in counseling, social work, family counseling, psychology, or medicine.

Before beginning treatment, it’s important to make sure the therapist is licensed in their field and has experience working with and treating children.

Counseling for children may employ techniques such as:

CBT for kids

CBT looks a little different for everyone, but generally uses many of the same techniques and concepts. These can assist in:

  • recognizing how problems can be made worse by unhelpful thinking
  • learning to better understand the thinking and motivations of others
  • learning new problem-solving and coping skills
  • gaining confidence and self-worth
  • learning how to face fears and challenges
  • building calming techniques when faced with potentially challenging situations

Play therapy is frequently used when working with children, as play is how children learn, grow, and express themselves. Play therapists can be both directive and nondirective, and aim to support children in expressing themselves, building coping skills, and more.

The goal of counseling for children is to identify the cause of certain symptoms and behaviors and help the child develop the skills they need to cope with difficult situations and feelings.

Pros

  • online therapy may feel more natural to a child who is used to having screen time
  • children could feel safer than speaking with someone face to face, especially embarrassing or tough issues
  • allows children to have support objects nearby, like favorite blankets or stuffed animals—or even their pet
  • child may feel more at ease at home then they will in a therapist’s office, enabling them to speak freely, or to open up readily
  • since it doesn’t require transportation, working with an online counselor alleviates the scheduling burden
  • may be beneficial for your child’s counselor as well since it gives them the opportunity to see your child in familiar surroundings

Cons

  • child privacy and space during counseling sessions could be an issue if there isn’t a place in the home where a child can truly be alone
  • parents may be unable to resist the urge to listen in during an online session
  • if home doesn’t feel like a safe place to a child, doing therapy in that space may not be ideal
  • for some children, it may be difficult to focus when speaking to someone through a screen
  • it’s easy for children to end a virtual session abruptly as opposed to being in a therapist’s office
  • there might be some limitations to virtual therapy in terms of intimacy and in emergency situations

Child therapists are trained to treat many of the same conditions that adults see therapists for. They are also uniquely positioned to address issues specific to children and teens. Conditions and behaviors child therapists treat include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • isolation and loneliness
  • bullying
  • hypochondria
  • aggression
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • chronic pain management
  • grief
  • chronic illness management
  • relationship issues, including those with parents and siblings
  • coping with school, including school refusal, and relationship issues with teachers and classmates
  • gender identity
  • trauma, including PTSD
  • abuse, including sexual abuse
  • eating disorders
  • self-injury
  • ADHD

The tools your child’s therapist uses will vary, based on your child’s age and the type of therapy being used. In some instances, they may wish to include you in some sessions. This is beneficial for you as well as your child, since the therapist can coach you in your interactions with each other. In other instances, a therapist may invite the parents for a separate appointment without the child.

A good therapist asks questions and listens to the answers. They may encourage your child to talk about what’s bothering them. They may also place strong focus on praising your child, to validate their feelings and build up self-esteem.

In some instances, your child’s therapist may suggest activities to do between sessions, such as keeping a journal, or drawing. Otherwise, they may play games, encourage artwork, or do other hands-on activities during the session.

Some therapists, such as cognitive behavioral therapists, may work with your child to master coping skills such as mindfulness meditation or deep breathing. These are beneficial for helping your child feel and stay calm.

There’s no cookie-cutter formula that can be used to determine how long your child should stay in therapy. The issues at hand, as well as you and your child’s goals for therapy, will play a role.

Therapeutic changes that lead to happier lives and better behaviors take patience and time. Usually, a therapist will recommend seeing your child once a week for sessions. These may last for several months or longer. In some instances, sessions may be stretched out to once every two weeks.

Very young children often benefit most from play therapy techniques, such as child-centered play therapy. Play therapy uses carefully selected toys, games, and other play-centric props to help children work out emotional issues.

Older children may benefit from many therapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, and child-parent relationship therapy.

Finding the right therapist for your child can be challenging. It’s vital to choose a licensed and seasoned professional who has experience working with your child’s age group. Based on your child’s age, you may request an interview with the therapist, prior to committing to therapy.

Questions to ask include:

  • Do you have knowledge or an understanding of my child’s cultural background?
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What are reasonable goals to expect from therapy?
  • What is your professional background and therapeutic experience?
  • How long do you anticipate that my child may need therapy?
  • Can or should I participate in any sessions?
  • Do you have availability?
  • Do you take my insurance?
  • If not, do you accept patients on a sliding scale?

Does insurance cover online counseling?

Insurance may cover some online counseling services. To check eligibility, contact your health insurance company.

Many online counseling programs for kids have a range of payment options, including health insurance coverage and out-of-pocket payments.

What type of therapy works best for children?

Children’s therapeutic needs vary. However, child-centered therapy is often considered one of the best types of therapy for children. This type of therapy uses a carefully-orchestrated play environment for children to interact with.

How do I know if my toddler needs therapy?

Since toddlers can’t always tell you about traumatic incidents or their needs, it’s important to stay attuned to signs indicating that therapy may be needed. These include regressive behaviors for toilet-trained children, such as bed wetting.

Constant or unusual fits of temper or anger may also be a clue.

If your child suddenly becomes clingy, fearful, or anxious, or displays separation anxiety, they may have experienced trauma and need support.

Regressive use of language, such as reverting back to baby talk, may also indicate need.

Can parents be involved in treatment?

If you’re a parent, you can have various levels of involvement in your child’s mental health treatment. Whether you’re present during sessions depends on a number of factors, such as the age of your child and what issues they’re working on in treatment.

Regardless of whether you sit in on sessions, communicate regularly with the counselor and monitor your child closely between sessions. Share anything you feel is important with your child’s counselor.

Can a minor sign up without parental consent?

In many states, minors cannot consent to mental health treatment without permission from a parent.

In some states, such as California and New York, minors of a certain age may obtain counseling without parental consent provided they understand the nature and consequences of the treatment.

Before getting started with counseling, research your specific state laws about minors receiving mental health treatment.

Is the information shared confidential?

Yes, patient confidentiality and HIPAA laws apply to online counseling programs for children.

However, some modes of communication, such as Zoom or FaceTime, may not provide a secure or private connection. It’s important to make sure you’re using a HIPAA-compliant platform for your child’s online counseling.

In certain situations, confidentiality is limited. In some states, parents may access their child’s records. This may vary by state law. Therapists may work with parents to develop ground rules for maintaining a child’s privacy.

When it comes to mandated reporting, counselors and other mental health professionals must report the abuse of minor children to appropriate authorities, regardless of who is the alleged perpetrator. Counselors are also mandated to report if a minor expresses intention to harm themselves or someone else.

Is online counseling right for all kids?

While online counseling is a great choice for many children, it is not a suitable option for everyone. Some kids respond better to an in-person treatment environment.

“For some kids, online therapy can be too much,” says Katherine M. Hayes, LCPC, a licensed clinical counselor who specializes in treating children and adolescents.

“If it’s hard for the child to engage in a session online, this would be something to discuss with the child and parent,” Hayes says. “Creative solutions can still be used online, such as art and games.”

Most websites outline who is best suited for telemental health. Additionally, online counseling is not recommended for children or teens who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors, or serious behavioral or mental health conditions.

Online counseling can be an accessible and more affordable way to receive counseling for your child or teen.

Depending on your child’s needs, online counseling programs for kids can be a convenient alternative to mental health treatment in person.


Lacey Bourassa is a health, wellness, and beauty writer based in Southern California. She holds a BA in English. Her work has appeared in digital publications like Livestrong, Verywell, Business Insider, Eat This Not That, and others. When she’s not writing, Lacey is likely pursuing her other interests: skin care, plant-based cooking, pilates, and traveling. You can keep up with her by visiting her website or her blog.