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- Best overall: Synergy eTherapy
- Best for teens: TeenCounseling
- Best app-based service: Talkspace
- Best for younger children: Amwell
- Best for psychiatry: MDLIVE
- Best for choosing your child’s therapist: Doctor on Demand
- Best cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for teens: Online-Therapy.com
- Best affordable service: 7 Cups
- Best for family counseling: Rethink My Therapy
- Best for diversity: Thriveworks
Counseling can be beneficial for people of all ages, including children. Seeking counseling for your child may help prevent and manage their 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 and 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.
“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 do 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.
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 additional support for difficult emotions or behaviors.
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 provider is licensed in their field and has experience working with and treating children.
Counseling for children may employ techniques such as:
- play therapy
- expressive therapies, like art
- psychodynamic psychotherapy, a long-term approach to mental health treatment
- mindfulness tools
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.
Here are our top 10 picks for online counseling programs for kids.
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.
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.
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.
Best for teens
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.
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.
Best app-based service
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. Simply sign up through the iOS or Android app.
All teen counselors on the app are licensed and have experience working with adolescents.
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.
Best for younger children
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.
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.
Best for psychiatry
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 great 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.
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.
Best for choosing your child’s therapist
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.
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.
Best cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for teens
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.
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.
Best affordable service
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 nonlicensed 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).
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.
Best for family counseling
Looking for therapy sessions for the whole family? Rethink My Therapy provides 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.
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.
Best for diversity
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.
Price: If you’re not using insurance, you can expect to pay between $65 and $140 per session. Prices vary by provider. The enrollment fee for all clients costs $39.
Coverage: Thriveworks is in network with most insurance plans.
Does insurance cover online counseling?
Insurance may cover some online counseling services. To check eligibility, contact your health insurance provider.
Many online counseling programs for kids have a range of payment options, including health insurance coverage and out-of-pocket payments.
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.