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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in October 2020 that telehealth use increased by 50% during the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2019.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), around 40 million U.S. adults are living with anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder affects 6.8 million adults, yet less than half are receiving treatment. Video therapy could provide an affordable, accessible way to help people living with these mental health conditions.

Here are the biggest benefits of video therapy, as well as what makes you a good candidate for the service.

Video therapy is a form of online therapy where you and your therapist meet over video from the comfort of your own homes.

The main difference between traditional therapy and video therapy is that the latter “uses an online video conferencing platform to connect therapists and clients from different locations,” says Katie Lear, LCMHC.

These sessions are held in real time and can feel more personal than phone calls or text-based online therapy.

Though these video therapy chats may feel very similar to Zoom and Skype, the therapist will use a more specialized platform that is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure your privacy as a patient.

  • Time efficiency: Both you and your therapist save time with the elimination of a commute to and from the appointment.
  • Large selection of therapists: With the elimination of geographical barriers, you have a better chance of finding a therapist that suits your needs.
  • Elimination of social stigma: Some people don’t seek help for their mental health because they don’t want to be seen going into a counseling center or sitting in a therapist’s waiting room for fear of what people might think. With video therapy, people can talk with a therapist from the privacy and comfort of their home.

Keep in mind

Video therapy isn’t a substitute for emergency services. In the event of a mental health emergency — if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else — call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

When choosing the best video therapy services, we took a few things into consideration:

  • Pricing: We considered a wide range of price points and included services with various budget levels and pricing structures. Some services operate as a subscription with a weekly or monthly fee that gives you unlimited access to therapists. Others charge per appointment.
  • Accessibility: All video therapy services require some level of internet access, cellular connection, or both. We included options you can access via the web or through a mobile app. We also chose options that offer other mediums, like text messaging or live chat, in addition to video-only services.
  • Services offered: Everyone has different mental health needs, so we considered the services offered and made sure to include a wide range of options. Some video therapy services only offer talk therapy, while others provide access to psychiatrists who can provide or help you manage medication. Some platforms offer additional services like primary care and sexual health, too.
  • Insurance coverage: Most of the picks accept insurance and health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) funds. However, we did include some options that don’t accept insurance.

Best overall

Talkspace

  • Cost: weekly plans start at $99
  • Insurance coverage: covered by many insurance companies; FSA/HSA also accepted
  • Services offered: talk therapy, teen therapy, couples therapy, psychiatry

Although Talkspace isn’t solely a video therapy platform, it’s one of the most regarded online therapy apps on the market.

Depending on the membership you choose, you can video chat and text with your therapist 24/7. They’re always available over text, and you can set up weekly video chats that come at no extra cost.

Pros

  • insurance may cover sessions
  • medication management is available if required
  • various subscription options
  • easy to switch therapists at no additional cost

Cons

  • can’t view therapist information before signing up
  • extra services can be pricey
  • therapist choice is limited by an algorithm

Best for psychiatric health

Amwell

  • Cost: $79 per visit, but most health insurance companies may help foot the bill
  • Insurance coverage: some services may be covered by various insurance companies, but check with your network to see if you’re covered
  • Services offered: therapy, psychiatry, nutrition counseling, women’s health, breastfeeding support, pediatrics

Amwell connects you with a range of mental health professionals, from psychiatrists and psychologists to therapists and counselors.

Once you sign up, you’ll answer a few questions and choose the best professional for you based on a short bio, patient reviews, and experience. The best part of this online therapy platform is that you can talk with your doctor 24/7. And if your mental health professional decides you might need medication, they can prescribe it on the spot.

Pros

  • insurance may cover sessions
  • available round-the-clock, including nights and weekends
  • phone or web access
  • offers couples therapy, breastfeeding support, pediatric therapy, and psychiatric services

Cons

  • no cost-saving subscriptions or bundle services
  • no free introductory session
  • doctors are unable to order lab tests
  • live sessions only

Best for a wide range of health conditions

MDLIVE

  • Cost: visits can range from $0 to $284 depending on your insurance company
  • Insurance coverage: covered by some insurance companies
  • Services offered: therapy, psychiatry, urgent care, primary care checkups, dermatology

According to the brand, MDLIVE hosts the largest catalog of therapists and professionals The doctors featured in MDLIVE are board certified and licensed. They can help treat anxiety, depression, and addictions. They also give support to LGBTQIA+ communities.

Pros

  • accepts various insurance plans
  • provides medication management services
  • allows you to select any professional
  • pay per session booked

Cons

  • no discount for plans or subscriptions
  • no free consultations
  • may be pricey without insurance
  • therapy for individuals only

Best free mental health assessment

Doctor on Demand

  • Cost: 50-minute consultations are $179 and 25-minute consultations are $129; first-time psychiatry video appointments can cost up to $299 and follow-up appointments are $129
  • Insurance coverage: covered by some insurance companies and Medicare Part B
  • Services offered: therapy, psychiatry, preventive health, urgent care

Before enrolling in Doctor on Demand, you can take a free mental health assessment. This will then help you pick the best therapist or psychiatrist for your needs.

Doctor on Demand will work on a personalized plan to help you improve your mental health, including prescribing medication if necessary.

Pros

  • accepts various insurers
  • offers medication management services
  • website publishes bios of all therapists
  • appointments are available at short notice
  • offers therapy for children

Cons

  • no cost-saving subscription plans or packages
  • more expensive than other platforms
  • video chat only
  • no prescriptions for stimulants or benzodiazepines

Most affordable option

Teladoc

  • Cost: prices can be as low as $0 if you have health insurance; if you’re uninsured, you can call them at 800-Teladoc to find out your copay; general medical visits are $75 per visit
  • Insurance coverage: covered by many insurance companies; prices vary by types of coverage
  • Services offered: therapy, psychiatry, nutrition, dermatology, pediatrics, primary care, sexual health

With Teladoc, you can opt to either talk over the phone or video chat with your chosen therapist about anything including depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sign up on the website or app, fill out a short medical history, and request an appointment with your therapist. Same-day sessions are usually available, or choose a time slot to suit you.

The price for your sessions may vary, depending on your health insurance coverage. Some employee assistance programs (EAPs) can provide a free membership or sessions.

Pros

  • accepts some insurers
  • video and phone appointments are available 7 days per week
  • freedom to choose your therapist
  • offers medication management service
  • customer service available through chat and phone

Cons

  • therapy for individuals only
  • no free trial consultations
  • less affordable without insurance coverage
  • can’t see therapist details without creating an account

Best customer service

Thriveworks

  • Cost: prices vary based on insurance; without insurance, fees range from around $65 to $140 per session, depending on therapist and location
  • Insurance coverage: accepts most major insurance plans
  • Services offered: counseling, psychiatry (specializes in marriage and addiction counseling)

Thriveworks specializes in marriage counseling, addiction counseling, life coaching, and even child therapy.

Something that sets the service apart is the ability to book a same-day or next-day appointment for video therapy or meetings over the phone. They accept most major health insurances, including Medicaid.

Pros

  • accepts insurance
  • transparent pricing listed on website
  • online and face-to-face sessions are available
  • provides counseling, therapy, and psychiatric services

Cons

  • additional monthly enrollment fee of around $39
  • might have to wait for an appointment
  • no free trial consultations

Best app for a wide selection of therapists

BetterHelp

  • Cost: prices range between $60 and $90 per week, billed every 4 weeks, depending on your location, preferences, and available therapists
  • Insurance coverage: doesn’t accept insurance directly, but you may be eligible for reimbursement depending on your plan
  • Services offered: individual, couples, and teen therapy

BetterHelp claims to have the biggest catalog of therapists compared to other online therapy platforms. Similar to Talkspace, BetterHelp offers a range of memberships that include video therapy.

Pick a time and day, log in when prompted by your therapist, and talk with them. Compared to Talkspace, it might take a few days to be paired with a therapist.

Pros

  • you can choose to remain anonymous if you prefer
  • unlimited messaging with your therapist
  • easy to navigate app and website
  • try for free for a week

Cons

  • no psychiatrists or prescriptions available
  • therapists cannot diagnose conditions
  • insurance may not offer coverage
  • can’t choose your therapist

Best for essential workers

Therapy Aid Coalition

  • Cost: fees depend on how much you’re able to pay; they might be free, $15, $25, or $50
  • Insurance coverage: insurance isn’t accepted, as visits are already low cost
  • Services offered: therapy, short-term crisis support

Therapy Aid Coalition works closely with therapists who are willing to work pro bono or at a much lower rate in order to help essential workers.

Type in your home state, the issues you want to tackle, and how much you’re willing to pay before being matched with a professional offering video therapy.

Pros

  • free or low cost therapy for qualifying individuals
  • accepts insurance
  • thousands of therapists available in all 50 states

Cons

  • certain therapists may not offer free services
  • only available to qualifying essential workers
  • you may have to wait for an appointment

Best for anxiety and depression

Cerebral

  • Cost: Depending on the plan, costs up to $325 per month
  • Insurance coverage: accepts many major insurance plans
  • Services offered: coaching, coaching and medication, medication and care counseling (behavioral health counseling)

If you’re specifically looking for a therapist that treats anxiety and depression, Cerebral could be the place for you.

You can start with a free emotional assessment that will let you know if you’re in the right place before signing up. Cerebral offers weekly video chats with your therapist. Depending on your membership plan and needs, you can also get prescribed medication delivered straight to your door.

Pros

  • accepts various insurers and HSA and FSA cards
  • offers talk therapy and medication management
  • easy to access therapists
  • medication management with prescription shipping to your door

Cons

  • no therapy for children
  • must live within operating regions
  • not all conditions are treated in all locations
  • medication costs are billed separately
  • only available for people with anxiety, depression, and insomnia

Best personalized care

Brightside

  • Cost: memberships range from $95 to $299 per month
  • Insurance coverage: coverage offered through some health insurance networks
  • Services offered: therapy, medication management

Brightside also focuses on treating anxiety and depression. The ADAA reports that these are two of the most common mental health disorders. What sets Brightside apart is personalized, self-paced audio lessons and practice exercises that can help you overcome your symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Pros

  • therapy and psychiatric services available
  • medications delivered to your door
  • quick and easy to access therapists through the online platform
  • based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to provide coping strategies

Cons

  • no payment plans
  • can’t choose your therapist
  • only three health insurance networks are accepted: Aetna, Cigna, and Allegiance

Best user experience

Rethink My Therapy

  • Cost: therapy starts at $99 per month with no copays
  • Insurance coverage: doesn’t accept insurance
  • Services offered: therapy, psychiatry, couples therapy

Rethink My Therapy provides individual, couples, and family therapy. Plus, they offer psychiatric services and medication management.

Although it’s a relatively new platform, Rethink My Therapy is comprehensive and has excellent reviews. In addition, because they’re part of the larger Rethink My Healthcare company, primary care services are also available.

Pros

  • tiered subscription pricing
  • psychiatric care and medication management
  • free trial
  • choose your preferred therapist
  • great user experience
  • free resources

Cons

  • no on-demand appointments
  • long wait time for appointments
  • no e-chat messaging
  • doesn’t take insurance

Best for LGBTQIA+ community

Pride Counseling

  • Cost: from $60 to $90 per week, billed every 4 weeks
  • Insurance coverage: doesn’t accept insurance
  • Services offered: therapy and counseling

Pride Counseling is a subsidiary of BetterHelp. Pride provides services tailored to the LGBTQIA+ community. The roster of licensed professionals has experience with the challenges that queer people face, and they value gender inclusivity and discretion.

Pros

  • focuses on the LGBTQIA+ community but welcomes all identities
  • communicate by chat, phone, and video call
  • subscription plans include unlimited messaging
  • some insurance providers may partially reimburse for services

Cons

  • no psychiatric services or prescriptions
  • no therapist information is published on the website
  • can’t choose which therapist you see
  • no free consultations
  • counselors aren’t necessarily members of the LGBTQIA+ community

Best for couples therapy

Couples Therapy Inc.

  • Cost: begins at $159 per 55 minutes
  • Insurance coverage: doesn’t take insurance
  • Services offered: premarital counseling, couples therapy, affair recovery, sexuality

Couples Therapy Inc. takes pride in offering in-depth relationship therapy and coaching. They offer in-person and online counseling to couples, in addition to various multiday intensive retreats. Online courses are also available to help people improve their relationships.

All Couples Therapy Inc. are licensed clinicians with science-based training. However, you may need to wait a couple of weeks to see one of these highly trained specialists.

Pros

  • choose your own therapist
  • two free consultations are available
  • variety of services, including affair recovery, sexuality, and premarital counseling
  • dedicated customer service team
  • intensive retreats focus on deep issues

Cons

  • doesn’t take insurance
  • no subscription plans or bundled packages
  • no medication management or psychiatric services
  • no payment plans

Best for 24/7 support

7 Cups

  • Cost: $150 per month
  • Insurance coverage: doesn’t accept insurance
  • Services offered: therapy, access to learning materials for self-growth

7 Cups may not be as well known as some other platforms, but they claim to have helped over 25 million people with their novel emotional support community system.

They provide self-help guides, round-the-clock free chat with volunteer listeners, and unlimited online therapy and counseling for $150 per month.

Pros

  • over 300,00 trained listeners available 24/7
  • secure and anonymous
  • user-friendly mobile app and web interface
  • learning material for growth and self-help

Cons

  • small network of therapists
  • therapist messaging service may be slow to reply
  • free group chats aren’t monitored so can vary in content and level of help

PricingInsurance acceptedServices offered
Talkspacestarts at $99 per weekyestalk therapy, teen therapy, couples therapy, psychiatry
Amwell$79 per visityestherapy, psychiatry, nutrition counseling, women’s health, breastfeeding support, pediatrics
MDLIVEranges from $0–$284 per visit depending on insuranceyestherapy, psychiatry, urgent care, primary care checkups, dermatology
Doctor on Demand$129–$299 depending on type of appointmentyestherapy, psychiatry, preventive health, urgent care
Teladoc$0–$75, but generally varies based on insuranceyestherapy, psychiatry, nutrition, dermatology, pediatrics, primary care, sexual health
Thriveworksvaries based on insurance; appointments without insurance range from $65–$140 per sessionyescounseling, psychiatry (specializes in marriage and addiction counseling)
BetterHelp$60–$90 per weekno, but you may be eligible for reimbursementindividual, couples, and teen therapy
Therapy Aid Coalition$0–$30 per appointment; depends on what you’re able to payno, since visits are already low costtherapy, short-term crisis support
Cerebraldepends on the plan but can cost up to $325 a monthyescoaching, coaching and medication, medication and care counseling (behavioral health counseling)
Brightsidememberships range from $95–$299 a monthyestherapy, medication management
Rethink My Therapystarts at $99 a monthnotherapy, psychiatry, couples therapy
Pride Counselingranges from $60–$90 a weeknotherapy and counseling
Couples Therapy Inc.starts at $159 per appointmentnopremarital counseling, couples therapy, affair recovery, sexuality
7 Cups$150 per monthnotherapy, access to learning materials for self-growth

The short answer is yes. Multiple studies have found video therapy to have the same effect as face-to-face therapy sessions. In fact, a 2018 study found that “internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depressive disorders is effective and acceptable.”

Some people might feel more comfortable getting treatment online, as it helps them open up more and connect better with someone who knows how to treat their concerns.

Anyone with access to a computer, reliable internet, and a private and quiet space at home may be a good candidate for video therapy.

Some of the most common conditions video therapy can address are:

  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • generalized anxiety
  • panic disorders
  • relationship problems
  • sleep issues
  • trauma
  • stress

Is there anyone who shouldn’t use video therapy?

That being said, people with mental health conditions such as active psychosis and unmanaged schizophrenia are often not good candidates for this type of therapy, according to Lear.

Due to the symptoms of schizophrenia, which can include paranoia and delusions of being watched or illegally surveilled, video therapy can actually trigger or worsen these behaviors.

Other individuals who might not benefit from video therapy include those with:

  • suicidal or homicidal ideation
  • disorders of psychosis
  • active intimate partner abuse

There are many great video therapy services available, but it’s important to keep your needs and preferences in mind when choosing one. Here’s what to consider:

  • Types of service: Check what services the company offers and make sure all your needs are met. For example, not all services offer medication management or access to physiatrists who can prescribe medication. If that’s something you need, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing the appropriate platform with the right types of licensed professionals.
  • Picking your own therapist or psychiatrist: Some services allow you to choose from a database of available professionals, while others assign one to you. If picking your own therapist is important to you, make sure you’re opting for a service that gives you that option.
  • Price: Make sure you’re choosing an option that’s within your budget or is covered by your insurance.

Online therapy platforms may offer a wide range of services, but it’s not right for everyone.

For example, if you have unmanaged schizophrenia or psychosis, in-person therapy is probably a better option for you.

Also consider meeting with a therapist in person if you’re experiencing suicidal or homicidal ideation or active intimate partner abuse.

Other conditions, like eating disorders or addiction, may be better suited for in-person or group therapy as well.

Online therapy is not a substitute for emergency medical care. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 988, or seek emergency medical attention.

Is video therapy better than in-person therapy?

Whether video therapy is better than in-person therapy primarily comes down to your preferences. That said, video therapy offers some advantages:

  • Cost: You might find lower prices online and save money by booking packages of multiple sessions.
  • Convenience: You can save time by engaging in therapy wherever you are, whenever suits you. Video therapy provides access to support quickly and conveniently.
  • Easy access: Perhaps commuting to in-person therapy is challenging. Online therapy provides easier access for people living with a disability or social anxiety.
  • Reduced stigma: Your therapy sessions can remain anonymous, and no one can attend therapy at a physical location.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Online therapy platforms may offer various types of mental health professionals, like psychiatrists or psychologists. However, the American Psychological Association says that there are some key differences.

A psychologist can prescribe medication in certain U.S. states if they have additional training. They may have a PhD, PsyD, or EdD degree. They have most likely completed graduate-level courses in human behavior, development, personality, research, psychotherapy, and more.

In addition, psychologists must complete 1 to 2 years of supervised work and licensing exams.

In some U.S. states, a person with a master’s degree in psychology can use the term “psychologist,” but you should know that their training differs from a person with a doctoral degree. Clinicians with master’s degrees are licensed as therapists, counselors, or social workers in most states.

Meanwhile, a psychiatrist is someone who can prescribe medication and will have an MD or DO degree. They have gone to medical school with a broad focus on biological function, followed by a specialized residency on mental illness and treatments with a focus on medication.

Does insurance cover online therapy?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as coverage depends on various factors.

Some health insurers work in association with online therapy companies and include them as in-network providers with their health plans. For example, Talkspace partners with many insurers. They also have associations with businesses and offer discounts or accept EAPs.

The amount you’ll pay depends on your insurance. It may not be the total amount, but if covered, you’ll pay less than the entire out-of-pocket cost.

You may need to pay for your sessions up front, then file for reimbursement with a receipt from the online therapy company. Alternatively, your insurer may pay them directly. Some insurance plans may only offer partial reimbursement.

You must check before signing up, though, to make sure your insurance company is accepted by the therapy company you choose.

You may also be able to pay for therapy with FSA and HSA cards, which have tax benefits.

Multiple studies have found video therapy to have the same effect as face-to-face therapy sessions. There are plenty of options out there, whether you’re looking for a low cost video therapy platform or one that can offer free therapy.