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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in October 2020 that telehealth use increased by 50 percent 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.

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

A 2012 study found that adults living with social anxiety disorder reported significant improvements in social anxiety, depression, quality of life, and experiential avoidance over 12 weekly sessions of video therapy.

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

Best overall

Talkspace

Cost: Weekly plans start at $99.

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.

Best for psychiatric health

Amwell

Cost: $79 per visit, but most health insurance providers may help foot the bill.

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 provider 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.

Best for a wide range of health conditions

MDLIVE

Cost: Visits can range from $0 to $284 depending on your insurance provider.

According to the brand, MDLIVE hosts the largest catalog of therapists and providers. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Best customer service

Thriveworks

Cost: Costs with insurance vary. Without insurance, fees range from around $65 to $140 per session, depending on therapist and location.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Best for anxiety and depression

Cerebral

Cost: Depending on the plan, costs up to $325 per month.

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

You can start off 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.

Best for ADHD

Ahead

Cost: The first visit is $225. If you’re seeking medication management, an appointment is $160, or $275 if it includes therapy.

Ahead offers therapy and help to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) specifically.

You’ll fill out a short questionnaire about your symptoms and mental health, and they’ll immediately pair you with a professional who can help treat this disorder.

Ahead can also help you reach a diagnosis of ADHD if you suspect you may have it. Ahead providers can also help you find the right medication.

Best personalized care

Brightside

Cost: Memberships range from $95 to $299 per month.

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.

Best user experience

Rethink My Therapy

Cost: Therapy starts at $99 per month with no copays.

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.

Best for LGBTQIA+ community

Pride Counseling

Cost: From $60 to $90 per week, billed every 4 weeks.

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.

Best for couples therapy

Couples Therapy Inc.

Cost: Begins at $159 per 55 minutes.

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 providers 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.

Best for 24/7 support

7 Cups

Cost: $150 per month.

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.

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 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 one to two years of supervised work, as well as licensing exams. In some 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.