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.
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 considered a few things:
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.
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.
Not as personal as in-person therapy: Some individuals and therapists prefer to see facial expressions, vocal signs or body language and that can be lost when it comes to online therapy.
Not all insurance companies will cover it: Insurance coverage for online therapy is dependent on the state where you live and your insurance.
Technology issues: As information is being transmitted online, leaks and hacks are more of a concern than in-person therapy.
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.
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.
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.
Last medically reviewed on January 25, 2023
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