As shown by Statista data, the number of people using digital therapeutics has been exponentially rising in recent years. In fact, all areas of healthcare have because modern technology is providing the infrastructure to deliver services over the web with ease.
Online therapy is arguably the most well-suited healthcare service to receive over the internet because it’s predominantly conversation-based. If we consider that your Google or Apple store suddenly has a bunch of online therapy options that are instantaneous and cheap, and combine that with the fact US adults are increasingly seeking mental health treatment more generally, you’re left with a booming industry.
If we were to be extra generous, we could attribute the online industry to the latter statistic. There is a noticeable jump in 2019 and 2020, which of course is related to the pandemic, but it certainly helped that the likes of BetterHelp and Talkspace were partnering with A-List celebs to promote their platforms.
What exactly is online therapy and is it legitimate?
As mentioned above, online therapy is exactly the same as traditional therapy but it’s conducted over the phone, via text message, or by Zoom call. Initially, some will resist the idea of this being effective because it could lose the personal touch of a therapist, but studies show it’s as effective as face-to-face therapy.
All therapists on the major sites are licensed, so there’s no real risk in that regard. In fact, any safety concerns actually stem from the online nature itself, not the therapy. These are mostly tech startups (though not all), and so the privacy concerns and inadequate customer service surrounding most tech firms extend to these too. Some do go out of their way to say they encrypt messages and such, so the risks are generally up to the individual to determine.
Ultimately, the demand for online therapy is growing for a reason. It’s many people’s only choice, either due to its instant remote accessibility or because it’s more affordable. It actually possesses some benefits within the therapy service itself though. Some people are more comfortable speaking remotely (i.e. those with social anxiety), and there’s simply more choice. You can ditch a therapist you’re not getting on with and choose another, or find a more specialized one that focuses on marginalized groups and specific issues. It’s a global market, and with that comes a lot more choice.
Best virtual therapy sites
When looking for the best online therapy for U.S. citizens, you can’t go wrong with the five options below. But before choosing a company, it’s worth reading the detailed reviews of all U.S therapy sites to ensure you choose the company that best meets your needs.
BetterHelp was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur and investor Alon Matas and product manager Danny Bragonier. The company took off with its model of matching thousands of licensed therapists to its customer base. With a convenient monthly subscription model and many communication methods available, BetterHelp was the pinnacle of tech firms taking over a new industry.
Users can read the therapist bios, as they’re posted on the site, and they make a promise of good privacy protection. Ultimately, this became one of the first cheap online therapy options at the time of the pandemic, which was a recipe for success.
The cost of BetterHelp is between $60 and $90 per week depending on preferences, therapy availability, and location. Billing is done per session, not per hour, but they don’t accept insurance.
Founded as recently as 2016, ReGain is a US-based company that has a little less exposure online. It’s not just being smaller in size that makes ReGain different either, but the fact that it’s focused entirely on relationship counseling. The elevator pitch would essentially be: discreet, convenient relationship counseling with a licensed therapist at a low cost.
But, ReGain isn’t just for couples, it can be for individuals who want relationship therapy but their partner is not cooperative – or they may be totally unaware. Some positives about ReGain are that you will be matched with a therapist within a day, only one of you and your partner needs to sign up, and there’s highly-rated customer service.
Some limitations of ReGain are that there are not many pricing plans to choose from, 3-way sessions are not possible, and it’s limited to relationship counseling meaning you may need to use two sites.
The cost of BetterHelp is between $60 and $80 per week depending on the subscription, making it one of the cheapest on the market.
Talkspace has a similar backstory to BetterHelp; it was founded in 2012 by a couple. Oren Frank was an advertising specialist and Roni Frank was a software developer. The software development experience of Roni must have played a role because Talkspace has a phenomenal user experience. The sign-up process is fast, and matching to a therapist is intuitive and quick too.
Scheduling sessions on the platform is simple and there are many more subscription plans to choose from than with BetterHelp. It’s $69 per week for messaging therapy, $99 per week for live therapy (four 45-min live sessions per month), and $129 per week for live + messaging therapy.
Talkspace is also a preferred option for those using insurance. The company has access to some insurance plans, unlike rival Betterhelp. Furthermore, Talkspace offers psychiatric services unlike BetterHelp and many others, but for an additional cost. Remember, only some medications can be prescribed via telemedicine.
Of all the online therapy platforms, Teen Counseling is the one that is precisely aimed at teens aged between 13 and 19. Online chat, texting, and weekly live sessions are all available for children and teens who are struggling with PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression, or with other teen-specific issues.
Teen Counseling was founded in 2015 with the aim of providing affordable and discreet therapy to teens. On the face of it, Teen Counseling appears to be a small company, but the reality is that they have over 14,000 licensed therapists available.
Online therapy and teen counseling go hand-in-hand, as mobile phones are the dominant form of communication for them. The website’s safety and privacy are highly regarded, and so are the customer service and treatment options.
Teen Counseling does not accept insurance. The price is between $60 and $80 per week, in which the teen will get a 45-minute session per week and unlimited chat/texting messaging with the therapist. This is perhaps the best value therapy on the market.
Among all the online therapy sites, it is a little different from the others. Being a $1bn company founded in 2006, Amwell is a credible telehealthcare company that happens to offer therapy amongst its many, many healthcare services. Because of this, Amwell is a more well-rounded company for patients that need more than just talking therapy.
Amwell is considered to be the gold standard of telehealth offering the best online therapy for Americans, but it comes at a higher cost of $99 to $119 per session with no promotions. But, it extended to other health issues simultaneously, which can be preferable to having multiple apps for multiple problems.
This inevitably means that it offers psychiatric care too that can prescribe medication. Amwell works with many insurance companies, has excellent customer service, and is a very professional and serious company. The downside to this is that they’re more prone to technical issues, do not offer all the texting features, and thus have a slightly worse user experience regarding tech.