Our lives have shifted online more and more over the past decade, affecting how we socialize, how we buy and sell goods, how we work, and now most recently, how we access healthcare. As telehealth continues to gain popularity, your options for accessing healthcare online are only growing.
Maybe no area of healthcare is better positioned for this new frontier than therapy. For many people, online counseling sessions with a trusted therapist prove just as helpful as in-person sessions. Companies have developed intuitive app and website experiences that make access easy, and you can't beat the convenience of therapy from the comfort of home or wherever you happen to be.
But as your options expand, the question becomes: which online therapy program is best for you? Innerbody Research has thoroughly tested the companies and services they provide. In this guide we'll share the pros, cons and all details you will need in order to decide which one is best for you.
For those of you in a hurry, here’s a quick summary before we dive into the details.
A high-quality network of counselors and competitive pricing that's cheaper than traditional therapy. Financial assistance available if needed.
When you combine those factors with the convenience of getting mental health therapy from the comfort of home and the flexibility to talk however you want, BetterHelp is a service most people should try.
With a smart, intuitive app and website that make it easy to access counseling, Talkspace is great for most people.
Our close runner-up for overall best, Talkspace will make most customers very happy. A slightly less flexible therapy experience than BetterHelp, but if you are happy with video chatting, you will likely be happy with Talkspace.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
This review, like all medical-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for medical accuracy. Additionally, we extensively test, experience and order from each medical service we review. We try our best to give you unbiased, marketing-jargon-free descriptions of all the at-home health services evaluated based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
Thanks to intuitive interfaces on their websites and apps, along with advances that make messaging in all formats easy -- text, phone and video -- you should expect online therapy to be a rich and valuable experience. As long as you feel comfortable using your digital devices and understand the video chatting experience, you should be just fine accessing the therapy services with any of our top choices in this guide.
Though the specifics vary slightly from company to company, generally the process for getting started with online therapy follows a basic pattern:
These companies make the process very straightforward. Where they differ is in the details within these steps, such as:
Once you are a member, the best companies give you the opportunity to:
While we share all of the pertinent details from our testing of these online therapy services, there are important considerations for you to make in order to identify the best therapy for you. This choice ultimately is a personal one, and here are the main factors to consider:
It's often possible to access this type of care in a convenient way today; see our section on online psychiatric services deeper in this guide. But for budgeting reasons, keep in mind that most therapists can't prescribe medication. You either need a primary care physician or a board-certified psychiatrist for medication. Some of these online therapy services provide a medication option, but many don't. If you're not sure if you need medication, it may be worth discussing with a therapist first.
For some people, nothing compares to face-to-face communication. Other people, however, are accustomed to text and email and find as much value from these modes of communication.
Online therapy can be extremely beneficial for people with busy schedules. It can also be an attractive option if you live in a more rural area with limited accessibility to providers. But if voice and face-time are your preferred mode of communication and you find yourself often scratching your head or frustrated about using written messages with people in your life, then this is very important when comparing online therapy services. It could affect your likely costs and help identify which service is likeliest to satisfy you.
For our top service, BetterHelp, this doesn't really matter (which is one of the main reasons why we prefer BetterHelp). But if you were considering Talkspace, for example, you would be better suited there if you're more comfortable with apps as opposed to wanting to interface with your therapist via a desktop or laptop device exclusively.
The good news is that online therapy can often save you money compared to traditional therapy services. But everything does cost money, and a misunderstanding about the price structure or billing schedule of an online service can cause headaches. Budget is a very important consideration, whether you intend to access online therapy for just a few weeks or as an ongoing member for possibly a year or longer, if you establish a great relationship with your counselor.
This is a matter of personal preference. Some people feel they gain the most from a guided group therapy session and the camaraderie, support and unexpected learning and growth that can occur. Others find the process uncomfortable and counterproductive and would never enjoy opening up in the ways that they only can in a one-on-one session with a therapist. Some benefit from a combination of both.
For most people who seek therapy from a counselor, the goal is to establish a trusting and useful relationship with a counselor who can provide therapy in a safe, individual setting. A multitude of possible challenges and goals motivate us to seek this therapy.
In the growing telehealth industry, few medical services are as well suited to virtual care as therapy. With vast networks of highly qualified counselors spanning the spectrum of specialties, our top picks give you great power to find that ideal therapist and benefit from the ongoing, convenient therapy they can provide.
Both BetterHelp and Talkspace are solid choices for most people, but right now we are slightly more impressed by BetterHelp. You almost can't go wrong with either BetterHelp or Talkspace, but we believe BetterHelp edges them out.
Both BetterHelp and Talkspace provide excellent counseling and pricing is very similar. So what are the differences, you wonder? For us, it boils down to a few things:
To be clear, we were very pleased by Talkspace's counseling as well during testing, but BetterHelp edges them out right now.
What we love about BetterHelp:
Check out our full BetterHelp review for more details.
Your plan comes with one live session per week, regardless of how long you commit to the service.
Talkspace is a very close second to BetterHelp for best overall online therapy, in our book. We slightly preferred their sign-up process and also their app. In fact, for people who know they will exclusively use the app and will never want to video chat via PC or laptop, Talkspace might provide just as good of an experience for you.
Talkspace's counselors have the same credentials and level of experience as BetterHelp’s, and the pricing can be comparable to BetterHelp if you're willing to forego the more frequent live sessions. If you are somebody who lives in apps, texts more often than you engage in live conversation, and seldom strays to a desktop or laptop device (which describes many of us), then Talkspace would likely serve you very well.
You can learn more about the company, its services and price structure with our full Talkspace review.
Hims and Hers more recently launched individual online therapy. The two websites have gained a solid reputation in the telehealth industry, with virtual healthcare in sexual health, hair loss, skin care, and most recently in primary care across the U.S.
They expanded their offerings recently to include primary care for everything from allergies to the flu. Their mental health program now includes one-on-one therapy with a counselor, where it previously offered only psychiatry or group counseling.
Some people discover that group therapy is actually the pinnacle of therapeutic treatment. Often this is thanks to the profound realities that we humans tend to thrive with peer support and an awareness that we aren't isolated in our struggles.
In their group therapy sessions, you can talk in a structured and professionally guided atmosphere about issues that confront you, along with people who have similar experience.
Right now, you can explore Hims and Hers group therapy sessions for free. The therapy session subjects and scheduling are the same for both Hims and Hers. Stay tuned for more as their offerings develop.
The same benefits and conveniences in individual online therapy exist for couples counseling. As a society, we've not done the best job of making couples feel comfortable seeking counseling in order to find good ways to improve the health of their relationship. The good news is that, until we totally destigmatize counseling and mental health services in our culture, couples counseling online offers a safe and comfortable alternative to traditional formats.
You and your partner can enjoy a rich and beneficial counseling experience online, without leaving your home.
ReGain is our top choice right now for online couples counseling.
Some of what we love about ReGain:
This is a great deal for solid advice and counseling. However, it doesn't replace traditional therapy in every way:
Our testers found that the ability to message in a designated "room" with couples counselors at their own pace, in the amount that suited them, was very valuable. Counselors were responsive and their messages substantive and helpful. If you find it's not a great fit with your counselor, talk with ReGain and get a switch.
You might find that frequent, brief messages back and forth with your counselor is the natural mode for you, or alternately you might find that just a few longer correspondences per week is what works best. Or something in between -- the great thing is that you have the ability to utilize the unlimited messaging however it suits you best.
Talkspace offers excellent relationship counseling as well. At $99 per week, the price is higher than ReGain's services, but still more affordable than many traditional therapy options.
If you don't mind purchasing live sessions and are fine with using a smartphone for video sessions, then you might be happier with Talkspace.
If you're age 13-19, would you like to have a counselor available for messaging 24/7 -- a professional you could message whenever you need to share thoughts or concerns and get advice? If you're a parent, would you like your teen to access this kind of service from home or from school or wherever you teen may be? Sometimes the structure of traditional therapy sessions is very valuable, but other times it can feel, well, too structured. Not to mention very expensive.
Online therapy offers an affordable and convenient alternative to consider.
We recommend Teen Counseling as our top pick in 2023 for its online therapy for teens.
Teen Counseling, as its name suggests, focuses exclusively on providing online counseling to the teen community, helping teens thrive among the host of concerns they face, including:
If you're a parent, you can create an account and then invite your teen to join. Teens can sign up themselves, too, but will ultimately need a parental guardian to give the OK in order for the service to begin.
From there, here's what we love about Teen Counseling:
For many people, it can be difficult to find a safe space to reflect on our sexuality and all of the complex issues and feelings that surround and intersect with it. Thankfully, online counseling provides a new path for people to access counseling with remarkable convenience and comfort from home.
You can find highly qualified and specialized therapists to suit your needs among the wide array of therapists at BetterHelp or Talkspace, both of which are overall strong choices. But for this particular goal, based on our testing, we believe you'll have the best experience at Pride Counseling, which focuses exclusively on providing care for LGBTQIA clientele.
Some of what we love about Pride Counseling:
Psychiatric services are more expensive than counseling, whether you access this care online or in traditional venues. The psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication, should you need a prescription treatment.
Options are more limited for online psychiatry right now, which for the customer ultimately means the benefits aren't quite as dramatic yet. But this space is evolving rapidly and will be much more competitive soon, so stay tuned.
Right now, based on our testing, the best choice for online psychiatric therapy is Talkspace. In fact, you may find that Talkspace is a good price compared to the psychiatric services you traditionally access, on top of being more convenient than traveling to someone's office for a session.
Talkspace offers psychiatric services for $125 per session, with an initial evaluation fee of $199. As you consider these prices, keep in mind that the average price of traditional psychiatric sessions is $100-$200. If your traditional psychiatric sessions cost you closer to $200 per session, then you would begin saving money with Talkspace psychiatry by your third session with an online psychiatrist. If you are able to access traditional psychiatric services for $100, then it will take you much longer to reach parity with traditional cost via the telehealth route.
(Note: these psychiatric sessions must be conducted via video chat on a device with a web browser).
The remaining benefit of psychiatric telehealth is convenience; many of us don't have the time to travel to a doctor's office, sit in the waiting room, and then have a session. Online psychiatry via Talkspace will save you this time and hassle, which could be well worth the extra $25 per session.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For most online healthcare services (also known as telemedicine or telehealth services), we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: Are the doctors on the service licensed to practice in the US? Are the physicians board-certified in the relevant practice areas? Do they have a high quality medical review board with oversight? Are their treatment options FDA-approved?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the test provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?
Customer support: How well does the healthcare provider help you choose the best treatment? How clearly are the options presented? How well does the healthcare company help you understand options and get treatment if necessary?
Speed: How fast will you receive your treatment from the moment you click “buy?” Are doctors and medical professionals responsive to your questions and needs when you are messaging them? Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?
Our expert review shares everything about BetterHelp online counseling, from messaging and live sessions to counselor qualifications and pricing.
As online therapy gains popularity, people face a big question: BetterHelp vs Talkspace? Our 2023 analysis helps you choose.