The best online therapy provides a convenient, affordable way to receive mental health support. It gives clients an opportunity to connect with reputable therapists in a flexible and accessible scheduling environment, as well as offering up varied options for communication (just to name a few of its benefits).
With its many advantages over traditional, in-office therapy, it is no surprise those who are interested in receiving this form of support have a lot of choices when it comes to their provider and platform — but not every online therapy or online counseling provider is created equal.
When searching for the best online therapy provider, there are some key considerations to take into account, including: the provider’s effectiveness, confidentiality and security practices, counselor qualifications, areas of specialization, accessibility, and pricing comparisons.
Articulating Your Needs
Online therapy doesn’t take a one-size-fits all approach to mental health. Despite its many benefits, it may not be the best option for those with severe mental health issues. Before diving into this virtual support environment, the first step is to consider whether or not your specific situation lends itself to this type of therapy, or if you need a more hands-on intervention.
If you seek support for depression, anxiety, addiction recovery, eating disorders, relationship issues, goals, or just the stress of everyday life, the best online therapy can provide you an ability to communicate with a therapist as often, or as little, as needed. A client will need to decide what format works best for these types of conversations — whether through video, audio, or via text-based messaging. Generally, the number of message replies and scheduling of video meetings can be flexible and established with a person’s therapist.
If two people seek marriage or couples counseling, there are also relationship-centered online therapy options that engage two individuals at once during each session, lifting the common barrier of schedule coordination.
Assessing the Basics of Online Therapy Providers
To ensure you are selecting the best online therapy provider for your needs, at a basic level, it is important to verify the organization’s therapists are a good fit for you and your circumstance. Often, therapist areas of expertise are detailed within the app and can be reviewed prior to completing an online therapy intake assessment. Pay careful attention to whether or not you are able to change therapists once you are matched — this should be a minimally disruptive process, with certain providers like Talkspace allow a switch with just one click.
Another important consideration is whether or not an online therapy provider offers sessions through a safe and secure video platform. While some companies may advertise something along the lines of “Skype therapy,” the phrasing may only be used because it is one that most people identify with. Make sure the online therapy service meets HIPAA requirements, which is the legislation that provides personal health care data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. In fact, talking through Skype, Facetime, and most other common video call applications, do not meet HIPAA regulations. Nor would a phone session, or emailing with a therapist.
To protect patient confidentiality, reputable online therapy providers, such as Talkspace, allow clients to send their therapist text messages, audio messages, as well as picture and video messages in an encrypted and private chat environment. Talkspace, for instance, uses banking-grade encryption and authentication measures to make sure clients receive the safest, most secure and private online therapy available.
Choosing the Right Online Therapist
The best online therapy providers will match clients with licensed and trained therapists who specialize in the challenges they’re seeking help with. To ensure an organization’s psychologists are licensed by the state in which they practice, you can verify through a state’s Board of Psychology using their license number or through a trusted third-party source such as Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” search feature.
The Online Therapy Institute also provides a foundational ethical framework for therapists using technology for mental health treatment. This offers a set of minimum practices and standards online therapy patients can expect, including a therapist’s qualifications, training and security measures. You can use this framework when evaluating online providers and therapists to find the best possible match.
One key motivator for choosing the best online therapy provider is the cost. Generally speaking, a person can expect online therapy costs to be significantly lower than traditional, in-office sessions.
Depending on the provider you choose, prices range from about one quarter to one half the price of in-office therapy, which averages $75 to $150 per weekly session. But that’s not the only savings. Any scheduling or commuting costs, including transportation or taking time off from work, can result in even bigger savings over the long term.
Give Online Therapy a Try
With so many options for finding the best online therapy providers, landing the best one for your needs can feel difficult. Fortunately, there are resources and considerations to help you make an informed decision, particularly surrounding a provider’s confidentiality and security practices, counselor qualifications, areas of specialization, client accessibility, and pricing.
To get started, start by asking yourself this question: What do I want to get out of therapy?