On the Hunt for Online Therapy? Our Med Team Scored the Top Sites


By now we’ve all probably heard that therapy is a thing that could be good for us. But anyone who’s looked into it also knows 1) therapists don’t come cheap and 2) it can take ages to find the right person and time slot.





That’s why the recent explosion in online therapy platforms is such a game-changer. Virtual care is simply more accessible.





These services are generally cheaper than in-person therapy (not to mention the money and time you save by not traveling to appointments), and since it’s all done online, flexibility and ease are built in. Plus, research has shown that in most cases teletherapy is just as effective as in-person therapy.





best online therapy
Photo via Alina Kvostikova / Stocksy

Best online therapy companies of 2021











How we vetted the companies





With all the lofty promises and clever marketing, how do you know which service is the best online therapy option for you? Our medical team created a detailed rubric that scores teletherapy companies in four main categories.






Scoring system








  • Medical accuracy and integrity (#/20): This category assesses whether the health claims the company makes are supported by the current body of scientific evidence.


  • Objective indicators of trust (#/30): This score judges whether the company accurately validates the safety and quality of its services.


  • Industry and ethical standards (#/30): This score determines how medically reputable and accessible (to folks of all backgrounds and abilities) a company’s services are.


  • Company reputation (#/20): This score assesses the company’s overall reputation.


  • Overall score: Each company receives an overall score out of 100. We only recommend companies that “pass,” meaning they score at least 75 points.






On top of this, we break down the pros and cons of each service so you can choose the one that’s best for you. 





Pros and cons of the internet’s most popular online therapy sites






Amwell: Best overall





The uber-popular site Amwell prides itself on being easy to use — you can even schedule your first appointment day-of. Amwell accepts some insurances and offers both telemedicine and teletherapy. So if you need a dermatology checkup in addition to your therapy appointment, you don’t have to go far to find help.






Med team score: 90/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 30/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 20/30

  • Company reputation: 20/20






Pros 






  • providers receive a 4.9 average rating and 97 percent satisfaction from clients

  • requires board licensed providers 

  • HIPAA compliant

  • accepts insurance

  • also offers psychiatric care

  • according to reviews, it’s convenient, easy to use, quick, and the therapists are high quality and good listeners


Cons






  • no known medical advisory board

  • no monthly subscription option

  • some reports of poor customer service

  • price seems to be climbing, based on past reviews

  • seems to be more suited for short-term clients, as the site says the average length of treatment is 6 weeks


Why it’s best overall: Amwell’s combo of therapy and other medical services mean it’s a one-stop-shop for all things mental and physical health — making it our top choice overall.





Check out Amwell here.





Quick facts






























Price Starts at $109/session without insurance
# of therapists on staff 350+
Provider qualifications licensed doctoral-level psychologists and master’s-level therapists (they also have additional training in telehealth practices)
How they match you search a database of providers
Communication platforms app, website, phone, or video
Specialties N/A





MDLive: Best for psychiatric care





MDLive is primarily a telemedicine service but also offers teletherapy. Your first session can be scheduled within days, and all sessions are secured using a sophisticated encryption method. MDLive accepts some insurances, and you can easily make appointments with psychiatrists, too, if medication is part of your treatment plan.






Med team score: 90/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 30/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 20/30

  • Company reputation: 20/20






Pros






  • 4.7 out of 5 star average rating in the Apple App Store and Google Play store 

  • uses a highly secure encryption method to protect users’ data and information

  • HIPAA compliant 


Cons






  • no known medical advisory board

  • cost without insurance may still be too high for some

  • no monthly subscription option


Why it’s best for psychiatric care: If you’re looking for psychiatric care (not just therapy), we recommend MD Live. This service features board-certified psychiatrists with an average of 15 years of experience.





Check out MD Live here.





Quick facts






























Price $108/session; $99 or less with insurance
# of therapists on staff 1,000+
Provider qualifications psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage/family therapists, licensed clinical social workers
How they match you choose from a database of available therapists 
Communication platforms audio or video via computer or app
Specialties N/A





BetterHelp: Best for personalized care





BetterHelp is a mainstay in online therapy due to its reasonable pricing and huge network of providers. Whether you need individual or couples’ counseling, you can find the right provider to help you — plus, you can chat in between sessions.





We should mention a 2020 article on the website Jezebel reported that BetterHelp shares personal data with social media companies. But it appears this practice isn’t unique to BetterHelp, and the company is quoted as saying all its data practices are legal.






Med team score: 78/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 25/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 18/30

  • Company reputation: 15/20






Pros






  • HIPAA compliant

  • therapists accessible between video sessions through the messenger feature

  • financial aid available

  • convenient monthly billing

  • offers webinars on self-care topics


Cons






  • no medical review team 

  • clinician vetting process is not very strong, according to our medical team

  • users report financial aid is temporary

  • does not accept insurance


Why it’s best for personalized care: BetterHelp matches you with your ideal therapist based on an in-depth questionnaire. Even if your first match isn’t a perfect fit, you can choose from thousands of other therapists with dozens of specialties.





Check out BetterHelp here.





Quick facts 






























Price $60–$90/week, billed every 4 weeks
# of therapists on staff 20,000+
Provider qualifications psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and board licensed professional counselors
How they match you After completing a questionnaire about your preferences and what you need help with, you’ll be matched with a provider. If you want to switch, you can choose from a database of available therapists.
Communication platforms video, audio, and texting via computer or app
Specialties N/A





Talkspace: Best for text-based therapy





Founded in 2012, Talkspace is one of the most recognizable brands in teletherapy — more than a million people have used it. Whether you’d prefer to chat with your therapist by messages only or through a combination of audio, video, and live sessions, there’s a Talkspace plan for you.






Med team score: 85/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 25/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 25/30

  • Company reputation: 15/20






Pros 






  • regardless of the plan, your therapist will respond to messages daily, 5 days a week 

  • HIPAA compliant 

  • accepts some insurance, and insurance may cover the full cost

  • providers are vetted by NCQA standards (a third-party org that makes sure healthcare companies provide affordable, quality care)

  • features within the app let you track clinical progress and goals


Cons






  • no medical advisory board 

  • you don’t get to browse as many therapists before you choose one


  • under review by the Clinical Social Work Association due to ethical issues with online therapy and inaccurate terms


Why it’s best for text-based therapy: If you don’t have the time to squeeze in a full counseling session, Talkspace allows you to simply text with your therapist. For people newer to therapy, this form of communication may feel more comfortable and accessible.





Check out Talkspace here.





Quick facts 






























Price $260–$396/month (depending on the type of plan)
# of therapists on staff 7,000+
Provider qualifications licensed in their state of practice and have at least 3 years of clinical experience
How they match you You’ll chat with a Matching Agent who will ask you some questions and then give you a few therapists to choose from.
Communication platforms video, audio, and texting via computer or app
Specialties N/A





ReGain: Best for relationship issues





Looking for some help with your relationship? This platform specializes in couples’ therapy. You’ll share a “room” with your partner and therapist where you can send unlimited messages in between your live weekly sessions. 






Med team score: 90/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 30/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 20/30

  • Company reputation: 20/20






Pros






  • 4.7 out of 5 star average rating in the Apple App Store and Google Play store

  • uses a highly secure encryption method to protect users’ data and information

  • counselors are trained in couples’ therapy

  • no extra charge for two-person counseling


Cons






  • since the service’s specialty seems to be couples’ counseling, it might not be the best option if you’re looking for individual counseling

  • no medical advisory board 

  • doesn’t support three-way calls or videos, so the couple needs to be physically together for those sessions

  • seems very mono-normative and may not be suitable for people with multiple partners

  • does not qualify for court-mandated couples’ therapy 


Why it’s best for relationship issues: ReGain is one of the only online therapy services with a focus on couples’ counseling. Their therapists all have a specific interest in helping couples thrive.





Check out ReGain here.





Quick facts 






























Price $60–$90/week, billed every 4 weeks
# of therapists on staff 4,000+
Provider qualifications psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors
How they match you questionnaire
Communication platforms video, audio, and texting via computer or app
Specialties couples’ therapy 





Dr on Demand: Best for round-the-clock therapy





Doctor on Demand is similar to Amwell and MDLive in that it offers both behavioral health and physical health services. Within behavioral health, there are options for therapy and psychiatry, in case you need medication management. 






Med team score: 90/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 30/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 20/30

  • Company reputation: 20/20






Pros






  • patients rate the service 4.9 out of 5 stars

  • you can get an appointment within a few days

  • therapists have an average of 15 years of experience 

  • some insurances accepted


Cons






Why it’s best for round-the-clock therapy: When you need to talk with someone, stat, Doctor on Demand has you covered with 24/7 availability.





Check out Dr on Demand here.





Quick facts 






























Price $129 for a 25-minute session, $179 for a 50-minute session 
# of therapists on staff not specified
Provider qualifications licensed in the state they practice in
How they match you with a therapist browse a list of providers
Communication platforms video via computer or app 

Specialties N/A





7 Cups: Best for peer-based counseling





This platform is a mix of online therapy and peer volunteer-based chat. The company calls itself “The World’s Largest Emotional Support System” and has more than 300,000 trained “listeners.”





Chatting with volunteers isn’t a substitute for seeing a trained therapist, but at $33 per week, this is a very affordable way to seek emotional support. Users seem to be more pleased with the true online therapy than with the peer chat functions.






Med team score: 80/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 25/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 20/30

  • Company reputation: 15/20






Pros






  • quick emotional support from peers 

  • ability to support others yourself

  • HIPAA compliant

  • one of the most affordable options

  • therapists respond once or twice a day, Monday through Friday


Cons






  • mixed reviews online — some people say the program wasn’t as helpful for acute and severe distress

  • peer chats do not equal therapy 

  • no medical advisory board

  • small network of professional therapists to choose from


Why it’s best for peer-based counseling: Sometimes you just need a listening ear. 7 Cups’ volunteer listeners are available for free live chat any time.





Check out 7 Cups here.





Quick facts 






























Price $150/month; peer counseling is free
# of therapists on staff 180
Provider qualifications not specified
How they match you with a therapist not specified
Communication platforms text messaging via computer or app
Specialties N/A





Pride Counseling: Best for LGBTQ issues





If you’re a part of the LGBTQ communities and looking for a counselor who really understands you, this is the online therapy platform for you. The sign-up process includes questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, and pronouns.






Med team score: 95/100







  • Medical accuracy and integrity: 20/20

  • Objective indicators of trust: 30/30

  • Industry and ethical standards: 25/30

  • Company reputation: 20/20






Pros






  • counselors are knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues 

  • affordable compared to other options 

  • uses a highly secure encryption method to protect users’ data and information


Con






  • no medical advisory board 

  • no therapy available for minors 

  • counselors can’t provide a letter of support for HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for their clients, which is a critical issue for some trans people


Why it’s best for LGBTQ issues: Not only do Pride Counseling’s therapists specialize in treating the LGBTQ community, their prices are quite affordable.





Check out Pride Counseling here.





Quick facts 






























Price $60–$90/week, billed every 4 weeks
# of therapists on staff 3,000+
Provider qualifications psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors
How they match you questionnaire
Available communication platforms audio, video, or text via computer or app
Specialties LGBTQ








Other ways to search for therapists online





Our med team identified the following sites and search engines as other reputable ways to find a therapist, depending on who you are and what your specific needs are.





Therapy for Black Girls





This online space is dedicated to helping Black women find therapists who understand them. The site actively works to break the stigma surrounding Black women seeking therapy.





It has an easy-to-use directory for both online and in-office visits, including an insurance filter. It also has an online community called “The Yellow Couch Collective” that acts as a support group for Black women.





Open Path Collective





This directory is super handy for finding affordable therapy. Individual sessions cost between $30 and $60. You can look for either in-office or virtual options, and all the therapists have a license from an accredited institution and pass a peer-reviewed application process.





Maven Clinic





This directory caters specifically to women and families. It has a wide range of clinicians to choose from, with multiple specialties and languages. At $70 per session, it’s priced lower than most traditional appointments. But you can only schedule appointments 1 week in advance.





Therapy Den





This site has a comprehensive listing of therapists and an easy-to-use filtering system so you can search by specialty, location, insurance, and other factors. It also offers a variety of services, including individual therapy for both adults and children, couples’ therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.





Zencare





This women-led company offers a variety of services, including individual therapy, premarital counseling, art therapy, and couples’ therapy. It also has a handy filtering tool that makes it easy to find someone who lines up with your needs.





The biggest downside is that this service is available in only nine U.S. states.





What is online therapy?





Online therapy can be far more than simply Zooming with your therapist (though this is, of course, one option). Video calls, audio calls, chat rooms, text conversations, in-app communication, or a combination of all of the above can comprise the online therapy experience. Even better: Many services allow you to customize your preferred blend of communication tools.





Is online therapy effective?





If you’ve only ever done therapy in-person (or are new to counseling altogether), it’s understandable to feel a bit skeptical about an online model for mental health treatment. But a growing body of research shows that virtual therapy can be a totally worthwhile alternative to the face-to-face kind.





One study from 2017 found that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was effective for treating and managing various psychiatric disorders like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. And a large systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that virtual CBT was actually more effective for treating depression than meeting in-person. Multiple other studies have had similar findings.





That said, everyone’s experience is unique. If you feel more at ease (or simply better seen) in the same room with a therapist, online therapy might not be as impactful.





How to choose the best online therapy





Who is online therapy best for?





Therapy is for everyone, and online therapy makes it accessible to those who might otherwise miss out. People with busy schedules or those who work unusual hours might find it tough to get to a counselor’s office, making a virtual appointment a more convenient choice. Parents of young kids can also benefit from a virtual visit that doesn’t require childcare. And meeting with a therapist online is especially helpful for long-distance couples who aren’t able to meet in person.





Finding the right therapist





Most online therapy platforms provide detailed questionnaires about your background, demographics, and the issues you’d like help with. This helps pair you up with a therapist who’s suited to your specific needs. You can also get proactive by thinking about specific traits or qualifications you’d like in a therapist. Multiple online services give you the option to select your therapist based on your own personal wish list.





Compare online therapy platforms





Before diving into the virtual therapy experience, you’ll want to do a little homework. Take stock of how much you can you afford, which issues you’re hoping to address, and which types of virtual communication you’re most comfortable with. From there, you’ll have a starting point for comparing various platforms.





Frequently asked questions about online therapy





Does insurance cover online therapy?





As with lots of other health services, the answer to whether insurance covers online therapy is “maybe.” Several of the options on our list take some insurance plans, while others don’t work with insurance at all. It’s up to you to find out the specifics of your coverage. Be sure to establish financial details before registering for any therapy program so you don’t get surprised by a hefty bill.





Is online therapy secure and confidential?





Reputable online therapy services strive to ensure your experience is 100 percent confidential and that your data is secure. But some provide more assurances than others about their level of security (and any online platform or even in-person electronic health record is technically at risk of a security breach or data leak). The best choices are those that are up-front about their data collection policies, HIPAA standards, and identity verification.







Are online therapists qualified professionals?





We’ll grant that there are a lot of unqualified folks peddling mental health self-improvement on the internet. But online therapy services typically are a reliable source of qualified professionals. Look for services whose providers have advanced degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate, and are licensed in the state where they practice. Unsure about a provider’s qualifications? Don’t be shy about asking.







For some issues, of course, you may not feel the need for doctorate-level support. A peer-based counseling service like 7 Cups offers encouragement from noncredentialed volunteers.





Takeaway





There are many reputable online therapy options with literally thousands of therapists to choose from. With so many options, you’re sure to find the best online therapy fit for you.





Remember, you can always try another therapist or even another therapy platform if the first one doesn’t work out. It may take some time, but it is possible for you to find a therapist with whom you can connect to get support.







































































Company Price Specialty  # of therapists on staff Communication platforms
Amwell  $99–$110/session; less with insurance broad 350+ app, website, phone, or video
MDLive $108/session; $99 or less with insurance broad 1,000+ audio or video via computer or app
BetterHelp $80/week, billed every 4 weeks ($320) broad 11,000+ audio, video, or text via computer or app
Talkspace $260/month, $316/month, or $396/month broad 7,000+ audio, video, or text via computer or app
ReGain $80/week, billed every 4 weeks ($320) marriage and couples’ therapy 4,000+ audio, video, or text via computer or app
Dr on Demand $129 for a 25-minute session, $179 for a 50-minute session broad N/A video via computer or app
7 Cups $150/month broad 180 text messaging via computer or app
Pride Counseling $60–$80/week, billed every 4 weeks LGBTQIA+  3,000+ text, audio, or video messaging via computer or app