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- Best insurance coverage: Talkspace | Skip to review
- Best for teens: 7 Cups | Skip to review
- Best for depression support: Doctor on Demand | Skip to review
- Best for couples: ReGain | Skip to review
- Best for first responders and healthcare professionals: Therapy Aid | Skip to review
- Best for those with a busy schedule: Bliss by the Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions | Skip to review
- Best multipurpose platform: Online-Therapy.com | Skip to review
- Best for emergencies and crises: Crisis Text Line | Skip to review
Online therapy became increasingly popular in 2020 as people sought professional help to cope with the emotional and mental consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the
Not only is online therapy far more accessible these days as more therapists turn to online platforms to continue their practice, but it has also proven to help people experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and even survivor guilt.
Online therapy is a great option for those who are unwilling or unable to leave the safety of home. It’s also a great solution for those juggling multiple responsibilities, such as parenting, teaching, and remote work.
Many health insurance companies now cover online therapy sessions, which can make talking with a professional low cost and even free.
Some employee assistance programs (EAPs) also offer free trials and sessions for different online therapy websites, which could help employees gain access to a professional.
Here are Healthline’s picks for the best free and affordable online therapy and counseling websites.
What to do in a mental health emergency
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or somebody else, please find confidential support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also call 911 or your local emergency services number or visit the nearest emergency room.
You can find information about additional mental health resources here.
|Same-day appointments or on-demand messaging
|How to get started
|weekly plans start at $69/week
|text, audio, and video messaging, live sessions
|sign up for a membership
|• free to chat with volunteer listeners
• less than $40/week for unlimited messaging subscription
|sign up for free membership
|Doctor on Demand
|• between $129–$179/appointment for therapy
|register and choose a professional
|free 1-week trial, then from $60—$90 per week
|complete questionnaire and register
|search for therapist and contact them
|sign up and begin immediately
|$50–$110 per week, depending on your plan
|register and find a professional
|Crisis Text Line
|available to use in a crisis
|text or message the hotline
“Online therapy is an opportunity to meet with your therapist online, using a HIPAA-compliant platform,” says Dr. Tracy W. Lowenthal, a licensed clinical psychologist in California.
Also known as telemental healthcare, it’s often done over a messaging app, video chat, or even the phone.
Because online therapy is accessible through an internet connection and a device, Marilyn Denovish, a multidisciplinary therapist, says that “online therapy can be as effective, and sometimes even more effective than, traditional face-to-face services.”
This is because people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they can talk with them from the comfort of their home.
How much does free online therapy cost?
You can find free or low cost therapy through social services, nonprofits, universities, financial assistance programs, and EAPs.
Read our article on therapy services for every budget.
The average cost of a 1-hour therapy appointment can range from about $65 to $250, depending on your therapist’s training, experience, and location.
Can free online therapy help?
Various studies show that free online therapy can be just as good as (or even better than) traditional types of therapy. It all depends on how well your therapist and their treatment strategy suit your needs.
For example, in a 2022 study focused on goal-setting and finding solutions to problems, researchers found that in-person and online therapy reduced anxiety equally.
So, depending on the person and the circumstances, using an online therapy service such as 7 Cups or ReGain can be quite effective.
What can free online therapy help with?
Free online therapy can help with certain conditions and feelings, such as:
- relationship issues
- minor depression
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these types of services are not ideal for emergencies or more serious situations, such as addiction or eating disorders. Additionally, some conditions may warrant medication, in-person discussions, or group therapy.
We selected each free or low cost online therapy service based on key features to ensure that the mental health support offered is:
- appropriately credentialed
We also considered how long you need to wait for an appointment, whether the service offers 24/7 support, and whether the service offers video and phone chat, live chat, and text messaging.
Finding free online therapists is typically not very easy. If you have insurance, a good first step is to call your benefits center. Or you can do a quick search online.
Here are a few places that might help you find free or affordable online therapy:
- Your health insurance company: With the ongoing pandemic, most health insurance companies have started to cover the cost of some online therapy platforms. If you have insurance, check with your provider before opting for a pricey program.
- EAPs: Most employers offer free counseling sessions with the platform of their choice. If you have one, don’t be afraid to send your benefits center or human resource official an email to ask if they offer any services.
- Your local college or university: If you’re a student or professor, your campus most likely has a counseling center or social worker who can help you find resources for support. If the university has a psychology department, they may host free clinics where students can put their skills to the test and help the public.
- Mental health organizations: Several national organizations, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), can help you find free or low cost online therapists or resources. These organizations usually recommend resources they have worked with before and that they know can help you with your situation.
- Convenience: You can have sessions with your therapist from the comfort of your home.
- Anonymity: On certain platforms, you can remain anonymous if you wish.
- Cost savings: Online therapy can be more affordable than in-person sessions.
- Greater access: You may prefer online therapy if you have difficulty accessing traditional therapy due to location or other constraints.
- Lack of direct contact: Without physical contact, it can be more difficult to establish trust with a therapist online.
- Difficulty conveying emotions: It can be tricky to express complicated emotions through text-based communications.
- Technical issues: Occasional hiccups in the technology can inhibit progress. And you’ll need a computer or smartphone and reliable internet access for online therapy.
It’s important to consider your mental health needs when choosing an online therapy service.
Factors to keep in mind include:
- service cost
- insurance coverage
- appointment types offered (chat, video, or phone call)
- access to your therapist
- the scope of your mental health goals and needs
If you prefer more intimacy or are dealing with serious issues that require exposure therapy or many in-depth discussions (such as those relating to addiction, eating disorders, or severe depression), you may want to think about seeing a therapist in person.
But everyone is different, and this will be a matter of personal preference. If you have quicker access to an online therapist, you might want to start that way and then switch to in-person if it suits you better overall.
What are the benefits of online therapy?
- Accessibility: Anyone with an internet connection can participate in online therapy.
- Time efficiency: Online therapy and counseling eliminates travel time between appointments or support group meetings. You can also mold it to your schedule and don’t have to call out sick from work to make it to your appointment.
- Cost-effectiveness: Online therapy can be cheaper than in-person visits, and most health insurances cover part of the cost.
- Eliminates geographical barriers: If your ideal therapist resides in another state or country, you can still get treatment with them as long as they’re licensed in the state you live in.
- Comfort: Some people might find it easier to open up to a therapist when they’re in the privacy and comfort of their home.
- Safety: With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth eliminates the risk of potential exposure.
Can therapy really be free?
A number of online services offer free or reduced cost therapy. Some of these free services may be run by peer counselors or coaches and require payment to work directly with licensed mental health professionals. Additionally, certain online services may be covered by some insurance plans or EAPs.
Also, a number of mental health organizations, including SAMHSA and NAMI, can provide free peer counseling over their hotlines or connect you with a free or low cost online therapist.
Who might be a good candidate for online therapy?
Anyone who is willing to listen, focus, and commit to bettering their mental health may benefit from online therapy. However, online therapy is not useful for helping to manage all conditions.
However, someone with a mental health condition that needs more direct management, such as schizophrenia or psychosis, might need immediate, face-to-face intervention. Online therapy might not be helpful for people with schizophrenia, because it may worsen the feeling of being secretly watched.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing significant suicidal ideation, in-person therapy might be a better choice.
Managing your mental health doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.
Various online therapy platforms can help you find support groups or licensed therapists, who can teach you how to manage anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions for free or a very low cost.