Online therapy is an accessible, budget-friendly way of talking to a licensed counselor. Choosing the right therapist for you can vastly improve your quality of life, but there are some common misconceptions about going virtual that stop many people from trying it. Read on to find out whether you’re holding onto any false beliefs about these services.
When someone mentions to you that they’re seeing a therapist, the image that likely enters your head is of a formal doctor’s office with certificates on the wall. A virtual meeting can feel more akin to a webcam chat with friends, and this aspect of online counseling can feel too easy to be “real.” Many also mistakenly believe that these therapists must not be as highly qualified as those with their own offices.
However, if you use a reputable website to find your online therapist, you can be confident that you’re in the capable hands of a qualified professional. Virtual therapists are trained, registered, and accredited to the same standard that in-person therapists are. In fact, many sites require practitioners to have years of experience before they can work through them.
There’s also a large number of therapists available to choose from on most counseling websites. This might mean that you can access a therapist more specifically qualified for your needs, compared to searching around where you live.
If you aren’t familiar with online therapy sites, you might have assumed that they’re only accessible to people who have had a referral from their healthcare provider, or who can “prove” that they need therapy. What’s more, many of us would only seek out help from a professional if we feel that our mental health is bad enough to affect our everyday lives.
However, these misconceptions couldn’t be more wrong. You don’t need a referral from a doctor to see an online therapist, and you definitely don’t need to wait until you’re miserable! Online counseling is available to anyone who wants to improve their quality of life, even if they don’t have a mental illness: therapists are great at helping users achieve tricky goals and reduce everyday stress. If you feel that something is getting in the way of your happiness, online therapy might be the way forward.
With in-person therapy costing around $100-$200 per session in most of the US, it simply isn’t an affordable option for many people. Given that many online therapists are qualified and accredited to an equally high level, you may have assumed that this service would cost around the same.
However, online therapy subscriptions can cost as little as $40-$70 per week. This is because using an online platform allows practitioners to reduce their costs and offer treatment at more affordable rates. The best online counseling websites also allow you to cancel your membership at any time, so you aren’t locked into regular payments. This makes them a great way to try out therapy without investing lots of your hard-earned cash in one go.
With our busy lifestyles, fitting an hour-long therapy session into a packed schedule can seem impossible, and many don’t think it’s worth the hassle. This is where online therapy shines: there’s no traveling to appointments or shopping around your area to find a practitioner.
In addition, online therapy platforms allow you to contact your therapist in a private, virtual “room” any time you think of something you want to say. Your therapist will then reply to you when they’re working. Of course, there’s still the option to arrange an online meeting with them. Even then, there’s no need to stick to the traditional hour-long session, making it an excellent option for time-strapped students, professionals, and parents.
It’s natural to have doubts about whether you’ll feel comfortable opening up on personal topics with a stranger. Fortunately, making patients feel comfortable enough to speak is exactly what trained psychologists and counselors are best at.
Accessing your therapy online also brings the benefit of being able to set yourself up somewhere familiar during your meetings, which might make you more comfortable. In addition, online therapy gives you the option of writing your feelings in a message for your therapist rather than saying them out loud—if you find that easier.
The best online counseling websites will even let you remain anonymous if that makes you feel safer, by using a nickname during your meetings and withholding your personal information.
It’s common to talk about sensitive issues during therapy sessions, and you may be worried that your chat messages or virtual meetings with your therapist could be seen by others. However, this shouldn’t be a concern if you choose a practitioner through a reputable website.
The best online therapy providers are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), legislation designed to protect the privacy and security of your medical information. This means that the company collects only the data necessary to provide your service, and you can find out exactly what this includes on its website. You can rest assured that your data will be encrypted and held on secure servers to protect against events such as cyberattacks.
If you haven’t tried online therapy before, you might wonder just how much good a virtual counseling session can really do. Recent research suggests that virtual therapy is reducing obstacles to accessing this service and getting vital help to more people. A 2020 Lancet study found that electronically-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy was equally effective as in-person sessions.
The key to finding virtual therapy that truly works for you is choosing the right platform. Compare the best online therapy sites using our chart above and choose the service that fits you the most.
Virtual therapy is a great resource if you want to explore an issue in a different context than a traditional counseling session. The best online therapy sites offer secure, confidential sessions with highly qualified professionals who are licensed to the same level as any in-person therapist.
If you think that talking to a counselor could help you work through difficult situations, emotions, or relationships, these therapists offer support at an affordable price. Be sure to do your own research to find something that suits your needs, then enjoy having help at your fingertips.