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- Best availability: Talkspace
- Best for teen specialists: Teen Counseling
- Best for younger kids: Amwell
- Best for a free consultation: Synergy eTherapy
- Best for psychiatry: Doctor on Demand
- Best for free and anonymous social support: 7 Cups
- Best for in-network care: Thriveworks
Adolescence is a key time for developing an identity and forming lifelong healthy behaviors. However, mental health conditions among teens are on the rise. According to Mental Health America, in the United States in 2021, 13.84 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds reported experiencing at least 1 major depressive episode. Yet 59.6 percent of them didn’t receive treatment.
Globally, an estimated 14 percent of adolescents experience a mental health condition, and many of them receive neither a diagnosis nor mental health treatment, according to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source. This is due to a variety of factors, such as stigma, lower mental health literacy, and lack of access to services.
Research shows that early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions is key in preventing more severe and long-lasting problems.
Online counseling is making mental health treatment more accessible for some teens. Increased access to mental health treatment can help teens navigate some of the unique life circumstances that affect them — such as social media; bullying; and physical, social, and emotional changes.
If you’re a teen wondering if you may benefit from online counseling, read on to learn more about it, plus which services pass our criteria.
What is online counseling?
Online counseling is also called telemental health, virtual therapy, e-therapy, or teletherapy. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)Trusted Source says that it’s a form of therapy that takes place virtually through texts, phone sessions, video sessions, and any other telecommunication method.
In online counseling, you and your therapist don’t have to be in the same physical space. Some services also offer messaging or chat services. These don’t limit you to communicating at a particular time, whereas video chats or phone calls are for more structured sessions.
Think about what your schedule is like and what type of services you’re looking for so you and your therapist can coordinate accordingly.
Many studiesTrusted Source suggest that online counseling is comparable to in-person therapy and in some cases is more advantageous because of its cost-effectiveness and adaptability, especially in more isolated communities.
If you’re a teen experiencing distressing behavioral or emotional symptoms that interfere with your daily life at home or school, it might be time to reach out to a mental health professional.
Online counseling allows your therapist to meet with you where you are, instead of in an office environment. Therapists might communicate over text, video, phone, or a mobile app, depending on the service.
According to the NIMHTrusted Source, teens may benefit from evaluation and treatment if they experience:
- changes in sleep patterns, including sleeping too much or too little
- loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy
- low energy
- self-isolation and avoidance of time with friends or family
- changes in appetite
- a decline in grades or school performance
- increased irritability
- physical symptoms of anxiety, like stomach aches, muscle tension, and restlessness
Online counseling might not be a good fit for teens if they are:
- engaging in high risk behaviors, including drug and alcohol use
- performing self-harm behaviors
- having suicidal thoughts — if you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
- living with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive psychological supervision or psychiatric care
- unable to access a reliable internet connection
- expressing symptoms of an eating disorder, excessive diet or exercise, or fear of gaining weight
The above conditions and situations are not particularly suited for online therapy because they can require in-person treatment and care that goes beyond the scope of what virtual sessions can offer.
In these cases, telehealth counseling could supplement in-person treatment or be used for follow-up treatment to help manage a condition in the future.
If you know a teen who is dealing with any of these issues — or you are a teen going through them — reach out to a doctor or school counselor to help you find available in-person treatment options in your area.
A note about minors using online counseling
Teens may need consent from a parent to begin online counseling. However, parents usually won’t have access to information discussed throughout appointments due to therapist-client privilege.
Our medical reviewer Akilah Reynolds, PhD, mentions that parent access to information can vary from state to state.
“Each state has their own laws that govern therapy and confidentiality among minors. Often, therapists do keep most information private, except for situations of safety risks/concerns. However, parents generally still have access to the information if they wanted it,” Reynolds says.
If someone is expressing abusive, suicidal, violent, or homicidal behaviors or thoughts, their counselor will have to alert a parent, guardian, or, depending on the situation, the police.
Online counseling is a viable alternative to in-person therapy, and many young people experiencing mental health conditions may benefit from this approach to therapy.
Here’s how online counseling compares to in-person therapy:
- Convenience. Online counseling may occur anywhere between you and your therapist. All you need is access to a stable network connection and your device to communicate. With in-person therapy, both of you have to be in the same physical space at the same time for therapy to take place. Depending on the platform, online counseling can sometimes be available on call or in an emergency.
- Accessibility. Finding and connecting with a therapist and starting therapy is simple, and more hassle-free than in-person therapy. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about transportation or commuting to an office.
- Cost-effectiveness. Online counseling can be an inexpensive option compared to in-person therapy when it comes to paying for therapy and saving on transportation costs.
- Time saving. Online counseling saves you the time of commuting to an office. You can also make appointments that are at more convenient times for your day-to-day.
- Communication limitations. To build a deeper connection between you and your therapist, in-person therapy may be a better choice. Both of you can also rely on nonverbal cues when communicating. During online counseling, you may have challenges with internet or phone activity that limit communication.
- Less stigma. Online counseling may reduce the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and receiving treatment. Certain services may allow you to remain anonymous while in therapy.
- Emergencies. Online counseling is not as well suited for handling emergencies and urgent crises as in-person therapy is.
- Receiving proper diagnosis and medication. Unlike in-person therapy, some online counseling platforms cannot provide diagnoses and prescribe medications to their clients.
- Fulfilling a court order. Online counseling cannot fulfill a court order to receive mental health treatment.
- Intense psychological treatment. Therapy in person is more appropriate for treating more severe mental health conditions like psychotic disorders and bipolar disorder.
We only considered online services that provide therapy to people under the age of 18. We chose services that employ licensed mental health professionals, including counselors, social workers, psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
These professionals can treat a range of concerns, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, bullying, self-esteem, and grief. We recommend making sure your assigned professional is equipped with the proper skills for your needs by asking them about their experience.
We also looked at factors like:
- affordability or insurance eligibility
- a commitment to privacy
- expertise in issues concerning teens
- good customer reviews
- useful communication methods
Additionally, all services have a simple sign-up and payment process, receive mostly positive reviews, and offer a variety of subscriptions, services, and communication options.
We only recommend companies we stand behind as being credible and ethical (learn more about our vetting process here). Healthline’s Medical Network is made of a diverse group of mental health professionals who bring experience from a variety of specialty areas. These experts review all our recommendations for mental health-related products.
Cost: $65 per week, billed monthly for $260. Teens can add live video sessions for $65 per 30-minute session.
Talkspace is one of the most well known online counseling sites. They began providing treatment for teens in September 2018.
The Talkspace network includes thousands of licensed therapists in all 50 U.S. states and Canada. On average, therapists have 9 years of experience as mental health professionals. They may be covered by select insurance plans.
Talkspace matches teens ages 13 to 17 with a licensed counselor who has prior experience working with adolescents. Talkspace therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as trauma or depression.
Teens have 24/7 access to help. You can send your therapist unlimited text, video, photo, and audio messages through the website or mobile app, conducted in a private virtual chat room with a secure internet connection.
- Payment model is subscription-based and they offer different subscription options to choose from
- You can communicate with your therapist through various digital channels like texts, video, voice messages, and live sessions
- You can send a message to your therapist at any time of day
- Talkspace accepts insurance from some health insurance providers
- You can switch your therapist and your subscription plan any time you want to
- They offer psychiatry evaluations and medication management services
- Talkspace can’t fulfill a court order for therapy
- You can’t see their pricing until you sign up on their platform
- You can’t delete your conversations with your therapist
Best for teen specialists
Cost: Prices can range from $60 to $90 per week, depending on the plan. The service is billed monthly.
Teen Counseling is part of the popular therapy site BetterHelp. The service matches people between the ages of 13 and 19 with licensed counselors who specialize in working with teens on a wide range of issues, including coping skills, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, bullying, and anger.
Like BetterHelp, Teen Counseling does not accept insurance.
Counseling happens through private virtual therapy rooms where teens can communicate with their counselor. Teens communicate with counselors through messaging, live chats, phone calls, and video conferencing. You can access services by smartphone, tablet, or computer. Phone calls may also be conducted on a landline.
- You have access to your therapist through a chat room
- They provide multiple communication methods including texts, phone calls, live chat, and video conferencing
- Your privacy is guaranteed except in a few cases, such as: thinking about engaging in self-harm or harming someone else, if you’re contemplating suicide, or if you tell your therapist that you or someone you know is being abused
- You can cancel your subscription whenever you want to
- Therapists cannot provide diagnoses or prescription medications
- Therapy done through their platform cannot fulfill a court order
- The platform is not suitable for handling emergencies or crises
- You can’t decide who your therapist will be
- They don’t accept insurance
- They’re not suitable for treating severe mental health conditions
Best for younger kids
Cost: $109 per session for a master’s level clinician and psychotherapist, or $129 per session for a doctoral level provider. For a psychiatrist, the initial consultation is $279, with a $109 cost for each follow-up appointment.
While most online services start treating kids at 13 years or older, Amwell offers services for kids as young as 10 years old.
The Amwell network includes licensed doctoral level psychologists and master’s level therapists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. They have the training and experience to treat children and teens ages 10 to 17.
Parents must set up an account for their teen and choose the service they’d like to access, such as therapy or psychiatry. Then, they’re able to review biographies and photos of the licensed mental health professionals available.
Licensed mental health professionals can work with children on a variety of issues, ranging from anxiety to life transitions. All appointments are conducted through live video chats.
An advantage of their video platform is that you have the ability to hide the view of yourself on screen, which makes it feel more like a face-to-face conversation.
Amwell accepts insurance. But, if your sessions aren’t covered under your plan, out-of-pocket costs are still below the middle value for therapy, which can be between $100 to $200 per session.
- They accept insurance from many providers
- You can meet with multiple therapists before making your choice
- You can connect with your therapist through live video chat or phone call
- You can schedule sessions at any time
- Their payment model is per session and not subscription-based
Best for a free consultation
Cost: Sessions can range from $100 to $200 and are considered out-of-network in most states. This means they may not be covered by insurance.
Synergy eTherapy is a newer service, so they currently only offer online counseling in select states. Licensed therapists specialize in a range of mental health services online, including counseling for depression, anxiety, trauma, families, and teens.
They’re currently available in these states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- South Carolina
A few of their therapists can also offer consultations to people based in states under PSYPACT, an agreement that allows psychologists to participate across state lines.
Psychiatric medication management is also available in select states.
Synergy eTherapy offers free consultations, so you can test the waters before committing. During the virtual visit, you will have a chance to get familiar with the video platform, ask the therapist questions, and share what you hope to work on in therapy.
The service reports that the most common teen issues they treat are anxiety, depression, family conflicts, challenges with self-esteem, and stress related to social media.
Synergy eTherapists set their own rates and may offer several session lengths, ranging from 30 to 75 minutes. Additionally, there is no subscription plan, meaning you’ll pay for sessions one at a time.
- You can choose your therapist
- You first consultation with a therapist is free, and you’re not obligated to continue after that
- They provide psychiatric medication services
- You can consult with their counselors in training at a lower rate of $50
- They can’t provide intensive treatment for more severe mental health disorders
- The cost is per session and varies based on your therapist and state
- They’re not suited for dealing with emergencies
Best for psychiatry
Cost: A 25-minute video chat with a counselor is $129, while a 50-minute video chat with a counselor costs $179. For medication management with a psychiatrist, an initial 45-minute assessment is priced at $299, and follow-up visits are $129.
Licensed therapists are trained to provide therapy. Doctor On Demand psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medications.
Appointments are available any day of the week to meet your schedule. Both psychiatrists and therapists can help screen and treat a variety of concerns, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and loss.
If you’re going through a difficult time, you can get a free assessment at Doctor on Demand. In less than 2 minutes, you may learn if you have signs that could indicate mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression.
Psychiatrists can order prescriptions to your local pharmacy. However, they cannot write prescriptions for Schedule IV drugs, such as diazepam and alprazolam, and drugs that may only be prescribed through in-person visits with a psychiatrist.
- They accept insurance
- They offer prescriptions, and their psychiatrists can send out prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy
- You can complete a free assessment to help understand if you may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition
- You can choose your therapist from their network of licensed therapists
- Payment is per visit
- You can only communicate with your therapist by video call
- They’re not as cost effective as other online counseling providers
Best for free and anonymous social support
Cost: Online chats with trained volunteers are free. Ongoing support from a licensed therapist is available for teens ages 18 to 19 for $150 per month.
Sometimes, teens just need someone to talk with; someone who understands what they’re going through. That’s why 7 Cups offers anonymous emotional support to teen users ages 13 to 17. This support occurs through the platform’s teen support rooms, where you can listen or talk to other teens. In order to connect to a listener through the support rooms, you have to sign up for a free account.
While 7 Cups does offer low cost online counseling sessions by licensed professionals for $150 per month, their free chat services are run by more than 300,000 trained listeners.
You can also connect with a trained listener on their chat site or app who may offer emotional support. That said, it’s important to remember trained listeners are not licensed mental health professionals.
Volunteers go through an active listening training from 7 Cups, as well as access to coaches, support, and certification programs, to boost their listening capabilities.
This service may be appropriate for teens who need a little emotional support or encouragement. But it’s not appropriate for teens living with severe mental health conditions or experiencing suicidal thoughts.
However, 7 Cups has special safety protocols to cater to this population. If issues like sexual assault or child abuse come up, or if the user expresses intent to harm themselves or others, listeners are trained to refer them to appropriate crisis resources.
- They are less expensive compared to other teletherapy providers and cost $150 per month
- You have access to your therapist in a chat room who may reply a few times throughout the work week (Monday to Friday)
- Trained listeners are available 24/7 to listen and chat with you at no cost
- They have a large community where you may get mental and emotional support from other teens
- You can’t choose your therapist
- They don’t accept insurance
- You can only connect with your therapist by chat
Best for in-network care
Cost: If your insurance is accepted, your copay is typically just $15 to $40, plus a one-time enrollment fee. The out-of-pocket cost, if you don’t go through insurance, can be as low as $99 per session.
The licensed therapists at Thriveworks can help teens deal with the unique challenges they might be facing — like bullying, learning problems, and behavioral issues — by video chat or phone calls.
All teens (and kids) are welcome, from toddlers through high schoolers. There is no age limit for accessing counseling through Thriveworks.
All Thriveworks child counselors and psychologists have experience working with children. This includes dealing with challenges such as mental illnesses, traumatic events, loss of family members, and difficult feelings and behaviors.
Thriveworks is considered in-network with most insurance plans. They will check your coverage before your first session, so there are no surprise bills.
- They accept insurance from major insurance providers
- You can choose your therapist, and they may also offer recommendations
- Counseling sessions happen by phone and video call
- You have to pay an enrollment fee
- They don’t offer medication management in all of their locations
- They don’t run on a subscription model. Payment is per visit, and it varies based on your therapist, location, payment method, and other factors
We’ve put together a comparison table so you can get a quick look at some of the facts for our top picks:
|Service||Best for||Accepts insurance?||Cost||Pros||Cons|
|Talkspace||availability||yes; check eligibility here||$65/week;
|+ 24/7 chat
+ can change your subscription plan
+ psychiatric evaluations available
|– no outright information about payment until you sign up
– court orders cannot be fulfilled
|Teen Counseling||teen specialists||no||$60–$90/week, billed monthly||+ have multiple methods of talking with therapists, including chat room
+ privacy guaranteed
+ can cancel whenever
|– doesn’t offer diagnoses or medication
– court orders cannot be fulfilled
– can’t choose your therapist
– not recommended for severe mental health conditions
|Amwell||young kids||yes||$109 for master’s degree–level professionals;
$129 for PhD-level professionals
|+ accepts lots of insurance plans
+ can meet with multiple professionals before deciding on your right fit
+ flexible scheduling
|– payment per session
– not subscription-based
|Synergy eTherapy||free consultation||yes; it varies||$100–$200;
$50 if you decide to consult with highly trained interns (in select states)
|+ can choose your therapist
+ free consultation without requirement for further treatment
+ offers psychiatric medicine services
|– no intensive treatment available for severe mental health conditions
– cost is per session and varies based on state and therapist
|Doctor on Demand||psychiatry||yes||$129 for 25 min.;
$179 for 50 min.;
$299 for medical assessment; $129 for follow-up appointments
|+ prescriptions are available
+ free assessments
+ able to choose your therapist
|– payment is per visit only
– video chat only
– more expensive
|7 Cups||free, anonymous support||no||$150/month; free chat services||+ low cost
+ able to talk with therapist in a chat room Mon.–Fri.
+ free access to trained listeners 24/7
+ emotional support from other teens
|– can’t choose your own therapist
– no insurance
– therapy by chat only
|Thriveworks||in-network care||yes; check availability here||$15–$40 copay with insurance;
$99 for out-of-pocket payments
|+ can choose your therapist
+ phone and video sessions available
|– enrollment fee
– medication management not available at all locations
– pay per visit
When choosing a therapist, it’s important to select someone who has expertise in the area of concern you’d like to focus on so you can receive targeted care.
Therapists may have extensive experience in helping people cope with various issues — like anxiety, depression, stress, or bullying — so choosing someone who specializes in counseling people going through similar things you are will likely be the most beneficial.
It’s also important to feel comfortable and build some sort of connection with your therapist. You’ll know from your initial meeting whether this person is a good fit, like if you feel you can easily talk with them, share your feelings, and they put you at ease.
Know that it may take time for you to find the right fit, and that’s OK. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular therapist or they’re not particularly helpful, it’s best to move on to someone else who you can really connect with.
Be honest with yourself about how you feel when you’re talking with your therapist. If things just don’t feel right, trust your gut. Find someone who you feel comfortable with — it will help a tremendous amount in the long run.
Does insurance cover online counseling?
Not all insurance providers cover online counseling, but out-of-pocket costs may still be lower than traditional in-person therapy.
Check with your insurance provider to see what’s covered under your plan.
Can a minor sign up without parental consent?
Most U.S. states require a parent or guardian to provide consent for teens under the age of 18 to start therapy. For example, parents may need to provide consent by video message before a teen can begin online counseling.
However, each state has its own laws, so it’s important to check the guidelines for your state.
Is the information shared confidential?
Sessions are typically confidential. However, minors do not always have the right to full privacy.
If a teen discloses an instance of sexual assault, child abuse, or abuse happening to an older adult or disabled adult, or if they express intent to harm themselves or others, therapists are required to report this to child protective services, and sometimes to the police.
Can parents participate in the therapy?
Therapists may consult with parents before beginning therapy to discuss how parents can best support their teens during therapy and what to expect.
Are online therapists licensed?
The online counseling services on this list provide counseling by licensed therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. You should feel comfortable asking your therapist about their credentials.
Common professional designations include:
- licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
- licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
- licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC)
- licensed professional counselor (LPC)
- licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
- psychologist (PhD or PsyD)
Is online counseling the best option?
Online counseling is typically not appropriate for teens who are:
- having suicidal thoughts
- engaging in high risk behaviors like substance use and self-harm
- living with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive management and supervision
- have certain mental health conditions such as eating disorders
Mental health conditions among teens are on the rise, but teens often don’t receive the treatment they need.
Early diagnosis and treatment is key in preventing the more severe, debilitating effects of mental health conditions. Online counseling can be a convenient, more accessible, and cost-effective way to get teens the help they need to live healthier, happier lives.