Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the way in which people and businesses interact has changed. During the past three years, telehealth and online therapy have become more popular as patients and clients were forced to use these mediums to connect with doctors, therapists, and other professionals. Insurance companies have recently begun to acknowledge the benefits of both telehealth and online therapy. Now many insurance companies cover the costs of online therapy, making online therapy even more accessible and affordable than it was before.
For those whose insurance carriers do not cover online therapy, there may be an option to submit a superbill to your insurance company for partial or full reimbursement. The exact coverage amount of any online services will depend on the insurance plan, the therapist you work with, and the state regulations in your area.
Medicare and Medicaid have also begun to include coverage of online therapy in many states. It is always advisable to check with your insurance carrier about your coverage prior to signing up for a subscription with an online therapy platform.
In this article, we will discuss what online therapy entails, the benefits, the drawbacks, how to find an online therapist that’s right for you, and lastly, we will list the best online therapy that takes insurance and have been rated “best for” in various categories.
Online therapy sessions, what to expect
Depending on which online therapy outlet you choose, you may be working with your licensed therapist in any number of ways. Some therapists offer text messaging any time, while others offer more traditional interaction via live video sessions. In the middle of this spectrum, there are therapists who also offer counseling by phone.
If you have never been to a therapist before, the closest method to traditional therapy, would involve video therapy sessions. In these sessions you and the therapist will be able to see one another and communicate live. A major benefit to these live sessions is, the therapist will be able to observe facial expressions, which communicates a lot of information not otherwise verbally stated.
Most online therapy outlets have you fill out a question-and-answer form to help pair you with a therapist specializing in your needs. For instance, someone experiencing difficulty with ADHD symptoms will be paired with a licensed therapist who has experience working with that population. Some outlets allow the clients to choose their therapists by searching the therapist’s biography and specialties.
It is important to find a therapist who feels supportive and helpful for your specific circumstances. If you decide the therapist you are working with is not a good fit, it is your right to request another therapist. Most online therapy services make the process of switching therapists relatively easy, as they want to support the client’s comfort level and preferences.
While in-person therapists tend to have long waitlists and difficulty scheduling, online therapists tend to be much more flexible. Some online therapists allow 24/7 messaging, while others allow messaging on the weekends and evenings. This open availability is almost unheard of in traditional therapy, as in-person therapists tend to work within strict client-therapist boundaries.
Benefits of online therapy
“Ninety-six percent of psychologists agreed that the use of telehealth during the pandemic has proven its worth as a therapeutic tool, and 93% agreed that they intend to continue providing telehealth as an option in their practice after the pandemic.” (Survey, 2021) Even traditional therapists who see clients in-person, also see the value in holding spots for treating clients online.
For some clients, phobias, physical disabilities, and other issues, may make it nearly impossible to seek traditional in-person counseling. Online therapy has opened the doors for many clients who might otherwise forgo treatment.
For many people, seeking mental health treatment can be challenging. Such challenges include affordability, commuting, stigma, availability of therapists, location of services, and other factors. Online therapy offers accessibility, affordability, anonymity, and a vast selection of therapists.
For people who have been considering therapy but feel intimidated or overwhelmed about in-person sessions, the option of online therapy may diminish some of that hesitation. Other benefits of online counseling include:
- Wide selection of therapists to choose from
- Sessions can take place in the comfort of your own home
- Online therapy tends to be more affordable than traditional therapy. On average, online therapy is half the cost of traditional in-person therapy
- More privacy in terms of not seeing other clients in the waiting room, or going to an identifiable public office
- People may feel more comfortable having sessions in their home and subsequently, open-up more during their sessions than they might if they were in-person
- Typically, people are paired with a therapist within hours to days vs being placed on a waitlist for in-person sessions
- Many studies are indicating the effectiveness of in-person therapy as equal to online therapy (Sarkis, 2021)
- Convenient for most schedules
- Treatment results may be achieved at a faster rate than traditional in-person treatment. “Trust is foundational to the success of therapy, and it seems that for some people the comfort of being behind a screen can remove barriers to openness that would otherwise slow down traditional therapy” -Dr John Grohol
Cons of online therapy
Online therapy isn’t for everyone. Some people benefit from in-person contact and require that intimacy in order to feel trust with their therapist. People who do not use technology often, may feel intimidated by using video sessions or text messaging for therapeutic sessions.
There are some clients where online therapy would not be recommended, such as those with severe mental illness, those experiencing high suicide ideation, or those who are severely affected by substance abuse issues. Some other negatives of online therapy include:
- Body language communicates a lot to the therapist and even in video sessions, body language may be difficult to observe
- For those utilizing chat sessions with their therapist, typing speed may impede communication or interrupt the flow of thoughts
- It may be easier for unlicensed or unethical therapists to squeak by the vetting process
- Clients and therapists must have a strong and reliable internet service
- Some insurance providers do not cover the cost of treatment
- Some states do not allow for out-of-state providers
- As with any online communication, there is an opportunity for a security breach
Choosing the right service for your insurance needs
While many major insurance providers will cover the cost of online therapy, it is always important to check with your health insurance provider for the most up to date information on coverage. You may also inquire with your insurance company if they will accept a submitted superbill to help cover some or all of the costs of treatment.
It is also important to make sure the online platform utilizes HIPPA practices and maintains confidentiality as regulated by law. Though the platforms listed here utilize licensed therapists, not all online therapy platforms do. It’s best to do a thorough review of the platform’s website and review their policies to ensure safety and credibility.
The best online therapy platforms accepting insurance
In order to provide you with the most up-to-date information and unbiased opinions, research included: reviewing client feedback, comparing data points, reviewing reputable and non-sponsored journalist reviews, and examining each online therapy platform’s website thoroughly.
Best for Most Insurances Coverage Platform: Grow Therapy
Grow Therapy strives to make therapy accessible and is dedicated to advocating for improved access to mental health care. It offers prompt scheduling, accepts insurance, and provides a seamless payment experience.
One thing that sets Grow Therapy apart from other platforms is that they accept most major insurance plans. This means that whether you’re an individual, a couple, or a family seeking therapy services, you won’t have to worry about footing the entire bill. It’s a fantastic perk that makes Grow Therapy an excellent choice for anyone seeking affordable and high-quality therapy.
Best for Unlimited Messaging: Talkspace
Talkspace accepts Cigna, Humana health insurance and more. Currently, they are offering a $100 discount with code: SPACE. Talkspace offers unlimited messaging with a licensed therapist in addition to video chat, video sessions, audio, and video messaging. Those who use technology often or prefer this type of communication in their everyday life, would transition most easily to using the same communication style on the Talkspace platform.
Best for Medication Management: Brighside Health
Brightside Health accepts Cigna, Aetna, Optum/United Healthcare, Anthem CA, Allegiance, and more. Clients work directly with psychiatrists who monitor the client’s medication through self-report. Clients can be paired with a psychiatrist in as little as 24 hours. They do not prescribe controlled substances like Valium or Xanax.
Best for Anxiety: Talkspace
Talkspace accepts Cigna, Humana health insurance and more. Talkspace offers unlimited messaging, which is of great support to those dealing with anxiety. Clients with anxiety who have direct and consistent support, typically resolve the intensity of their anxiety more quickly than if they had to wait a week for a treatment session.
Best Overall: Cerebral
Cerebral accepts United Healthcare/Optum, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem, Cigna, and Magellan Health. Currently, Cerebral is offering the first month of therapy for $99 (50% discount). Cerebral’s mission is to make mental health care more accessible and provide therapy, medication management, and psychiatry all on one platform. Their multi-layered approach to treatment allows them to work with a variety of clients with different needs.
Best for Depression: Brightside Health
Brightside Health accepts Cigna, Aetna, Optum/United Healthcare, Anthem CA, Allegiance. For those experiencing depression, the option for medication treatment is very beneficial. Therapy sessions as well as medication options on the same platform allow for a more cohesive treatment plan for clients seeking both services.
Best for Psychiatry: Brighstide Health
Brightside Health accepts Cigna, Aetna, Optum/United Healthcare, Anthem CA, and Allegiance. Therapy is accessible via weekly video sessions and additional sessions may be purchased for additional fees. They also offer unlimited messaging with a 24-48 hour response time on weekends.
Best for Cognitive-Behavioral: Thriveworks
Thriveworks accepts Blue Cross, Anthem, Optum, United, Aetna, Cigna, and Humana health insurance. They offer premium therapy and psychiatric services online as well as in-person. They also provide medication management. They offer video sessions as well as phone sessions. Thriveworks specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy which theorizes, most people’s maladaptive thoughts and behaviors can be managed by addressing those beliefs and behaviors – vs – psychoanalytical treatment, which focuses more heavily on childhood relationships and past trauma.
Best for Couples: Amwell
Accepts many different insurance carriers including Aetna and United Healthcare. Amwell provides online video sessions for couples. They also offer individual sessions for clients whose partner refuses to attend sessions. Individual sessions can still address relationship issues without the entirety of the couple present.
Best for LGBTQIA Couples: Talkspace
Talkspace accepts Premera, Cigna, Optum, Gatorcare, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance and more. Talkspace provides therapists who are experienced in working with the LGBTQIA population or whom identify as LGBTQIA. Talkspace places emphasis on being inclusive and wanting clients to feel heard, seen, and accepted. If you are not satisfied with your therapist for any reason, they will provide another therapist for free.
Best for Individual Appointments: Talkspace
Talkspace accepts Premera, Cigna, Optum, Gatorcare, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance, and more. Talkspace has a large selection of therapists to chose from and those therapists have a variety of specializations.
Best Full-Care Team: Amwell
Amwell accepts Aetna, United Healthcare and more. They offer urgent care, therapy, psychiatry, nutrition counseling, and women’s health, providing full-team care. The advantage of all of these services, is obtaining a cohesive treatment plan with practitioners who work together and communicate on behalf of the client’s best interests.
Best for Kids and Teens: Synergy Therapy
Offers online video therapy to teens, kids, and families in select states. Some therapists are in-network and many health insurance providers will cover in-network therapy sessions. They also offer free consultations. Kids and teens tend to be over scheduled these days, so having access to online treatment is imperative for many families.
Most Affordable: Talkspace
Talkspace accepts many insurance carriers and also offers affordable subscriptions for services. Plans start at $65/week and they offer discounts for paying quarterly.
Best for Addiction: MDLIVE
MDLIVE accepts many insurance carriers including Cigna, Humana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Aetna. They offer therapy, psychiatry, and medication management. Severe substance use issues may be better served with in-treatment programs.
Best for Video Sessions: Amwell
Amwell accepts many major insurance carriers such as Aetna and United Healthcare. Their video services resemble traditional therapy more than other services, as the client can close their computer view of themselves, so they only see the therapist. It can be distracting to see one’s self on video and this application allows you to just view the therapist.
Top 3 “Best of”
|Top 3 “Best of”||Choose Your Own Therapist||24/7 Access||Live Video Sessions||Medication Prescriptions||Messaging Sessions||Kids and Teens|
Cost and Payment Options
For those seeking treatment, but their particular insurance does not cover treatment, many online therapy platforms do accept Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). If you must pay out-of-pocket for online therapy, often these costs are tax-deductible.
There are many online therapy platforms that offer discounts such as new client membership discounts, seasonal discounts, payment plan options, and other ways in which to help cover costs of treatment. There are also companies and businesses that offer free memberships to some online therapy platforms. Check with your Human Resource department to see if your business offers this benefit.
The acceptance of telehealth as a viable and effective medium for treatment is one of the few outstanding benefits of the pandemic. Online therapy has several advantages and each of those advantages serves to support the staying power of online therapy platforms. Even though many of these platforms are significantly more affordable than traditional in-person therapy, it’s good to know more and more insurance companies are covering the cost of services.
If you are curious about different treatment options and are not sure where to start, look at our “best of” list to help lead you in the right direction. Visit their websites to get a feel for the online therapy platforms. Review their mission statements, their privacy policies, their credential requirements, the services they provide, read customer reviews, and you will begin to get a feel for which platforms are right for you.
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