Choosing online vs in-person therapy: a guide

You may wish to read our general disclaimers..

 

Do you want to know whether online therapy or in-person therapy is best for you? Have you tried to compare online services like BetterHelp , Talkspace , and Online-Therapy.com ?

 

This 2-minute guide exists to help you choose a way to get therapy based on your needs and wants. As in all things, we have used expert opinions and the best available evidence-based research to build our recommendations and comparisons.

 

By answering the following questions, we'll rank the best available services automatically and highlight both the reasons why they may be a good fit or a poor choice, or what you might need to think more about. We'll also note anything you might want to consider, and estimate your costs.

 

If you are ready, lets get started!

 

Questions

 

Hide the following from results

 

Results

BetterHelp

Price (per week) Paid every Owed at payment time
$65 USD Month $260
$80 USD Week $80
$45 USD Quarter $540
$35 USD Year $1820

Insurance coverage: While BetterHelp does not offer currently accept insurance, it may still cost less than regularly scheduled in-person therapy.

Regularly scheduled sessions: You can schedule live sessions with your BetterHelp therapist based on their availability.

Accessibility: BetterHelp offers both a website and a mobile app for phones and tablets. Their platforms are easy to use and secure.

Therapist qualifications: All BetterHelp counsellors and therapists are “licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD/PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional counselors (LPC)” and “have a master’s or doctoral degree in their field”. To work for BetterHelp , one must have “3 years and 2000 hours of hands on experience.” This information and a list of available counselors is maintained here by BetterHelp .

Therapist matching?: Yes. During sign up, you are asked a series of questions. Based on your answers, BetterHelp automatically suggests potential matches.

Full name privacy: An alias can be used during sign up and interacting with your therapist. Emergency contact information (including your full name) as required by law must be given.

Textual communication: You can text/chat with your therapist.

Audio/video messaging: You cannot send audio/video messages to your therapist instead of text.

Voice-call sessions: You can organize voice-calls for sessions.

Video-call sessions: You can organize video-calls for sessions.

Therapy options: BetterHelp offers several therapeutic approaches, including well-known techniques such as CBT.

Additional materials: While BetterHelp does not explicitly offer additional worksheets or other structured materials, your therapist may choose to provide them.

Distractability: Studies have increasingly shown that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. However, if you are easily distracted while on phone calls or video calls, you may want to discuss with your BetterHelp therapist how to best remain focused, or otherwise consider face-to-face therapy.

Recommendation for severe issues: During the sign-up assessment, BetterHelp will ask questions to guage the severity of your symptoms. If they deem it necessary, they will suggest you seek in-person help. You can read more about BetterHelp 's own recommendations on their website. Regardless, if you are unsure what is best for you, discuss this with your doctor before you decide.

Talkspace

Price (per week) Paid every Owed at payment time What is included
$65 USD Month $260 Daily text, video, and audio responses, 5 days a week.
$79 USD Month $316 Daily text, video, and audio, 5 days a week. 1 half-hour live session per month.
$99 USD Month $396 Daily text, video, and audio responses, 5 days a week. 4 half-hour live sessions per month.

Insurance coverage: No.

Regularly scheduled sessions: You can schedule as many live sessions per month as permitted under your plan.

Accessibility: Online based therapy providers are easy to access from any computing device.

Therapist qualifications: Talkspace has therapists trained in a wide variety of disciplines and skills.

To participate in the Talkspace network, practitioners are required to possess the highest clinical license in your state of residence, allowing independent clinical practice. Talkspace practitioners only work with the clients in the state(s) where they are licensed and allowed to practice independently. A minimum of 3 years of direct clinical experience is further required.

Therapist matching?: Yes. You will be linked to a live chat with a therapist and asked a series of questions. Note that it may take some time to get through their entire set of questions, with some gaps between your response and their next question - but the assessment is free.

Full name privacy: You may use an alias on Talkspace , but are required to give contact information, including your real name, in the event of an emergency, as required by law.

Textual communication: You can text/chat with your therapist, or choose to send audio/video messages instead.

Audio/video messaging: You can send your therapist messages as audio or video with audio instead of text.

Voice-call sessions: Your live sessions can happen over voice.

Video-call sessions: Your live sessions can happen over video-calls.

Therapy options: Talkspace therapists are trained in a variety of different approaches.

Additional materials: Talkspace does not explicitly offer additional materials.

Distractability: There is increasing evidence that online therapy is generally as effective as in-person therapy. However, if you are easily distracted while on phone calls or video calls, you may want to discuss with your Talkspace therapist how to best remain focused, or otherwise consider face-to-face therapy.

Recommendation for severe issues: Severe issues should be discussed with in-person therapists. If you are unsure whether your issues are severe, first contact your doctor.

Gifting: Talkspace allows you to send money for their services on behalf of another person, including for specific additional services, such as a one-off 30 minute live video chat ($79 USD).

Online-Therapy.com

Plan name Plan features Price (per week) Paid every Owed at payment time
Basic Daily text-based contact with your therapist Monday to Friday. Access to written work exercises. $39.95 USD Month $160
Standard One weekly live chat with your therapist. Daily text-based contact with your therapist Monday to Friday. Access to written work exercises. $59.95 USD Month $240
Premium Two weekly live chats with your therapist. Daily text-based contact with your therapist Monday to Friday. Access to written work exercises. $79.95 USD Month $320

Insurance coverage: No.

Regularly scheduled sessions: The Basic plan does not allow you to schedule sessions with your therapist. You can book one live session on the Standard plan or two live sessions on the Premium plan with your therapist each week based on their availability.

Accessibility: Online-based therapy providers are easy to access from any computing device.

Therapist qualifications: Online-Therapy.com requires therapists to hold an MA, MS, MSW, PsyD or PhD in counseling, social work, clinical psychology, or related mental health areas. Additionally, all US therapists must be licensed by a state board to provide counseling (LCSW, LMFT, LPC, PsyD or similar), and UK-based therapists must be fully accredited with the BABCP. No therapist for Online-Therapy.com can have had disciplinary actions in the past 10 years. You can read more about Online-Therapy.com 's strict requirements here.

Therapist matching?: Yes. The matching is done by in-house therapists for all of their online-based services.

Full name privacy: You are able to sign up with a (fake) alias name, but may be required to provide your real emergency contact information as required by law.

Textual communication: You can text/chat with your therapist.

Voice-call sessions: Voice calls are not currently supported for sessions. However, this feature is coming soon!

Video-call sessions: Video calls are not currently supported for sessions. However, this feature is coming soon!

Therapy options: Online-Therapy.com currently only offers CBT.

Additional materials: Online-Therapy.com offers worksheets and other materials along side there other therapy services for many common problems and situations. These can amplify the effects of the therapy you receive.

Distractability: Studies have increasingly shown that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. However, if you are easily distractable while texting or using IM software, you should consider whether having a person in the same room as you might be beneficial.

Recommendation for severe issues: Many psychological experts, though not all, believe severe issues are best handled in person. If you are unsure what is best for you, discuss this with your doctor before you decide.

In-person therapy

Price: Price varies by many factors. Typically, they will cost as much as between $75 USD and $150 USD per session (often 50 minutes), though some therapists can cost $200 USD or more. It might be worth asking if your desired in-person therapist has a sliding scale fee based on your income.

Insurance coverage: Depends on the individual and your insurance coverage, but, generally speaking, health insurance often covers some of the costs of qualifying therapists.

Regularly scheduled sessions: In-person therapy is built around regular sessions.

Accessibility: If you have a hard time leaving your home or otherwise want to save time traveling, in-person therapy is not likely a good option for you. Some local therapists may be willing to do video calls for sessions - if not immediately, perhaps after some period of time seeing you. Don't be afraid to ask if that is something that interests you!

Avoiding acquaintances: In-person therapy requires you to visit the location where the therapist works, and if they have many appointments or use a shared office space, you may see people you know.

Therapist qualifications: In most cities, you will likely have access to therapists of all different qualifications. Which kind of qualification will depend on your particular situation, wants, and needs.

Therapist matching?: If your therapist works in a shared office, than maybe! Even then, though, therapists often are allocated by availability, especially so in well-established offices.

It is therefore important that you do your homework about a therapist's qualifications, whether they are licensed, and whether they have any complaints against them, especially if they run their own office. Ensure that they have graduated from a legitimate institution and are licensed to practice in your area (or are being appropriately supervised).

Full name privacy: You can ask the therapist or therapist's office if they allow for using aliases, but it is usually much more difficult to conceal yor real name and identity when visiting a therapist or counselor in person.

Textual communication: It is likely that your in-person therapist will not communicate with you via text. You can ask if they are open to texting during sessions, though.

Voice-call sessions: Local therapists will likely want to see you in person, at least for a while. You can ask potential therapists if they are open to phone call sessions.

Video-call sessions: Local therapists will likely want to see you in person, at least for a while. You can ask potential therapists if they are open to video-call sessions.

Therapy options: Different in-person therapists offer different kinds of therapy, depending on your current needs. If you have a preference, factor that in while choosing!

Additional materials: In person therapists will often you use worksheets and other written materials along side your talk therapy.

Distractability: Although studies increasingly show that online therapy can be just as effective as talk therapy, many experts believe that you can get better results in person if you are easily distracted.

Recommendation for severe issues: In-person therapy is a safe choice when dealing with severe issues, according to many experts.