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When everything feels like a *little* too much, talking to someone can help. Especially if that someone is a trained professional in providing emotional support. Enter: online mental health counselors.
With the same benefits of traditional therapy, online counseling allows you to get a therapy sesh from anywhere (including your couch). If you want to find a mental health therapist, but feel overwhelmed by the options, check our picks of the top 5 mental health counselors of 2020.
An online mental health counselor is an accredited professional who provides support for mental health issues over the internet. An appointment with your online counselor can happen via text, phone, video conferencing, or online chat.
While psychiatrists will sometimes approach mental health issues through a biological lens, mental health counselors tend to focus more on your personal growth and in teaching specific coping strategies to deal with life’s natural challenges.
To be clear: You don’t need to be diagnosed with a specific condition to benefit from mental health therapy, but it can be particularly helpful if you live with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. In short: it’s a safe, and comfy way to improve your well-being.
Does working with a mental health counselor help?
Counseling is a great tool for working on your mental health, and finding that help online doesn’t mean it’s going to be less effective.
- A 2017 study found that online therapy is an effective alternative to in-person therapy, with the added benefit of making counseling available for those who live in rural communities.
- Experts have suggested that online counseling is increasing access to mental health care for vulnerable patients with bipolar disorder.
- Another study found that internet-administered counseling can be highly effective in controlling the symptoms of depression.
Ready to find a mental health counselor? We did the research for you and looked for secure options available all over the country. Here are our top picks for the best online mental health counselors.
Price: $65–$99 per week
Services: text, video sessions, audio messages
Talkspace is one of the largest teletherapy services. They offer subscription plans for every price point, and have over 3,000 therapists and counselors available. Aside from their regular counseling sessions, they also offer mental health support to couples, and teens.
Worried about cost? Some of their services can even be covered by insurance.
Price: $99–$110 per session
Services: video sessions
AmWell is an online platform that offers video sessions with mental health therapists and psychiatrists, as well as physical healthcare. Their health team is available 24/7 and they offer services for adults, children, and teens.
The price for each session varies depending on the credentials of your mental health counselor.
Find an AmWell mental health counselor.
Price: $65–$140 per session
Services: video sessions, phone calls
Thriveworks has over 100 physical locations in the U.S., but they also offer online therapy with licensed mental health counselors. You can choose between individual counseling and couples therapy via video conferencing or phone call.
The big drawback: their online services aren’t available in every state. Check which states they cover here.
Price: $40–$70 per week
Services: text, video sessions, live chat, phone calls
BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that offers real-time chat and video sessions with licensed mental health counselors, psychologists, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Talk about options!
While some users aren’t fans of the automated patient-therapist matching process, you can always ask for a different counselor if it’s not the perfect fit.
Price: 60–$80 per week
Services: text, video sessions, live chat, phone calls
Last but not least is MyTherapist. This online therapy platform offers text messaging, video conferencing, live chat, and phone calls with licensed psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors.
Along with regular individual counseling, they also provide grief counseling, family therapy, and couples therapy, so there’s plenty of options to choose from.
Only the cream of the counseling crop made it onto our list of best mental health counselors. We considered lots factors when choosing the very best, including:
- credentials (all mental health professionals are licensed counselors)
- positive customer feedback
- platforms that included services for teens and children
- ability to use health insurance
- counselors with a wide range of expertise in different areas (including mental health counselors that specialize in certain age groups, and conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship issues, and substance abuse, among others).
Looking for a therapy match made in heaven? There are a few things you should consider when choosing an online mental health counselor.
- Background. You might feel safer talking with someone from your own community, or who shares a similar background to yours. Does your mental health counselor specializes in LGBTQ+ support, or in helping marginalized communities? Are you looking for someone with a certain religious affiliation?
- Age. Mental health counseling often involves sharing personal details about your life, so age can be a real deal breaker. Give some thought to whether you would you want to spill the tea to someone who is older/younger than you, or around your age?
- Expertise. First check for a license to practice mental healthcare, or for credentials like Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC). It also helps to understand your counselor’s area of expertise to weigh your options. Do they specialize in treating people with similar issues to yours?
Interested in becoming a mental health counselor yourself? Here’s what you need to know:
Education. To become a licensed mental health counselor, an undergrad degree in social sciences will give you a start. If you have a degree in any other area, you can still apply for an accredited master’s program, but you’ll have to complete prerequisite courses first.
Practice. You’re required to complete a minimum of 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised practice before getting your license. Requirements change depending on the state, so be sure to check the guidelines for the state where you’re planning to study/practice.
Licensure and certification. The final step! Before becoming a licensed mental health counselor, you’ll have to pass a state licensing exam. In some states, you might also have to pass a test administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) first.
Mental health counselors are an important way to support your mental wellness, and getting that help online makes it much easier to get care. Remember: you don’t need to have been diagnosed with a particular mental health issue to benefit from counseling.
Life’s too short to neglect your well-being, and that includes your mental health. Try reaching out to a counselor on our list of top picks to find the right fit for your needs.