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A quick look at the best online therapy programs for kids in 2021
- Best for teens: TeenCounseling
- Best app-based service: Talkspace
- Best for younger children: Amwell
- Best for psychiatry: MDLIVE
- Best for choosing your child’s therapist: Doctor on Demand
- Best cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for teens: Online-Therapy.com
- Best affordable service: 7 Cups
Therapy can be beneficial for people of all ages, including children. Seeking counseling for your child may help prevent and manage their mental health needs, as they experience developmental milestones.
Online therapy (a form of telehealth) is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods for finding mental health services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a safe and convenient way to enroll your kid in treatment from the comfort of your own home.
How do I know if my child needs therapy?
Key signs that it’s a good idea to enroll a child in therapy include:
- changes in behavior
- loss of interest in school, hobbies, friends, etc.
- changes in sleeping patterns
- loss of appetite
- increased irritability, sensitivity, and overwhelm
- lack of self-esteem
- isolation from social activities
“If there’s any mention of [suicidal thoughts], or if you notice dangerous behaviors, it’s important to get help quickly,” notes Virginia Williamson, LMFT, a licensed therapist. “Most parents can feel when there’s a shift that just doesn’t seem like their child.”
Keep in mind
Online therapy isn’t a substitute for true emergency services.
In the event of a mental health emergency — if your child is thinking about harming themselves or someone else — call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
However, you don’t need to wait for a crisis to occur before enrolling your child in therapy.
Some parents seek children’s therapy as a preventative measure or simply to check in on the state of their kid’s mental health.
What does a children’s therapist do?
A children’s therapist may have a background in social work, family therapy, psychology, psychotherapy, or psychiatry.
Before beginning treatment, it’s important to ensure the provider is a licensed psychologist, therapist, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist and has experience working with children.
Therapy for children may employ techniques such as play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive therapies (like art), and mindfulness tools.
Play therapy in particular is suitable for younger children and allows them to open up to the therapist while engaging in activities they enjoy.
The goal of a children’s therapist is to identify the cause of certain behaviors and help the child develop the skills to cope with difficult situations.
Here are our top seven picks for online therapy programs for kids.
How we chose
We considered many criteria when choosing the best online therapy programs for kids, including:
- Licensure. All the mental health professionals here are licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, or psychotherapists.
- Accessibility. Some of these programs accept health insurance, and some offer flexible payment options. The programs here also feature easy sign-up processes.
- Reputation. We chose programs with positive customer feedback and reviews.
- Offerings. These therapists offer a wide range of counseling services for anxiety, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders, stress, bullying, anger, and coping skills.
7 best online therapy programs for kids in 2021
Best for teens
TeenCounseling is an online counseling platform for teens aged 13 to 19. The platform is part of BetterHelp.
More than 16,000 licensed therapists are available for affordable, discreet, and professional counseling services via computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Therapists can help teens cope with anxiety, stress, self-esteem, depression, bullying, anger, eating disorders, and other challenges.
Teens can communicate with their counselor through a dedicated virtual therapy room, which is private and secure. Communication methods include messaging, live chat, phone calls, and video chat.
Cost: Pricing ranges from $60 to $90 per week, billed every 4 weeks. This depends on your location, preferences, and therapist availability. While this is a monthly membership, you can cancel at any time.
Coverage: TeenCounseling services are usually not covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. However, coverage and benefits for counseling services vary from one insurance company to another. It may be worth taking a closer look at your benefits.
Best app-based service
Talkspace is one of the most well-known online therapy platforms. It’s highly rated and has been used by more than 1 million people.
Users can communicate with their therapists through text-based message, video chat, or audio calls.
Teens aged 13 to 17 can seek specialized therapy on Talkspace through Talkspace for Teens. Simply sign up through the iOS or Android app.
All teen counselors on the app are licensed and have experience working with adolescents.
Cost: $260, billed monthly. This includes text, video, and audio communication.
Coverage: Talkspace accepts health insurance. See their full partner list to determine if your employer or health insurance provider covers mental health services through Talkspace.
Best for younger children
While most online therapy programs have a minimum age requirement of 13, Amwell counsels children 10 and up.
Amwell offers a variety of telemedicine services, including those for mental health.
Teens and tweens can speak with their therapist face-to-face using the Amwell app or website. Visits usually last about 45 minutes and are available during weekends, holidays, and evenings.
Amwell has a network of more than 350 licensed psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals.
Cost: Visits range from $99 to $110, depending on the experience and credentials of the therapist. If your visit is covered by your employer or health insurance company, the cost of your copay may be lower.
Coverage: Some health insurance providers cover Amwell visits. During the sign-up process, you can check your eligibility.
Best for psychiatry
MDLIVE is a telemedicine service for non-emergency medical, mental, and dermatological conditions.
Unlike some online therapy platforms, MDLIVE’s psychiatrists can prescribe medication when needed. Parents must consent for children 10 and up to be seen by a therapist or psychiatrist.
This platform may be ideal for therapy and psychiatry visits as needed. MDLIVE is not a subscription-based service, so signing up is free and users are only charged when visits are scheduled.
Cost: Talk therapy costs up to $108 per visit. Psychiatry appointments are $284 for initial visits and $108 for follow-up appointments.
Coverage: MDLIVE accepts health insurance, which can reduce some or all of the cost.
Best for choosing your child’s therapist
Doctor On Demand
If you prefer to choose your child’s therapist instead of being matched with one, check out Doctor On Demand.
On average, the network of licensed psychiatrists and therapists has 15 years of experience.
Communication methods are more limited than other platforms. Doctor On Demand uses live video calls to communicate with minors.
If you need help determining whether your child should be enrolled in therapy, Doctor On Demand offers a free mental health assessment.
Cost: Psychology visits cost between $129 and $179, depending on the length of the visit. Psychiatry appointments are $299 per initial consultation and $129 per follow-up appointment.
Coverage: Doctor On Demand is covered by some employers and health insurance plans. Add your insurance during registration to see if your health plan supports Doctor On Demand telehealth visits.
Best cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for teens
With parents’ written consent, teens can seek remote cognitive behavioral therapy on Online-Therapy.com.
The site offers more than just a chat box or digital room for teens wanting a complete toolbox. In addition to therapy sessions and communication, therapy can include yoga, worksheets, journaling, and more.
The site is not geared towards young children, but adolescents can join with parental permission.
This service may be suitable for mental health conditions treatable with CBT, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Cost: There’s a subscription-based platform starting at $39.95 per week. Plans that include therapy sessions cost up to $79.95 per week.
Coverage: This service does not accept health insurance.
Best affordable service
7 Cups is an online resource available to people who are looking for someone to talk with. Teens aged 13 to 17 can chat with volunteers who are specifically trained to speak with teens for free.
7 Cups also offers free chat rooms exclusively for teens seeking other young adolescents to talk with.
In addition to speaking with non-licensed trained volunteers for free, 7 Cups offers a paid membership where teens aged 18 or 19 can speak with a licensed therapist on a regular basis.
Teens can send as many messages as they would like to their therapist in a professional and confidential mode of communication that’s compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Cost: Chatting online with trained volunteers is free, anonymous, and available 24/7. Ongoing support from a licensed therapist is available for $150 per month.
Coverage: 7 Cups does not accept private insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does insurance cover online therapy?
Insurance may cover some online therapy treatments. To check eligibility, contact your health insurance provider.
Many online therapy programs for kids have a range of payment options, including health insurance coverage or out-of-pocket payments.
Can parents be involved in treatment?
Parents can have varying levels of involvement in their child’s mental health treatment. Whether parents are present during sessions depends on the age of the child.
Regardless of whether parents sit in on sessions, parents should communicate regularly with the clinician and monitor the child closely in between sessions.
Can a minor sign up without parental consent?
In many states, minors can’t consent to mental health treatment without parental permission.
In some states, such as California and New York, minors of a certain age may obtain therapy without parental consent provided they understand the consequences of the treatment.
Is the information shared confidential?
Yes, client confidentiality and HIPAA laws apply to online therapy programs for children.
However, some modes of communication, such as Zoom or FaceTime, may not provide a secure or private connection. Ensure you are using a HIPAA-compliant platform for your child’s online therapy.
In certain situations, confidentiality is limited. In some states (this may vary by state law) parents may access records. Therapists may work with parents to develop ground rules for maintaining children’s privacy.
When it comes to mandated reporting, counselors must report abuse of minor children to appropriate authorities, regardless of who is the alleged perpetrator. Reporting laws also include harm to self or others.
Is online therapy right for all kids?
While online therapy is a great choice for many children, it is not a suitable option for everyone. Some kids respond better to an in-person environment.
“For some kids, online therapy can be too much,” says Katherine M. Hayes, LCPC, a licensed clinical counselor who specializes in children and adolescents.
“If it’s hard for the child to engage in a session online, this would be something to discuss with the child and parent,” Hayes says. “Creative solutions can still be used online, such as art and games.”
Most websites outline who they believe are ideal for their services. Additionally, online therapy is not recommended for children or teens who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Online therapy can be an accessible and affordable way to seek counseling for your child or teen.
Depending on the needs of the child, online therapy programs for kids offer a convenient alternative to visiting a therapist’s office.
Lacey Bourassa is a health, wellness, and beauty writer based in Southern California. She holds a BA in English. Her work has appeared in digital publications like Livestrong, Verywell, Business Insider, Eat This Not That, and others. When she’s not writing, Lacey is likely pursuing her other interests: skin care, plant-based cooking, pilates, and traveling. You can keep up with her by visiting herwebsite or herblog.