The 7 Best Online Therapy Programs for Teens in 2021


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Teen participating in online therapy

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A quick look at the best online therapy programs for teens in 2021

  • Best overall: 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 identity development and forming lifelong healthy behaviors. However, poor mental health among teens is on the rise.

In the United States in 2019, more than 1 in 3 high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a 40 percent increase from 2009.

Globally, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adolescents experience a mental health condition, according to the World Health Organization.

Early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions is key to preventing more severe and long-lasting problems.

However, a 2007 study found that young men and young people from indigenous groups and ethnic minorities are less likely than any age group to seek treatment. This is because of the stigma, lower mental health literacy, and lack of access to services.

Online therapy is making mental health treatment more accessible for some teens. This can help mitigate some negative effects from unique life circumstances that affect teens — such as social media, bullying, and physical, social, and emotional changes.

Read on to find out if your teen can benefit from online therapy, plus which services pass our criteria.

Which teens benefit from online therapy? 

If your teen is experiencing distressing behavioral or emotional symptoms that interfere with their daily life at home or school, it might be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

Online therapy allows therapists to meet with teens where they are, instead of in an office environment. Therapists might communicate over text, video call, or mobile app, depending on the service.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 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)
Healthline

Online therapy 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, like cutting
  • having suicidal thoughts (If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)
  • diagnosed with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive psychological supervision or psychiatric care
  • unable to access a reliable internet connection
Healthline

How we chose

To compile this list, we considered online services that provide therapy to people under the age of 18.

These services also employ licensed mental health professionals, including counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

These professionals treat a range of concerns, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, bullying, self-esteem, grief, and eating disorders.

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.

Best 7 online therapy options for teens

Best overall

Talkspace

Talkspace is one of the most well-known online therapy sites. They began providing treatment for teens in September 2018.

Talkspace’s network includes thousands of licensed therapists in all 50 United States and Canada. On average, therapists have 9 years of experience as mental health professionals, and they may be covered by select insurance plans.

Talkspace matches teens 13 to 17 years old with a licensed counselor who has prior experience working with adolescents.

Talkspace therapists often specialize in specific areas, such as trauma or depression. Each therapist who works with a teen is licensed and equipped to do so.

Teens have 24/7 access to help and can send their therapist unlimited text, video, photo, and audio messages through the website or mobile app, conducted in a “private room” with a secure connection.

Cost: $65 a week, billed monthly for $260. Teens can add live video sessions for $65 per 30-minute session.

Best for teen specialists

Teen Counseling

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 wide range of issues, including coping skills, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, bullying, anger, and eating disorders.

Counseling happens via private “therapy rooms” where teens can communicate with their counselor. Parents do not have access to these rooms.

Teens communicate with counselors through messaging, live chats, phone calls, and video conferencing. Services can be accessed by smartphone, tablet, or computer. Phone calls may also be conducted on a landline.

Cost: Prices can range from $60 to $90 per week, depending on the plan. The service is billed monthly.

Best for younger kids

Amwell

While most online services start treating kids 13 or older, Amwell offers services for kids as young as 10 years old.

Amwell’s network of 350 psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals include therapists with training and experience in treating children and teens aged 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 via live video chats.

Another 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 national average.

Cost: $99 per session for a master’s level provider, or $110 per session for a doctoral level provider.

Best for a free consultation

Synergy eTherapy

Synergy eTherapy is a newer service, so it currently only offers 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.

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, your teen will have a chance to get familiar with the video platform and ask the therapist questions about what they hope to work on in therapy.

The service reports that the most common teen issues they treat are anxiety, depression, parental conflicts, self-esteem, and social media overwhelm.

Synergy eTherapists set their own rates and may offer several session lengths, from 30 to 75 minutes. Additionally, there is no subscription plan, meaning you can buy sessions one at a time.

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.

Best for psychiatry

Doctor On Demand

Licensed therapists are trained and accredited to provide therapy, but Doctor On Demand’s psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medications.

Appointments are available any day of the week to meet your teen’s schedule. Both psychiatrists and therapists can help screen and treat a variety of concerns, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and loss.

If you’re worried your teen may be going through a difficult time, you can get a free assessment at Doctor on Demand. In less than 2 minutes, your teen may learn if they have signs that could indicate mental health issues, like anxiety or depression.

Psychiatrists can order prescriptions from your local pharmacy, however, they cannot write prescriptions for controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety medications) and stimulants. Prescriptions for controlled substances typically require an in-person medical evaluation.

Cost: A 25-minute video chat is about $129, while a 50-minute video chat costs around $179. For medication management with a psychiatrist, an initial 45-minute assessment is priced at about $299, and follow-up visits are $129.

Best for free and anonymous social support

7 Cups

Sometimes, teens just need someone to talk to. That’s why 7 Cups offers anonymous emotional support to teen users aged 13 to 17.

While 7 Cups does offer low-cost online therapy sessions by licensed professionals for $150 per month, their free chat services are run by more than 300,000 trained listeners.

Your teen can enter “teen support rooms,” where they can chat with one another about any issues they’re experiencing. That being said, it’s important to remember trained listeners are not licensed mental health professionals.

This service may be appropriate for teens who need a little emotional support or encouragement. But it’s not appropriate for teens experiencing severe mental health problems or 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.

Cost: Online chats with trained volunteers are free. Ongoing support from a licensed therapist is available for teens aged 18 or 19 for $150 per month.

Best for in-network care

Thriveworks

The licensed therapists at Thriveworks can help teens deal with the unique challenges they might be facing — like bullying, learning problems, and behavioral issues — via video chat or phone call.

All teens (and kids) are welcome, from toddlers through high schoolers. There is no age limit to when a child can’t receive counseling through Thriveworks.

All the Thriveworks child counselors and child psychologists are well-equipped to work 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.

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 is between $65 and $140.

Frequently asked questions

Does insurance cover online therapy?

Not all insurance providers cover online therapy, 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 states in the United States require a parent or guardian to provide consent for teens under 18 to start therapy. For example, parents may need to provide consent via video message before a teen can begin online therapy.

However, each state has its own rules, so it may be worth checking your local laws.

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 or child abuse, or if they express intent to harm themselves or others, therapists are required to report this to child services or 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 therapy services on this list provide counseling by licensed therapists, counselors, and psychologists. You should feel comfortable asking your therapist about their credentials.

Common professional designations include: Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and clinical psychologist (PhD or PsyD).

Is online therapy the best option?

Online therapy may not be appropriate for teens who are having suicidal thoughts, engaging in high risk behaviors (like substance use and self-harm), or are diagnosed with a severe mental health condition that requires intensive management and supervision.

Takeaway

Poor mental health among teens is on the rise, but teens often don’t receive the treatment they need.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key in preventing the most severe effects of mental health conditions. Online therapy can be a convenient, low-cost way to get teens the help they need to live healthier, happier lives.


Gulnaz Khan is a writer and editor covering health, science, and climate. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Popular Science, TED Ideas, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University and a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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