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I. Overview

Access to online therapy depends on your insurance coverage and location. Most insurance companies cover online therapy services, but many require video for therapy. Also, if your insurance does not cover online therapy, there are other options, such as free therapy sites.

Online therapy offers an innovative way to connect with a licensed therapist from your own home conveniently. It provides accessibility if you:

  • Live in a rural or remote area where in-person therapy is limited or nonexistent
  • Are homebound
  • Have a new baby at home
  • Otherwise find it difficult to go into an office for therapy

Today, many states require insurance providers to cover online mental health therapy the same as traditional therapy sessions. There are plenty of options for online therapy that accept insurance or offer self-pay rates that may work with your budget.

II. Can I use health insurance for online therapy?

Until recently, it was not possible to use health insurance for virtual therapy visits. Now, many online therapy platforms and mental health professionals are seeing clients virtually, and many accept insurance.

A phone call to your insurance company is a great starting point to see which resources are available to you. Your therapist can send you intake paperwork and ensure that the therapy is covered before the first session.

III. How do I find out if my insurance covers online therapy?

The best place to start is the website of the therapy provider, which may indicate which insurance companies the provider works with. Another option is to call your insurance company to determine if telehealth visits are covered and what the copayments are. Below are some of the major insurance companies and their current policies regarding telehealth:

  • Aetna: Aetna covers telehealth services for mental health issues, but it’s unclear when or if this coverage will expire.
  • Anthem: Telehealth services are covered as long as they include video sessions, not strictly audio sessions. Coverage will vary depending on your state. Telehealth services are provided with the same costs/copays as in-person visits at this time.
  • Cigna: Nearly all Cigna behavioral health plans cover telehealth for mental illness and therapy. However, the coverage will depend on the individual plan and state.
  • Humana: As of 2021, Humana covers all telehealth services depending on state-specific requirements.
  • Magellan Health: Magellan Health is reimbursing for telehealth, audio, and video chat mental health services at this time. There is no indication that this coverage will end.
  • Tricare: Telehealth is covered completely, as well as audio-only sessions. There are no out-of-pocket costs associated with telehealth and no copayments at this time. Tricare will also reimburse for interstate care for patients, as long as the state requirements don’t prohibit it.
  • United Healthcare: Telehealth mental health care services are covered at the same rate as in-person services until at least October 2021.

According to apaservices.org, the following states have a telehealth mandate in place, and all telehealth services are billed the same way as face-to-face services:

With equitable coverage, the same copay and deductible requirements apply to online therapy as in-person sessions. Some copays are waived during the pandemic but depend on insurance. Other states have specific mandates in place regarding telehealth. You can click here to see if the telehealth option is mandated in your state.

IV. Can I use Medicaid or Medicare for online therapy?

Medicare telehealth visits include office visits, psychotherapy, consultation, and other medical or health services offered by a provider located elsewhere using 2-way real-time audio and video technology. Most Medicare and Medicaid plans cover telehealth, but coverage varies by state and plan.

According to the Center for Connected Health Policy, Medicaid covers online therapy in each state except for Iowa. It’s still a good idea to call and confirm online therapy is covered through your specific plan before connecting with an online therapist.

V. How do I find online therapy or a therapist who offers online therapy sessions?

There are several ways to find online therapy or a therapist who offers online sessions.

  • Search the OnlineTherapy.com directory
  • Call your insurance company for online therapist or online therapy platform referrals. Some insurance companies have telehealth platforms for behavioral health treatment.
  • Seek a referral from your primary care doctor who has had experience working with therapists in the area and then reach out to them about telehealth.
  • There are also several online therapy platforms that provide online therapy and also accept insurance:
    • Amwell: Amwell is a reputable online therapy service and accepts insurance, including Aetna, Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and UnitedHealthcare.
    • MDLive: MDLive has close to 40 million members in its network, and they offer video telehealth services, usually with same or next-day appointments. Online therapy services with MDLive are in-network with many of the top insurance companies.
    • Doctor on Demand: Doctor on Demand has a team of psychiatrists and therapists who you can browse or get matched with by filling out a questionnaire. The service is in-network with many insurance plans.
    • Talkspace: Talkspace offers ongoing support for real-life issues, including depression, anxiety, and addictions. The online therapy platform partners with several insurance providers, including Alliant, Cigna, and more.

VI. Are there free online therapy options?

There are several free online therapy options. However, use caution when seeking free online therapy, as the platforms are often more of a peer support model than trained therapy. Trained online therapists may be available at an additional cost.

  • Blah Therapy: You can talk to a stranger to vent or chat or pay to talk to a therapist.
  • iPrevail: This free online therapy service follows a peer-to-peer model. You can log in to talk with a trained peer specialist who has experienced similar issues and can provide support.
  • 7 Cups is another free online therapy site with many different options to choose from. The service has a free 24/7 chat where you can log in and be heard by volunteer listeners, and chat with others who understand and have similar struggles.

VII. Are there other affordable options if my insurance doesn’t cover online therapy?

Many different online therapy websites offer a monthly plan or bundle that is affordable when not using insurance. You might choose to avoid using insurance benefits for therapy if you have a high deductible or the copay is close to the cost of the therapy session.

Another consideration is that most therapists have spots in their schedule for sliding scale fee clients. For example, if their typical fee is $100 per session, they may slide their fee down to $60 depending on the situation.

See below for a list of quality, affordable online therapy options:

  • Betterhelp: Betterhelp is the largest counseling platform worldwide. Therapists provide counseling anytime, anywhere, from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. After you sign up, you are matched to a counselor trained in the specific areas in which you are struggling. The cost of Betterhelp is $65 per week, featuring unlimited text and chat with the therapist.
  • Talkspace: Talkspace is another major messaging-based therapy resource. You can speak to your therapist via audio messages and texts, and therapists respond to messages each weekday. Depending on the subscription selected, you can also schedule 30-minute chats. Teenagers 13 to 17 can sign up with a parent or guardian’s consent. Talkspace has three different plans ranging from $49 to $79, all including unlimited text, video, and audio messaging.
  • Regain: Regain is a couples counseling website where both parties share a joint account and communicate with the therapist. The cost of Regain therapy is from $60 to 90 per week, depending on the plan selected.
  • Online-Therapy: Online-Therapy focuses on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), one of the most effective mental health treatments. Subscription includes daily contact with your therapist, daily journal and activity plan, yoga and meditation videos, and tests to see your progress. Plans range from $31.96 to $63.96 per week and include the online therapy program and daily therapist replies.

There are also specialized websites such as Faithful Counseling, Teen Counseling, and Pride Counseling.

VIII. Sources