Online therapy companies offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional models of counseling.
How much does online therapy cost?
The classic symbol of psychology, the therapist’s couch, is sitting empty. More and more, patients are meeting with therapists online from the comfort of their own couches—or while on lunch breaks, walks in the park, and even vacation. The best online therapy gives users increased flexibility in both how people access care and how they pay for that care. The virtual model is oftentimes cheaper than a traditional counseling session.
Research shows that online therapy is effective—but what determines cost? Editors at Health researched factors influencing the expense of online therapy to compare how telehealth platforms stack up against each other.
How much is therapy?
Cost is a common obstacle to accessing therapy, but it shouldn’t be. The American Journal of Health Promotion reports that more than 42% of adults with mental health issues did not seek help because of a barriers such as geographical availability and finances.
In-person sessions for individuals range between $100 and $200 a session, according to Psychology Today. Some therapists offer their services on a sliding scale based on need, however, and you may pay less if your insurance covers mental health treatment.
Online mental health providers aim to be less expensive than face-to-face counseling. For perspective, Talkspace claims to be 80% less expensive than most traditional therapy services. But within the growing market of online counseling companies is a range of types of subscriptions and services at varying price points.
Cost of Talkspace Versus Betterhelp
Talkspace and Betterhelp lead the field of online counseling companies. Depending on the subscription level, Betterhelp services run between $80 to $100 weekly. Even at the most basic level, that price point includes one live session with your counselor and access to your 24/7 private chat room.
Talkspace subscriptions are $260 to $396 per month. The entry-level Talkspace package allows 24/7 access to your chat room to exchange text, video, and audio messages—but you won’t have a real-time session with your therapist unless you upgrade to its premium package.
Factors influencing cost
Talkspace and Betterhelp may be two of the biggest players in online therapy, but there are a few more names the budget-conscious client should know. We’ve also researched how factors like insurance, discounts, and bundling packages impact cost, and how much a patient should expect to pay out of pocket.
Subscriptions and contracts
When you begin with an online therapy service, your payment depends on which package you choose to meet your needs. Talkspace, for example, offers three main packages for which they bill you every four weeks. The base package, Plus, costs $260 per month and includes unlimited messaging, but no live sessions. If that chat feature alone doesn’t cut it, you can upgrade to Premium and receive one live monthly session for $316 per month. Finally, the Ultimate subscription sets you up with four monthly live sessions for $396 per month.
BetterHelp has designed a slightly different system, with live sessions as a part of its base plan. Users will pay a subscription fee of between $80 to $100 per week. That price varies with each client’s location, preferences, and local therapist availability.
Cerebral is an online therapy platform that offers medication management services along with counseling. A Cerebral therapy subscription is $259 per month. Those also looking for psychiatry services can add medication management for a total of $325 per month.
The platform ReGain focuses on relationship therapy between couples—two users who share a joint account. Users should expect to pay $80 to $100 monthly based on preferences, location, and availability. The comparable Talkspace subscription, Couples Therapy, is $396 monthly; users can meet with their relationship counselor live four times a month, on top of daily messaging.
7 Cups takes a different spin on mental wellness, prioritizing access. At the foundation of the company is a community of trained volunteer listeners who chat with users for free. There is also the option for a paid membership. A user can work with licensed therapists for $150 a month, getting unlimited messaging and two responses per day.
An online therapy provider might seem outside of your budget until you consider how insurance could reduce your portion of the cost. With insurance, Cerebral’s basic therapy subscription drops from $259 to a more manageable $29 per month (not including copays); its medication therapy package decreases from $325 to $29 monthly.
Talkspace accepts insurance for more than 40 million Americans, which can make their plans far more affordable for users insured by partnering companies. On the other hand, BetterHelp does not accept insurance, but it does offer financial aid and reduced-fee discounts.
Discounts and financial aid
Like BetterHelp, some online therapy companies offer clients reduced fees, financial aid, and discounts. A client might be eligible for these cost-saving programs based on need, by paying ahead, or by taking advantage of a new-client promotion.
Talkspace does not offer financial aid, but users can earn a discount by purchasing their subscription in a bundle paid ahead of time. Users who pay quarterly or biannually pay less than the monthly rate. Similarly, 7 Cups will reduce the $12.95 monthly rate for subscribers who pay annually rather than monthly.
A few online therapy companies offer promotions, such as Cerebral. A new Cerebral user pays just $7 for the first month of membership. Betterhelp also gives fee discounts. Its discounts are need-based and offered to eligible users based on income or financial hardships. By applying for financial aid, users can also significantly reduce the cost of Betterhelp’s counseling services.
The Bottom Line
Therapy is an essential component of many people’s mental health regimen. Telehealth can lower barriers to therapy, both financially and through ease of use. A prospective user shopping for affordable virtual counseling should start by first assessing their mental health needs. Generally, you’ll pay less for message-only therapy services. If live talk sessions are important to you, an upgrade may be worth the investment. Like those offered by Talkspace and Cerebral, a few programs also offer psychiatry; if medication management is a must-have, narrow your focus to those with prescription programs.
Users with insurance should call to confirm how providers can lighten a client’s financial responsibility. Cerebral and Talkspace are two platforms that partner with insurance companies to accept coverage. Depending on your plan, you may be surprised to find a once unaffordable service now within your budget.
However, if you are shopping for therapy without insurance, look to companies like Betterhelp and 7Cups, which offer reduced-rate and low-cost options for budget-conscious users.