Therapist

Online mental health therapy covered by insurance

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A quick look at the best online therapy services that accept insurance

  • Best subscription: Talkspace
  • Best for individual appointments: MDLive
  • Best for prescriptions: Amwell
  • Best for working with a full care team: Doctor on Demand
  • Best for video appointments: Teladoc

Until recently, you could use your health insurance for face-to-face therapy but not online services. That’s changed dramatically within the past year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been taking advantage of telehealth services than ever before.

The technology for telehealth has been available for many years, and the pandemic has made it clear that access to online care is a vital service. This change has caused more care platforms to start.

As a result, many insurance companies have begun covering this service. Although this change was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, all signs indicate it’s here to say. In fact, 97 percent of psychologists surveyed by the American Psychological Association in October 2021, agreed that online therapy should remain an option after the pandemic.

Telehealth allows you to meet with doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals online from the comfort of your home.

Online therapy is an especially popular option. It allows people to have sessions with fully licensed therapists using phone apps or their computers instead of going to an office. For people who’ve been considering therapy but are intimidated or overwhelmed by the thought of office visits or in-person care, online therapy might be the best way to get care.

Do online therapy providers take insurance?

Online therapy is available from large platforms that specialize in online services, like Talkspace or Better Help, and from individual therapy practices.

Not all online platforms take insurance, but most do. Many therapists who offer online sessions also take insurance.

As a rule, if you have insurance, you can likely find an online therapy provider who will take your plan. However, the exact coverage for online therapy available to you depends on:

  • your insurance plan
  • the therapist you choose
  • state regulations where you live

Comparison of the best online therapy that takes insurance

Average pricingWho it’s best forHighlightsConsiderationsTalkspace$69–$109 per weekanyone who wants a therapy subscription• wide range of specialized therapies available
• operates on a subscription modelcan’t book just one appointment since it’s a subscriptionMDLIVE$108–$284 per appointmentsomeone who prefers talking over the phone instead of video chat• children’s therapy is available
• you can choose your own therapist
• phone appointments availableweekend and nighttime appointments are available but may be limitedAmwell$109–$129 per appointmentanyone who wants access outside of business hours and doesn’t mind potentially paying some out of pocketappointments are available 24/7insurance doesn’t cover all types of visitsDoctor on Demand$129–$299 per appointmentsomeone who wants an entire care team (primary care doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist) in one place• you can choose your own therapist/psychiatrist
• all professionals are trained in a wide range of specialties and modalitiesavailability may be limited in certain locationsTeladoc$99–$299 per appointmentanyone who prefers video appointments or may need support outside of business hoursappointments are available 24/7 (same day as well) with option to choose your own therapistthere’s no text messaging option available so video calling is a requirement

Online therapy is also available from several smaller providers. You can search for providers online or ask your insurance company to help you find online providers. Try searching by region or specialty on Good Therapy or Online Therapy.

If suicidal thoughts are surfacing:

If you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please reach out. There’s help available right now:

  • Call a trusted friend or family member.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
  • Use the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741 in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Go to the nearest emergency room and speak with a mental health professional.

Pros and cons of online therapy

Advantages of online therapy

  • You can attend an appointment from the comfort of your home or office.
  • You don’t need to drive to an appointment or arrange transportation.
  • You can often see a therapist in the evenings and on weekends.
  • You can often get an appointment very quickly.

Disadvantages of online therapy

  • You need a strong internet connection to access the service.
  • Videos can break up or lag, causing a stressful therapy experience.
  • Online therapy can feel less personal, and therapists may miss some nonverbal cues.
  • It can be harder to talk in private if you don’t live alone.

How can I find out whether an online mental health professional takes my insurance?

You can start by looking at the website of the mental health professional you’d like to use. Most online platforms will have a link you can click to see which insurance companies they work with.

There might even be a form you can use that will check your coverage for you. You’ll just need to provide your plan name, your name, and your policy number to see whether you’re covered.

It’s always a good idea to call the office of any therapist you’re considering and verify whether they accept your specific insurance plan for online therapy.

Another option is to start by calling your insurance company. The company can let you know whether you have coverage for online therapy and what copayments or coinsurance costs you’ll have. They can also point you in the direction of therapists who are in-network and the specific therapy platforms they work with.

Here’s a top-level glance at what some of the major insurance providers offer, but you’ll still want to call and confirm what’s covered in your exact plan:

  • United Healthcare: United Healthcare covers Talkspace and any other online therapy as long as the provider is in-network.
  • Aetna: Aetna members can receive online therapy through MDLIVE, Teladoc, and any other in-network therapist.
  • Humana: Humana plans cover online therapy from in-network providers.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield: Blue Cross Blue Shield plans cover online therapy through Amwell and other providers depending on your specific plan. In-network providers are also covered.
  • Anthem: Anthem members have access to therapy from Anthem’s own telehealth service, LiveHealth Online, as well as care from in-network providers.
  • Cigna: Cigna covers Talkspace and any other in-network online therapy.
  • Kaiser: Kaiser covers online therapy from in-network providers.

Do online therapy providers take Medicaid or Medicare?

Just like private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid have also increased their coverage for online therapy during the pandemic.

Medicare is now covering online therapy for all Medicare members. Medicare Advantage Plans also cover online therapy.

When it comes to Medicaid, your coverage depends on your state. However, there have been large expansions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all states are currently allowing Medicaid enrollees to access online therapy.

You can call the number on your Medicaid card for more information or contact your state’s Medicaid office.

Online platforms and mental health professionals will generally state whether they accept Medicare or Medicaid. You can contact the online platform or private practice if you’re not sure.

If you’re looking at using a private therapist or practice, someone at the office should be able to help you. If you’re looking at a larger therapy platform, a customer service representative can answer your questions.

Tips for finding online therapy or a therapist who offers online therapy

It’s important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with. That might seem extra challenging when you’re looking at online services. Here are a few tips to help you find a great online provider and mental health professional:

Consider the initial cost

Some services will have a free trial or a free first appointment. This can help ensure you’re choosing the right therapist and program before you commit to sessions.

Understand how payment works

Service providers might want your copayment or coinsurance before your sessions or in monthly payments. Other providers might bill you later. Make sure you know how you’ll be billed to avoid surprises.

Review the therapist selection process

Different platforms will have different ways of helping you select a therapist. For example, you might be able to chat with a therapist and interview them before your first appointment.

Look for therapists who understand your experiences

In some cases, it can help to talk with a therapist of a certain, race, gender, age, or similar background to you. Many platforms will display this information upfront and can filter out therapists who don’t match your preferences.

Verify the therapist’s credentials

Always make sure you’re talking with degreed and licensed therapists.

Check the therapist’s location

It can help you know that you can see your therapist in person if you need to. Check for local online therapists if this is important to you.

Ask what types of providers are available

Not all therapy professionals are able to provide the same services. For example, if you need medication in addition to therapy, you’ll need a psychiatrist. Make sure the platform and therapy professional can give you the support you need.

What to expect during online therapy

Your online therapy sessions will work just like a face-to-face therapy session would. You’ll be connected to your mental health professional in a video chat. You can normally do this online or by using an app on your phone.

You’ll be able to talk with your therapist as soon as the session begins. They’ll ask you questions and help you manage your mental health, just like they would in person.

Some service providers also let you talk with your therapist over the phone without a video call. This can be even more convenient in many cases.

If you’re using Talkspace or BetterHelp, you can also send messages to your mental health professional throughout the day. You’ll get an answer once or twice a day, Monday through Friday. This can be a great way to manage your mental health on the go.

When you have an online therapy visit, it’s important to be in a private location. Your therapist will be in an office, so your privacy will be protected just like it would during an in-person appointment. However, your location can have a big impact on privacy.

If you’re at home during your session and live alone, you don’t need to take any other steps. If you live with other people, it’s a good idea to go into a bedroom or other space where you can close a door.

If you have your therapy session at work or another public location, you should go somewhere private. Find a room with a door and use headphones during your session.

You have a couple more options if you can’t find privacy in your home or office. If you own a car, you can sit in it during your appointment, as long as you’re not driving.

Another option is to have your session while you’re outdoors or taking a walk. If you can find an area that’s not too crowded, this can be a great way to get fresh air and therapy at the same time.

After your session, you can schedule the next visit. Some platforms will allow you to request additional visits whenever you need them.

Remember that if a session didn’t go well or you’re not comfortable with your therapist, you can switch at any time. Most platforms allow you to switch therapists by simply scheduling an appointment with someone different.

What if my insurance doesn’t cover online therapy?

There are a few options for free or low cost online therapy. Many services offer free trials, pay-as-go services, discounts, peer counseling, and more ways to try online therapy without insurance.

For example, eTherapyPro does not accept insurance, but they do offer a three-day free trial. You can use the trial to decide if online therapy is right for you. If you decide you want to keep using the service, eTherapyPro costs $40 a week. You can sign up for a membership that will last until you cancel your weekly payments.

By comparison, BetterHelp costs between $60 and $90 a week without insurance depending on your location and the services and therapist you select.

For free therapy options in your area, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline at 800-950-NAMI (6264) to be connected with a mental health professional. You can also email them at [email protected]

If you’re a veteran, you can contact the Veteran’s Crisis Line by text, chat, or phone.

Frequently asked questions

Can you talk with a therapist for free online?

Online therapists typically charge a fee for their services, but there are some free resources you may be able to use. These include:

  • 7 Cups, where you can chat with volunteer listeners for free
  • Therapy Aid Coalition, which offers four free therapy appointments
  • Bliss by the Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions, which offers free self-guided lessons
  • Crisis Text Line, which can be used in situations where you need immediate support

You may also be able to have your online therapy services from some platforms covered 100% by your insurance company, meaning your out-of-pocket cost would be $0.

Before choosing an online therapy service, you should check to see if the company accepts your insurance plan and if there will be a copay.

How much does therapy cost?

On average, in-person therapy can cost anywhere from $75 to $150 per session. It can be more expensive depending on the services received and the company providing the service. Insurance may cover some or all these costs, depending on your plan.

How much does online therapy cost?

It depends on which service provider you choose. Some online therapy providers offer a subscription plan that costs anywhere from $69 to $129 per week before insurance.

Others have a per-appointment cost and can range from $75 to $299 depending on the service. However, you may be able to get these costs completely or partially covered by insurance, dropping the cost considerably.

The takeaway

You can use your insurance to access therapy online. With the rise in telehealth use during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more options for online therapy than ever before.

Start by contacting your insurance company to see whether you have coverage for online therapy. They can confirm your coverage and point you in the right direction to get the support you need.

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