The best online therapy for teens is something that can be found at precisely the time they need it most. It needs to have a healthy balance of professional and personal, so there is someone to talk to at any hour of the night or day. It needs to be available 24/7 so that a teen can get help immediately when a stressful situation arises.
It also needs to be flexible enough to help teens with various issues—since many teens are dealing with more than one problem at once. It’s not always easy to find all of these qualities in one place, but some great options are available.
Some excellent online therapy options can help teens with a variety of issues. No matter what kind of problem your teen is dealing with, plenty of resources are available—some even offer services that fit into the school schedule.
If your teen struggles with depression, anxiety, addiction, or another mental health issue, they may hesitate to talk to you about it because you keep telling them everything will be okay. Many teens feel less alone and more comfortable talking to someone who isn’t directly related to them—someone who can provide unbiased advice and guidance that an adult likely wouldn’t be able to give.
When it comes to mental health and well-being, teens are in a tough spot. They are dealing with much pressure from peers and adults—they want to make the right decisions, feel confident in their skin, be successful at school and work, and struggle to keep up with all that comes with the transition into adulthood. And on top of all that, they may also be dealing with an untreated mental illness or disorder.
|Online Therapy for Teens||Best Overall||Best for GAD and Depression||Best for Families||Best for Phone Therapy||Best for Insurance||Best for Younger Teens|
|Service Name||Teen Counseling||Talkspace||Thriveworks||Teladoc||Amwell||Little Otter|
|Type of Support||Video, Phone, Messaging||Messaging||Video, Phone, Messaging||Phone, Video||Video, Phone||Video, Phone|
|Pricing||Starts at $60/week||Starts at $65/week||Varies (around $150/session)||Varies (around $75/session)||Varies based on insurance||Varies based on therapist|
|Benefits||Unlimited messaging, weekly live sessions, licensed therapists, affordable||Unlimited messaging, live sessions, psychiatrists available, can request a therapist||Variety of therapy options, family therapy available, multiple locations||Available 24/7, can use insurance, flexible scheduling||Accepts many insurance plans, provides video therapy sessions, licensed therapists||Focuses on younger teens, family involvement, licensed therapists|
|Features||Unlimited messaging, weekly live sessions, video and phone options, secure messaging, easy-to-use platform||Live video and messaging therapy, psychiatrists available for medication management, can request a specific therapist, affordable||Multiple therapy options, flexible scheduling, family therapy available, multiple locations||24/7 access to phone therapy, video therapy also available, multiple therapy options||Accepts many insurance plans, licensed therapists, video therapy sessions available||Focuses on younger teens, family involvement, individual and family therapy, licensed therapists|
Note: Prices and features may vary and are subject to change. It is recommended to visit the website of each service for the most up-to-date information.
Here is the list of supported insurance for each online therapy service:
- Teen Counseling: Does not accept insurance but offers financial aid based on income.
- Talkspace: It supports many insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and United Healthcare. Talkspace also offers out-of-network coverage and HSA/FSA reimbursement.
- Thriveworks: Thriveworks has many insurance plans, including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, and United Healthcare. They also offer self-pay options and out-of-network coverage.
- Teladoc: It supports many insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and United Healthcare. HSA/FSA reimbursement and out-of-network coverage are also offered.
- Amwell: Amwell provides many insurance plans, including Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and United Healthcare. They also offer self-pay options and out-of-network coverage.
- Little Otter: Accepts many insurance plans, including Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Humana. They also offer self-pay options and out-of-network coverage.
Note: Insurance coverage may vary depending on the state and the specific plan. It is recommended to visit each service’s website or contact them directly to verify insurance coverage.
What is online therapy?
Online therapy is a way for you and your teen to connect with a therapist over the internet via video chat or text messaging. It’s a great option if you live in an area where no nearby therapists specialize in teen issues. Or your teen doesn’t have the time or money for weekly sessions but still needs help coping with mental health issues.
Online therapy involves an individual or group session facilitated over the internet. Typically, sessions are conducted via video chat or phone call, though text-only messaging platforms such as AOL Instant Messenger may also be used. The therapist will listen to your concerns and offer advice or facilitate discussions between you and other therapy group members.
How does it work?
Online therapy is similar to traditional in-person medicine in that it is goal-oriented and tailored to the individual needs of its clientele. Whether you prefer scheduling sessions at set times each week or scheduling them as needed, online therapy works the same way as traditional face-to-face counseling.
Can I afford it? Online therapy has a reputation for being more affordable than formal face-to-face sessions because there are no expenses associated with running an office. However, not all providers charge on a per-session basis.
Where do you even start?
There are a handful of critical things to consider when choosing the right option for you or your child. For example, some therapists and services are better suited to families than others. If you’re looking for an outlet where your teen can get help but also be supported by their family members in the process, it’s best to look for a place with psychologists and therapists who work with children and teenagers and their families together.
Also, if you’re looking for therapy that will be covered by your insurance (especially if your teen is on an individual plan), make sure that the service you choose accepts your insurance and can provide all necessary documentation to submit claims on your behalf. Once you’ve determined what’s important to you and what treatment would suit your family best, it’s time to decide which providers meet those qualifications!
Whether your teen is struggling with anxiety, ADHD, relationships, self-harm, depression, or other issues, finding a safe and convenient form of therapy can be a life-changing decision. However, the resources available to you are not all created equal. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best online therapy for teens for each need: no matter what your caregiving situation or your teenager is going through, there’s an option to help them feel better.
First, here’s a quick summary of our findings:
For generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) and depression: Talkspace (Talkspace has the highest rating among users and is the most affordable option. A 1-hour appointment with a therapist costs around $48 on average.)
For attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): BetterHelp (BetterHelp is the most affordable option among those specializing in ADHD and has a highly positive rating among users.)
For overall quality and effectiveness, Teen Counseling is the best choice.
Thriveworks is ideal for families seeking online therapy services, while Teladoc is the best option for phone therapy. For those seeking services covered by insurance, Amwell is a perfect choice. Lastly, Little Otter offers specialized therapy services for younger teens who need support.
Best Online Therapy for Teens of 2023
- Best Overall: Teen Counseling
- Best for Families: Thriveworks
- Best for Phone Therapy: Teladoc
- Best for Insurance: Amwell
- Best for Younger Teens: Little Otter
1. Teen Counseling
Teen counseling offers affordable, convenient therapy for young adults 13 to 18 who need to talk with a therapist online. Licensed, board-accredited therapists are available 24/7 in 60-minute sessions and can be accessed in just two clicks. Affordable therapy is essential for teens dealing with the growing pains of adolescence and stress from school and home life.
Online therapy allows teens to work on issues when most convenient for them without leaving their personal or social lives behind. It also makes arranging multiple sessions throughout the day and week easy without interfering with school or extracurricular activities. From social anxieties to depression, teen counseling from licensed therapists can help your teen get back on track in school and life.
Why We Chose It?
What drew us to Teen Counseling when we were looking for a practice to help your child work through her issues was the sense that this place cares about its patients. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and it’s clear that the doctors have their patient’s best interests at heart.
They also offer several ways for teens and their parents to get in touch with them outside of standard office hours: If a patient needs to talk to their therapist urgently, but it isn’tisn’t an emergency, they can use the after-hours line or send a text message, which will be answered by one of the therapists on call. In addition, if there’s concern about something that has happened during a session—a new development or a change in symptoms—the therapists will always alert parents and the teen.
We were initially nervous about using a texting service because we thought it might be too informal or even disrespectful of our daughter’sdaughter’s privacy, but now we see how useful it is to communicate at any time without having to make an appointment.
Additionally, we like that conversations between patients and therapists are kept private but that parents will always be notified if there’s a significant concern. We decided to try it and are glad to report that our experience has been positive so far!
|Office Hours||Offices are open early and late to accommodate clients’ schedules.|
|New Client Sessions||New clients can schedule their sessions within 3-5 days.|
|On-Time Appointments||Appointments start on time to respect clients’ time and busy schedules.|
|Care Locations||Care is available at 380+ locations across the country.|
|Insurance Acceptance||Providers accept major insurance plans, including Aetna, Optum/UnitedHealthcare, BCBS Plans, Beacon Health, Cigna, Tricare West, Humana, Medicare, and Tufts Health Plans.|
|Online Counseling||Online counseling opportunities are available for clients who prefer remote sessions.|
|Ask a Therapist Q&A||Clients can submit their questions to Ask a Therapist Q&A for professional advice.|
|Text Support||Clients can receive text support via the Success Navigator platform.|
|Exclusive Video Content||Clients have access to exclusive video content related to mental health and wellness.|
|Cancellation Policy||The cancellation policy is ultra-flexible, allowing clients to cancel or reschedule appointments up to 23.5 hours in advance.|
|Free E-book||Clients receive a free e-copy of “Leaving Depression Behind” upon registration.|
Why We Chose It?
We chose Thriveworks because it offers flexible scheduling, appointments that can be either in-person or online, and its ability to accept patients who are self-pay or file a claim through their insurance. We have found that we can make last-minute appointments when necessary, and we can see the same therapist regularly if we want a more consistent relationship with them.
|Individual Therapy||One-on-one counseling sessions with a licensed therapist|
|Psychiatry / Medication Mgmt||Psychiatric services and medication management|
|Online Therapy||Virtual counseling sessions via a secure online platform|
|Child Therapy||Therapy tailored to the needs of children and adolescents|
|Family Therapy||Therapy for families dealing with various challenges|
|Couples Therapy||Therapy focused on improving communication and resolving issues|
|Marriage Counseling||Therapy aimed at strengthening and improving marital relationships|
|Find a Therapist||Access to a database of licensed therapists in various locations|
|Find a Psychiatric NP||Access to a database of psychiatric nurse practitioners|
Overall, our care has been excellent; there is a sense of openness about how things work and much encouragement for patients to be involved in their healing process.
Thriveworks offers many therapy options: individual, marriage/partnership, family, group, and career counseling. Depending on your chosen plan, the cost is also very reasonable—$50-$150/session. We’re fans of its weekend hours and walk-in appointments, but it’s also possible to schedule regular sessions throughout the week.
|Insurance Accepted by Thriveworks|
|Optum / UnitedHealthcare|
|Tufts Health Plans|
TelaDoc is an online telehealth platform. It connects you to a licensed doctor via live video chat so that they can provide treatment for whatever is ailing you. They offer everything from primary care to mental health consultations and chronic disease management, making it easier to stay well no matter what happens.
With the Teladoc Teen program, you can connect your child with a therapist to help them with various issues, such as depression or anxiety. A Teladoc therapist will help your teen through text-based chats and phone calls, giving them the individual attention they need to heal from whatever issue has been causing them pain.
The program is designed for anyone between the ages of 13 and 17; however, if your teen is younger than 13, they still have several options available to them through Teladoc’s other offerings. If they are over 17 years old, they may be able to access some of the same services offered through the Teen program by checking out the Adult Therapy program.
Teladoc is another excellent feature of the 21st century that helps provide those in need with professional healthcare professionals who can offer them a helping hand.
Teladoc will ensure you get the treatment you need without having to take time off work or wait in line at the pharmacy or urgent care center. All of their doctors are licensed professionals who can provide high-quality medical advice and care for your medical needs. In addition, they have highly qualified nurses who can help with non-emergency healthcare issues and manage your schedule—ensuring that your appointments are coordinated.
You can either speak with an operator to schedule your appointment or use their app to make the call. All you need to do is enter your insurance information, and Teladoc will provide you with a list of doctors in your area who are accepting new patients.
Once you choose a doctor, they will review your health history and conduct an in-depth virtual visit. The session can be accessed via the web or through Teladoc’s app (which can be downloaded onto any Apple or Android device). Appointments usually last 45 minutes, and most providers offer flexible scheduling, including evening and weekend hours.
Why We Chose It?
When it comes to choosing a telemedicine service, you want to make sure that you’re getting the highest quality care. Some companies have been in telemedicine for 20 years, while others are just starting. After all, you will rely on this company to help you with a personal matter. This is why we awarded Teladoc best for phone therapy.
While video chatting has evolved dramatically over the past few years, phone therapy has mostly stayed the same since it was first introduced in the early 2000s. The Internet has given way to sites like Skype and FaceTime, which have made video chatting much easier than it once was. Meanwhile, websites like Talkspace have allowed people to chat with their therapists online from their homes.
But Teladoc may have the upper hand when it comes to phone therapy. The company has been working in telemedicine for over two decades—that’s 20 years of trial and error that have led them to a tried-and-true method of treatment that works for most people who need extra help. While online therapy is new and popular, phone therapy has repeatedly proven effective. And it’s not just individuals who can benefit: one Teladoc review on Consumer Affairs notes that many insurance companies cover this type of therapy.
Regarding mental health, the stigma surrounding teen depression and anxiety is so strong that most people can’t talk openly about it. Unfortunately, this stigma often prevents teens from getting the help they need. Young adults are particularly vulnerable because they’re new to navigating their own lives, making them more susceptible to the effects of mental illness. They also have limited access to quality healthcare services that can support them through treatment and recovery.
Finding a good therapist can be difficult when teens live in a different city than their parents or are hesitant to visit an unfamiliar clinic. Even when a therapist is available, many young adults don’t have transportation or a way to get time off work. In these cases, many teens with depression will go without treatment for months or years until their symptoms become so severe that they are forced to see someone.
The best digital therapy for teens is Amwell’s smartphone app. The app is designed by therapists and provides immediate access to quality mental health care on demand. It allows users to connect with licensed clinicians worldwide via video chat or texting. Users can also schedule appointments and message their therapist if needed between sessions. The platform allows teens to create routines and stick with their treatment plans by sending daily reminders.
Amwell works with hundreds of insurance providers across the U.S., making it one of the most convenient online therapy platforms for families who want to use their insurance benefits to pay for mental health services. On its website, you can find all the information about how Amwell works with insurance and which insurance companies it does business with, including which states each insurer works in.
Amwell also offers various services across various specialties, including family therapy, marriage counseling, and depression treatment. They also partner with insurance companies that can help you save money on your mental health benefits. This is great for families who would like to take advantage of their insurance coverage for more than just medical expenses.
The treatment areas available are stress, anxiety, depression, LGBTQI+ counseling, PTSD/trauma, panic attacks, life transitions, and more. There are many advantages to the app. For example, when you make an appointment online, it is set up through the app, so you don’t have to worry about calling or emailing back and forth with your provider. The cost of therapy is comparable to what other therapists charge in your area. Most insurance plans are accepted. When you call your provider on the phone or speak to them via text message, there is no time limit on the appointment; you can talk until all of your questions have been answered or until your problem has been solved.
Why We Chose It?
Amwell is currently in-network with hundreds of insurance companies across the U.S., allowing you to use their platform to determine your benefits. Being in-network means you can use their system to find specialists and make appointments, which is a huge help for those who would otherwise fumble through their insurance company’s website or call them directly (which may lead to frustrations due to long wait times or lost information).
5. Little Otter
Parents frequently ask if Little Otter is appropriate for their 12 or 13-year-old. Our response is always a resounding yes because we have experience treating kids at this age, and we know that our therapists have the training to provide care developmentally appropriately.
To truly understand why we think Little Otter is fantastic for tweens and early teenagers, you must understand the developmental difference between these ages. In short, younger teens may be physically older than 12-13-year-olds, but their ability to deal with change is limited, and their ability to make good decisions about drugs, alcohol, and sex is minimal. They struggle with impulsivity, poor judgment, and focus.
Teens need both counseling with a therapist and therapy with an app. Because of how our brains develop as we approach adulthood, there is a huge developmental difference in where teenagers are 12 or 13 years old compared to 16 or 17 years old. That’s why we like Little Otter for tweens and early teenagers: Because this platform is designed to help younger kids, the therapists know how to provide care developmentally appropriately.
Little Otter provides a whole-family approach to managing the digital lives of teens. One of the first things parents need to do is fill out a few forms and then participate in an initial welcome call, where they can speak with a care team member. The care team member that parents talk with will not only ask them questions about their teen’s interests and behavior but also give the parents advice on how to support their teen’s healthy use of technology and social media.
Why We Chose It?
When we were researching online therapy for my nephew, one of the most important things that stood out was how well the site was tailored for teens. Little Otter provides a way for kids to connect with other children in similar situations and also parents who understand what they’re going through. We were able to find a therapist who looks at the situation from both the child and parent’s perspectives and who can work with them together.
How we test and select?
We aimed to test these services for their ease of use, affordability, and overall quality.
- Price: all therapy apps with a free offering have limited functionality, so our comparison is between the in-app upgrade for unlimited use vs. paying for a session-by-session basis.
- Financial assistance: most therapy apps don’t offer any financial aid or lower-cost options, which is disappointing considering that therapy can be expensive.
- Health insurance: some apps don’t work with health insurance, while others do. The ones that do can take a while to implement the process of getting your provider to reimburse you through their platform.
- Therapists and specialties: We compared how many therapists each app had with what kind of specialties they offered (e.g., trauma specialists). We also asked if there were any specialized programs geared towards specific age groups like teens or seniors.
- Scheduling: we compared how easy it was to book a new appointment and how easy it was to reschedule a meeting that you had to miss. We also looked at if the therapist was available 24/7 or if it was easier to get an appointment.
Choosing the right online therapy for your teen can be a difficult decision. As we looked into different services, we sought to answer questions like: “How much do they charge?” and “What kinds of financial assistance are available?”
First, we started by looking into the financial assistance options offered by each site. Most places we looked at offer financial aid in exchange for a short application process that takes just a few minutes to complete.
We also wanted to know if users could contact therapists directly during the free trial period and get a feel for whether they’d be a good fit without committing to anything.
Similarly, we investigated how scheduling worked—if you wanted to switch therapists in the middle of your treatment or even see multiple therapists simultaneously, would that be possible?
We also considered what format your interactions with your therapist would take and how easy it was to adjust from text-based chatting to video sessions.
Most also accept insurance if you have health insurance covering mental health treatment. Some even work directly with your health insurance company to ensure your benefits are used efficiently. Next, we tested how easy it was to contact a therapist and schedule sessions.
When our research showed that most sites take about three days to respond to an email, our team took note—and then we tried scheduling sessions as well. We quickly discovered that some therapists would only be available during certain hours or times of the day on certain days of the week. We also noted how easy it was to switch between therapists if we weren’t happy.
Finally, we were curious about the cancellation policies of these companies—how long after you signed up for a trial period could you cancel before incurring any fees? Does it cost anything extra if your teen wants to extend their plan past the trial period?
Teenager Is Showing Signs of Self-Harm?
If the signs of self-harm are especially severe and your teenager is in danger of hurting themselves, you should seek emergency care or contact a crisis center. The following resources can help:
- Call 911 if it’s an emergency
- Call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
- Call 1-800-622-HELP (4357) to reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national hotline
- Reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET) at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), [email protected], text to 62640, or at nami.org/help