When it comes to living with mental health issues, help can seem hard to find. From understanding symptoms to finding the right therapist, many obstacles can seem to stand in the way of proper treatment – and sometimes, that mental health program may simply be cost-prohibitive.
E-counseling and e-therapy offer great alternatives to conventional “in-office” psychological treatments, and often, can be just as effective in helping users cope with common mental health conditions.
In this article, we’ll cover exactly what e-counseling is, where you can find it, and how you can take the first steps to starting e-therapy online.
What is E-counseling and E-Therapy?
E-counseling, or e-therapy, is a mental health treatment that takes place online. Either in real-time or through asynchronous messages, users receive professional therapy or support through a variety of media, including but not limited to:
- Video conferencing
- Instant messaging
- Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls
- Text/SMS messages, or
- Specially-designed e-counseling mobile apps.
Also known as online therapy, teletherapy, or telepsychology, e-counseling can be a standalone approach to treating mental health conditions, or it can be used alongside conventional, in-person therapy.
When combined with face-to-face psychological or medical treatments, e-therapy forms an important part of a blended care model.
How Does It Work?
E-counseling falls under the larger telehealth umbrella, which covers a host of e-health treatments delivered over the internet. As with traditional counseling, it can be used to manage and address symptoms of a wide range of issues.
- Mood disorders. Among these, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and more.
- Personality disorders. While these are typically considered more serious telepsychiatric issues, e-therapy can be part of online mental health treatment plans for Antisocial, Paranoid, or OCD personality disorders
- Trauma. e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Compared to traditional therapeutic treatments, online therapy can be relatively cost-effective and convenient. A fast-growing e-health solution, e-therapy is now readily available through smartphone apps, telehealth services, and established government healthcare institutions.
Compared to traditional therapeutic treatments, online therapy can be relatively cost-effective and convenient.
3 Popular Online Counseling Apps
With the growing ubiquity of connected devices, e-counseling solutions are readily abundant. But for the first-time consumer, looking for the right service can be confusing.
So where should you start?
If you’re looking for professional e-counseling to help you deal with a specific issue, these online therapy apps give you numerous ways to chat in real-time with a licensed practitioner from the comfort and privacy of home.
|Offering both teletherapy and telepsychiatry services, BetterHelp e-counselors are experienced professionals who are licensed to deliver online therapy for issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It also has therapists on hand who deal with relationship and family issues.|
For a set weekly price, billed monthly, users are assigned an e-therapist based on the information you provide at signup. Choose from live chat, phone conversations, or video conferencing, or leave messages for your practitioner in a dedicated private room.
Based on your requirements, you can schedule live sessions, then simply log in and start chatting.
|Good For||Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Mental Health Coaching, Online Therapy|
|With iCounseling, users can talk to certified counselors on a HIPAA-compliant, secure platform to receive professional therapy for mental health issues.|
After signing up, you can connect with a licensed online counselor using video, phone, or instant message chat, each of whom has 2000+ hours of practical experience. The platform matches you with your therapist, based on your goals and the issues that you’d like to discuss.
iCounseling will bill you at a monthly flat rate for an unlimited number of hours of therapy.
|Good For||Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health Coaching, Addictions, Trauma, Online Therapy|
|TalkSpace provides live chat or video conferencing options for users to receive professional e-counseling. For a fixed weekly price, users can be assigned a dedicated practitioner based on their requirements and mental health goals.|
Compared to other e-counseling platforms, TalkSpace is relatively well-covered by a range of insurance providers and comes with a mobile app as well as a web interface.
Chat live with your professional e-therapist or leave messages for them to respond to on a daily basis.
|Good For||Peer Counseling, Online Therapy, Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Relationships|
3 Best E-Counseling Services
If you’re looking for a telehealth service that’s slightly different, the following apps cover options for couples therapy, peer counseling, and no monthly fee.
|Larkr matches users algorithmically with an e-therapist who is experienced in your particular issues. Common topics discussed on the platform include mood disorders, addiction, stress, anxiety, LGBT issues, depression, and more.|
Sessions are live and take place via video chat, lasting 50-minute per appointment. Unlike most of the other platforms we’ve reviewed, there is no fixed monthly or weekly rate for users to pay.
The free mobile app also comes with a mood tracker and guided meditations for you to engage with during your own time.
|Price||$85+ per session|
|Good For||Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health, Addictions, Trauma, Online Therapy|
|Regain counselors are licensed to help couples with a range of issues, from communication to conflict and divorce.|
You can attend sessions with your therapist and partner, or request a session alone with your e-counselor using your laptop, desktop, mobile, or other connected devices.
There is no three-way chat option, so couples must be in the same room to receive joint therapy. On the platform, you’ll find social workers, professional therapists, marriage counselors, psychologists, and more with a range of experience.
|Good For||Couples Therapy, Online Therapy, Relationships, Stress, Conflict|
|7 Cups of Tea offers both professional e-counseling and peer counseling for users to choose from. For no fee, you can use the site’s rating system to choose a listener who can provide emotional support as you discuss whatever’s on your mind.|
For professional e-therapy, the site charges $150 monthly, for which users can talk to a dedicated therapist for an unlimited amount of time.
7 Cups of Tea also provides exercises and community forums, and therapy sessions are protected by HIPAA.
|Name||7 Cups of Tea|
|Good For||Peer Counseling, Online Therapy, Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Relationships|
Top 9 Free Assessment Methods
When considering e-counseling, especially for the first time, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed with questions.
- Do I really need therapy?
- What symptoms, condition, or issues do I want help with? or
- What kind of counseling is right for me?
Fortunately, there are a range of scientific assessments – along with less formal quizzes, questionnaires, and resources – which can help you assess your mental health, and decide whether e-counseling or e-therapy is something you’d like to pursue.
Free Evidence-Based Mental Health Assessments
Healthcare institutions, e-clinics, and private practices may be the first places to turn for clinical diagnosis, but the academic literature is also full of instruments that screen for depression, anxiety, stress, and other DSM-listed disorders.
For the layperson, these psychological assessments can either be hard to find or proprietary in nature, meaning that access to evidence-based mental health assessments can be tricky.
To help ease the public sector mental health burden, researchers Beidas and colleagues conducted a meta-analytic review of evidence-based, reliable, and scientifically valid measures for both children and adults. These easy-to-use metrics can be used to self-screen for some of the most prevalent mental health disorders in society.
Beidas and team’s full Cognitive and Behavioral Practice article, including free, short youth scales, can be found here: Free, brief, and validated: Standardized instruments for low-resource mental health settings.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Screener (Spitzer, R. L., Kroenke, K., Williams, J. B., & Löwe, B. (2006). A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD-7. Archives of internal medicine, 166(10), 1092-1097.)
Clinically Useful Anxiety Outcome Scale (Zimmerman, M., Chelminski, I., Young, D., & Dalrymple, K. (2010). A clinically useful anxiety outcome scale. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71(5), 534)
Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression
IDS and QIDS
Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – Civilian Version
Free Online Quizzes and Screenings
NGOs and mental healthcare providers also offer some quick and easy screening measures on their websites. While by no means a substitute for a professional diagnosis, these can also be useful and often take only a few minutes to complete.
Mental Health America
Mental Health America offers online screening for symptoms of addiction, depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other common mental health issues as part of their patient outreach and awareness initiatives.
These short tests also include online screenings for PTSD, postpartum depression, and a general test for youths, among others.
NGO HereToHelp is based in Canada and has been promoting public awareness about mental well-being since 2003. One of its many resources is a 14-item general well-being screen.
This website also links out to the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire and Australian Personal Well-Being Index.
University of Washington
The University of Washington’s short self-assessments screen for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Alcohol, Depression, or PTSD. They require only a few minutes to complete and offers useful links to online resources such as helplines and mental health apps.
As awareness grows around the importance of mental health, increasingly more helpful resources are being made available to make screening quick, easy, and hassle-free.
E-counseling is just one great example of how mental health programs are adapting to tech-savvy, time-pressed consumer needs as licensed therapy goes digital. Whether you’re a practitioner looking for blended care resources, or just getting proactive about your mental health, e-health offers a wealth of opportunities that can help you do so from the privacy of home.
What are your experiences as an e-therapy user or practitioner? Share them in the comments below.
- ^ Demyttenaere, K., Bruffaerts, R., Posada-Villa, J., Gasquet, I., Kovess, V., Lepine, J. P. & Polidori, G. (2004). Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Jama, 291(21), 2581.
- ^ Beidas, R. S., Stewart, R. E., Walsh, L., Lucas, S., Downey, M. M., Jackson, K. & Mandell, D. S. (2015). Free, brief, and validated: Standardized instruments for low-resource mental health settings. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 22(1), 5.
- ^ Hamilton, M. (1986). The Hamilton rating scale for depression. In Sartorius, N. & Ban, T. Assessment of Depression (pp. 143-152). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
- ^ (Rush, A. J., Gullion, C. M., Basco, M. R., Jarrett, R. B., & Trivedi, M. H. (1996). The inventory of depressive symptomatology (IDS): psychometric properties. Psychological Medicine, 26(3), 477.
- ^ Rush, A. J., Giles, D. E., Schlesser, M. A., Fulton, C. L., Weissenburger, J., & Burns, C. (1986). The inventory for depressive symptomatology (IDS): preliminary findings. Psychiatry Research, 18(1), 65.
- ^ Rush, A. J., Trivedi, M. H., Ibrahim, H. M., Carmody, T. J., Arnow, B., Klein, D. N., ... & Thase, M. E. (2003). The 16-Item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS), clinician rating (QIDS-C), and self-report (QIDS-SR): a psychometric evaluation in patients with chronic major depression. Biological Psychiatry, 54(5), 573.
- ^ Weathers, F. W., Litz, B. T., Keane, T. M., Palmieri, P. A., Marx, B. P., & Schnurr, P. P. (2013). The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). National Center for PTSD, 10.