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Should Caregivers Consider Online Counseling?

By Kristen HicksFebruary 22, 2019
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Are you a family caregiver that knows you could benefit from seeing a therapist, but doesn’t have the time? Committing set blocks of time to appointments each week may feel out of reach when you consider everything else on your to-do list. But you have another option and one that could be much easier to fit into your busy life: online counseling.

Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of online therapy and what options are available to you today.

Benefits of Online Counseling

For busy caregivers, online therapy provides some distinct benefits:

  1. It’s convenient. You can meet with your therapist from your own home, using the method of communication that works best for you — email, phone, video calls, etc.
  2. It’s relatively affordable. Therapy’s not cheap, but many online therapy options cost less than in-person therapy, and sometimes they’re even covered by common health insurance plans.
  3. It saves time. Cutting out the time it takes to get ready to leave the house and drive somewhere can make a big difference in how much time you spend going to therapy.
  4. Online therapists generally have more flexibility in scheduling. Caregiving often comes with a chaotic and difficult schedule. You need a therapist who can be available at specific times you can afford to sit down and meet with them. Online therapists often have wider availability than therapists that meet in person do.
  5. You have a large selection of therapists. If you live somewhere rural, you may have a hard time finding a good therapist nearby, especially if you want to find one that specializes in your needs. With online therapy, you’re not limited by geography and the network of therapists you can tap into is much larger.

Potential Issues With Online Therapy

While the benefits of online counseling are compelling for many caregivers, there are also a few trade-offs to consider:

  1. Communication online is different than in person. Talking over the phone — even if it’s a video call — makes it harder to notice body language and nonverbal cues. You won’t have quite the same connection with your online therapist as you would with someone you talk to in person.
  2. It only works with the proper tech. For online therapy to be an option, you need a computer or other mobile device and a working internet connection.
  3. The internet isn’t always reliable for privacy and security. While online therapy platforms treat security as a priority, there’s always a risk with sharing information over the internet.

These tradeoffs are important to consider, but if you’re feeling the need for counseling in your life and the only thing keeping you from it is the lack of time involved in going to local therapy sessions, it’s probably worth looking into online counseling options.

9 Options for Online Counseling

There a number of different online therapy services available.

These are the nine main options you have to choose from today:

1. Amwell

Amwell is an accredited video therapy service that topped the Wirecutter’s list of online therapy recommendations. With Amwell, you have the option of on-demand therapy sessions for times when making an advance appointment isn’t practical and they have doctors available on evenings and weekends. Sessions start at $85 a piece.

2. BetterHelp

With BetterHelp, you take a short survey that the site uses to help match you with a therapist that will be a good fit for your needs. You can communicate with your therapist by phone, text or video. The site has over 3,500 counselors with an array of claims and specialties to be the world’s largest counseling service. Their plans start at $40 a week.

3. Breakthrough

You can browse Breakthrough’s 1,000 therapists to find one who matches your needs and send them a message with any questions you have before making a commitment. Therapists on the platform name their own prices so you can make a decision on price based on the professional you choose. They offer sessions of various lengths, so if you want the option of fitting short sessions into your busy days, this is a good platform to consider.

4. 7 Cups of Tea

7 Cups of Tea is different from the other programs on the list in that it can help you connect with “trained listeners” for free — people willing to listen to you talk about your problems and offer support — as well as providing the option of connecting with licensed therapists for $33 a week. If the cost of online therapy is out of your reach at the moment, you can still get some help by starting here with their free option. If down the line, you find you need someone with more skills to help you, you can switch to paid therapists.

5. Maven

Maven is a telemedicine platform with a particular emphasis on serving women patients. Their network of doctors includes coaches, psychiatrists and therapists. You can video chat or message with the practitioner you choose. For therapists, appointments cost $70. For psychiatric nurse practitioners, it’s $90.

6. MDLive

MDLive is a telemedicine site that includes a network of licensed therapists, as well as psychiatrists. They offer an app, as well as access to appointments through video calls on a desktop. Costs start at $99 a session.

7. MyTherapist

With MyTherapist, you can communicate with your therapist in a variety of formats including live chats, phone calls and video conferences in between sessions. You start by answering a few questions on the website, then the program will help match you with a licensed therapist that’s a good fit for your need. Plans on the platform start at $35 a week.

8. Larkr

Larkr is a combination mental health app and online therapy platform. The app helps connect you with therapists in the network that will be a good fit and you can set up live streaming video conferences with them. In addition, you can use it to track your moods day by day to gain a better picture of how you’re feeling and what may be behind it. Larkr costs $85 a session.

9. Talkspace

Talkspace has a network of over 3,000 licensed therapists with specialties in a variety of common issues. Their therapy programs combine video sessions with textual communication. In between meetings with your therapist, you can write out any issues you’re having and trust that they’ll respond later that day. They offer an app, so you have the option of using your computer or mobile device for your sessions. Their plans start at $49 a week.

Caregiving really takes a toll. You have to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of someone else.

If that means carving out a little time each week for therapy, online counseling options put that within easier reach.

Are you a caregiver who has tried online counseling? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Kristen Hicks