While there’s been an explosion of online therapy platforms for teens, not all are created equal. In this article, we’ll review four popular teletherapy services to help you choose the best one for your teenager.
We may reminisce about our youth, but for many, the emotional rollercoaster of adolescence isn’t something many people remember fondly. The teenage years are critical for growth and development. Nonetheless, stressors ranging from school to relationships to family dynamics (not to mention the confusing torrent of hormones) can take a toll on teens’ mental health.
According to recent studies, one in every five adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 has at least one diagnosable mental health issue. And given the social upheaval of the global pandemic, we imagine the number of struggling teens is actually much higher than 20%.
Fortunately, online DTC (Direct-to-Consumers) therapy platforms have evolved into excellent sources of care in recent years. There are even a variety of platforms that focus on teens specifically, allowing them to access quality mental health professionals without ever leaving their home. From breakups to academic stress to bullying and everything in between, these online platforms make it easier to navigate teenagerhood in the modern era. For parents, they offer much needed peace of mind as well!
Every person is unique. As a result, there are diverse types of online mental health therapy available. We sifted through the most popular and selected the top four options.
A handful of platforms for teen therapy stand out among the pack. But, which one — Joon vs Brightline vs Talkspace vs TeenCounseling.com — stands apart from the rest, and why? That’s what we’re here to figure out. Let’s dive in.
Why choose online therapy for teens?
According to the World Health Organization, 10-20% of all teens worldwide experience mental health problems. Unfortunately, many of these cases are under-diagnosed and untreated in teenagers. While parents often demand their kids “suck it up”, this tough love fails to acknowledge how much more complicated the world has become since they were kids. There shouldn’t be any shame in getting help, and given shifts in societal pressure onto kids, access to care is increasingly critical for youth to maintain the mental health they need to thrive.
Online therapy platforms are making mental healthcare more accessible for adults and teens alike. Today’s teenagers have a dizzying number of balls to juggle between school, social gatherings, extracurricular activities, and college prep. It is straining and understandable if the teen can’t make time for in-person therapy — especially during a global pandemic.
To ease the process, online therapy offers greater convenience and flexibility than traditional therapists for both teens and parents. A meta-analysis of 126 studies found that online therapy effectively provides various assessment, diagnostic, counseling, and prevention services for children and adolescents — typically just as well as in-person therapy. It is also frequently the therapy method preferred by youth who can’t remember a time before the internet.
Teens can log on from the comfort of their home to communicate with a mental health professional. Most have a mobile app that teens can use to chat with their providers and access additional mental health tools while they’re on the go. As a result, therapy doesn’t have to conflict with teens’ other responsibilities, and parents can steer clear from adding (yet another) appointment to the calendar.
What kind of teens benefit most from online therapy?
Generally speaking, online therapy can help all types of teenagers, whether they are perfectionists / overachievers or free-spirited rebels. Simply put, teens whose actions or emotions interfere with their academic, family, or social lives could tremendously benefit from online counseling.
That’s because therapy and counseling are clinically proven to help them deal with stress, worry, disorganization, and challenging emotional situations. Counseling provides a safe space for teens to discuss and better understand their emotions, which can aid in the development of critical soft skills needed to navigate adulthood.
That said, there are certain severe cases that virtual care isn’t suited for. If your adolescent has been diagnosed with a mental health issue or is exhibiting symptoms of depression, chronic anxiety, or ADHD, they should seek treatment from a psychiatrist. Some, but not all, online therapy platforms for teens provide full-fledged psychiatric care. Others just offer counseling or coaching, which will not meet the needs of teens suffering from severe mental illness. Your adolescent will most likely seek in-person mental care if they are:
- Having thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or hurting others
- Required to go through therapy by a court order or other authority
- In an emergency
Is online therapy safe for teens?
Sharing any personal information online these days definitely poses some risk. We are sure that internal warning bells scream as a parent when your teen shares sensitive information online. However, when it comes to medical care, such as teen therapy and counseling, safeguards are in place to secure your and your child’s information confidentially.
Therapists are legally mandated to keep information confidential under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) unless they need to report a case of abuse or neglect. When treating teenagers on sensitive topics such as sexual activity, STDs, and pregnancy, medical providers must consider the state’s HIPAA regulations, which requires information to be kept confidential to parents without the teen’s consent. All of the teen therapy providers we highlight below adhere to these highest standards of personal and medical privacy laws.
General information regarding the teen’s progress may be disclosed to parents, but the teen may request that specific information not be shared. In addition, under HIPAA, notes from psychotherapy sessions are not accessible to either the parent or the teen. As a result, teens can rest assured that the specifics of their therapy sessions will be kept private.
Helicopter parents may recoil at the idea of paying for therapy, but being kept in the dark about some or all of what’s discussed with a counselor. Keep in mind that this layer of privacy is EXACTLY what you’re paying for. Your teen likely wouldn’t share his or her darkest thoughts and insecurities with you directly, but creating a professional buffer help them feel comfortable enough to open up. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about helping your child cope with their stress, even if that means leaving you in the dark.
Joon vs Brightline vs Talkspace vs TeenCounseling.com: What’s the best teletherapy platform for teenagers?
Best online therapy for teenagers
|Verified licensed therapists?|
|24/7 access to therapists via messaging?|
|Age range||13 and up||6 to 17||13 to 17||13 to 19|
|Price||$500 per month||– $180 per therapy session|
– $60 per coaching session
– $190 for medication support session
|$240 – $400 per month||$240 – $360 monthly|
|Video visits included in the price?||Only for certain plans|
|States available in||California, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, and Washington||California, Massachusetts, and Washington||All 50 U.S. states||All 50 U.S. states|
The above chart summarises what we believe are the most significant aspects to be aware of when comparing virtual teen counseling services. Let’s take a closer, more in-depth look at each of these services and additional features.
Review of Joon’s online therapy services for teens
Joon offers its mental healthcare services for teens aged 13 and up through a mobile app. It provides one-on-one treatment sessions and social skill-building tools, as well as ample information for parents and guardians.
It employs a skills-based approach to establish mental health “best practices” in adolescents. The idea is essentially to give teens a toolkit to build self esteem and overcome inevitable bumps in the road. Building a foundation of mental health care is Joon’s strategy to help teens tackle both challenges they’re facing today, as well as in adulthood.
How does Joon work?
To get started with Joon, parents and teens can schedule a consultation call. The call is usually scheduled a few days after you initially contact. During this time, a member of Joon’s team will inquire about your therapy requirements and goals and answer any initial questions. This is followed by an intake appointment during which the therapist reviews the forms and establishes treatment goals. Your therapist will prepare a recommended therapy “roadmap” within 24 hours after this consultation. If the patient agrees with the plan and likes the therapist, they can sign up for Joon’s treatment.
Joon schedules treatment sessions, employs interactive tools and provides parent information through a mobile app. Typical treatment plans last 16 weeks and include weekly live video therapy sessions, access to content in their app, and a monthly parent check-in. Because Joon does not provide psychiatric care or prescribe medication, it is not recommended for severe mental health disorders in teenagers. It’s also geographically constrained, only available currently in California, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
How much does Joon cost?
To get started with Joon, the first 50-minute session costs $150. The fee for future treatments will be outlined in the recommended treatment plan emailed to you following this session. Treatment regimens are typically 16 weeks long and cost $500 per four-week period, for a total of $2,000 per person. Weekly live video therapy sessions, access to app-based skills, and a monthly parent check-in are all included in this price plan.
Review of Brightline’s online teen therapy platform
Brightline is a family-focused online therapy and counseling provider with extensive mental healthcare offerings. The programs for kids and teens are available to those aged 6 to 17 and include behavioral therapy, coaching, and even prescription medication from licensed, qualified medical professionals. Brightline is a newcomer to the lineup of DTC teen therapy providers, having only been founded in 2019. But, it’s already making waves, having already been featured in Forbes and Crunchbase, among other major publications.
How does Brightline’s therapy app work?
You can sign up and start working with one of Brightline’s licensed therapists, counselors, or psychiatrists online. There’s no waitlist, so you can expect to schedule a visit quickly after signing up. It’s also worth noting that while other DTC teen therapy platforms allow teens to join up for therapy on their own, Brightline is more focused on parents helping their teens. Progress updates and check-ins for parents are a big part of Brightline’s format.
Currently, Brightline is only available in a few states, including California, Massachusetts, and Washington. But, the company will soon be adding more states, with Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Utah, and Texas launching in the fall of 2021. Brightline also plans to have all 50 U.S states added by the end of 2021. So, it’s worth checking back in in a few months if you’re interested, but not on their current list of locations.
Brightline offers behavior therapy, psychiatric evaluation, and medical support for teens. Virtual visits, on-demand chat, interactive exercises, self-guided content, and information for parents and caregivers make up the bulk of Brightline’s teen therapy offering. Each teen receives a personalized, evidence-based care plan from their therapist or counselor, which is a novel approach to ensuring that they get the right level of support for their needs.
What’s the difference between Brightline’s therapy vs coaching?
With Brightline, you can choose either therapy or coaching to suit your family’s needs.
Brightline therapy involves one-on-one video visits with licensed therapists and psychologists. Therapy is the right choice for teens struggling with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. You can even get medication support when required. Brightline has a one-stop-shop approach to teen therapy, and pairing medication support with therapy from licensed professionals leads to better outcomes.
Brightline coaching is an excellent option for teenagers dealing with everyday difficulties but not full-blown mental health disorders. Coaching includes one-on-one video visits with a behavioral health coach and programs to manage stress, disorganization, anxiety, etc. The primary focus of these sessions is to build skills for everyday challenges, rather than medication support and psychiatric evaluation. It has shown improvement in teens receiving coaching in just four short weeks.
How much does Brightline cost?
You choose the number of sessions per week or month for your Brightline care plan; their payment strategy is session-based:
- Behavior therapy: $180 per 50-minute session
- Coaching: $60 per 30-minute session
- Medication support: $190 per session after an initial evaluation, which costs $270
One thing that differentiates Brightline from other teen therapy providers is its commitment to helping its patients navigate insurance. Insurance plans may cover all, some, or none of Brightline’s services. If needed, the company’s “Care Navigator” team can help you submit a claim for reimbursement. You can do this by using the Reimbursify app, where you can simply search for a Brightline clinician to file a claim.
If the thought of keeping up with your insurance claim gives you a headache (we know how painful it can be…) Brightline will follow up with them for you and send updates to you for a small added cost. And your first Brightline claim is always done for free.
Review of Talkspace for teens
Talkspace has emerged as a dominant DTC therapy company since its inception in 2012. As a public company (NASDAQ: TALK) boasting over one million users, there’s no arguing its popularity among adults. Now, Talkspace is offering online counseling for teens, and we’re dug around to see how it compares.
How does Talkspace offer counseling for teens?
Getting started with Talkspace involves a quick online assessment in a private chat room with a consultation therapist. This assessment yields recommended therapist matches that you get to choose from. Talkspace gives users a more active role in choosing their therapists, and you can even switch therapists at no added cost. Teens can be choosy, so this flexibility ensures that your teen can find a therapist that they really vibe with.
With Talkspace, teens get their own private therapy room that’s used to communicate with a therapist 24/7. You can send unlimited text, video, picture, and audio messages to the therapist from anywhere, at any time of day or night. Therapists respond five days per week, usually within four to six business hours.
Talkspace provides Guaranteed Response Time, a feature that includes a “Reply-by” button in the chat room. When you click this button, you’ll get an estimated response time based on the therapist’s time zone and working hours. Live video sessions are also available from Talkspace, at an added cost.
How much does Talkspace cost for teens?
Speaking of cost…Talkspace’s pricing model is a bit confusing. This is because the company’s pricing is advertised as a weekly cost, but you’re required to sign up for a monthly subscription as a user (you can also have a quarterly or biannual payment setup, if you prefer). That said, when you compare the price of Talkspace with that of many other DTC teen therapy providers, it’s significantly less expensive.
For teens, Talkspace starts at $60 per week ($240 per month), with plans that go up to around $100 ($400 per month). The price varies with different plans, which include features like:
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Plus: unlimited messaging with a therapist, responses five days per week
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Premium: unlimited messaging with a therapist, responses five days per week, and one live 30-minute therapy session per month
- Unlimited Messaging Therapy Ultimate: unlimited messaging with a therapist, responses five days per week, four live 30-minute therapy sessions per month
Overall, Talkspace is an incredibly reputable and cost-effective way to get virtual counseling online for adults and teens alike.
Review of TeenCounseling.com
Source: Teen Counseling
Teen Counseling provides professional and licensed counsellors for teen’s therapy. Unlike many other teletherapy startups, Teen Counseling (as the name suggests) is focused exclusively on teenagers. Thus the therapists are more honed in on the unique needs of adolescents aged 13 to 19.
How does TeenCounseling work?
Either teens or parents can start the signup process. There are two separate questionnaires for parents and teens, each with different questions about the teen and their mental health goals and symptoms.
The questionnaire asks parents whether they want to provide their teen with merely parental advice or if they want to enroll their teen in proper counseling. If the parent prefers the latter, they will be paired with a certified therapist based on their questionnaire responses. Parents then send their teen an invite code by email and text message, allowing them to begin therapy.
Similarly, teens can also get started on their own with a questionnaire. They’ll get matched with a counselor and move forward from there.
With TeenCounseling, teens can talk with their therapists through instant messaging, live chatting, phone calls, or video conferencing. This range of communication options is convenient and gives teens the flexibility to find the right format for their needs. Plus, you can switch between these communication methods however you’d like.
Much like Talkspace, TeenCounseling.com gives teens a private room to communicate with their therapist. This room is open 24/7, and you’ll get a notification when the therapist responds. Live chat sessions offer immediate responses, but need to be scheduled ahead of time.
Parents can’t access teens’ therapy rooms with Teen Counseling, but can access a separate, private session environment to access information.
How much does therapy on TeenCounseling.com cost?
The pricing strategy of Teen Counseling is similar to Talkspace. You’ll need to have a monthly subscription for this platform as well, although the pricing is advertised by the week 🤷.
The pricing ranges from $60 weekly ($240 monthly) to $90 weekly ($360 monthly). This cost includes messaging, chatting, phone calls, and video sessions. The less expensive plans include unlimited messaging, but an added cost for scheduled live video sessions (around $20 to $25). The more expensive plans include a set number of live video sessions per month, along with unlimited messaging.
Customer Reviews: What are customers saying about Joon vs Brightline vs Talkspace vs TeenCounseling.com?
Because Joon and Brightline are still relatively new in the teletherapy market, we weren’t able to find many customer reviews. However, that hasn’t stopped Brightline from being featured on news websites such as The Boston Globe and Business Insider. And similarly, Joon has been highlighted in the press as well, announcing its recent round of funding and its entrance into the online therapy sector.
Talkspace for teens reviews
Talkspace remains a pioneer of online therapy. Given that it has millions of users, it’s hardly surprising that it has received widespread acclaim.
Teen Counseling customers also give its useful services high praise and give it credit for really impressive mental health outcomes.
The Verdict: Which online therapy platform is the best for your teen?
Online counseling for teenagers is a valid, safe, and secure method of professional mental health assistance. It is user-friendly for this age range and convenient in that it is accessible at every moment. Plus, there is no need to drive to appointments. With online counseling, scheduling can be done around school and activities.
Although each platform offers excellent features and a unique set of advantages, it ultimately depends on your teens’ lifestyle and goals. Therefore, it’s challenging to narrow down which DTC teen therapy platform we’d recommend. Here are a few layouts to help you decide:
For teens seeking affordable therapy or coaching…
…Therapists don’t come cheap, and it can take ages to find the right person and time slot.
Accessible, affordable, flexible, and with regular live video sessions, Joon is the smart choice if you don’t want to break the bank. This platform stands out for its pricing model, which is competitive and includes the price of video visits.
For teens needing psychiatric care and medication management…
…Brightline is the obvious choice in this case. When you might need more support, licensed clinicians are available to help teens manage anxiety, depression, behavior issues, ADHD, and other severe conditions. It offers personalized treatment by video visit with adolescent psychologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, and others.
We also appreciate that this platform assists with filing insurance claims, which cannot be said for the other platforms we discussed.
Our top pick for overall convenience, cost, and flexibility…
…Talkspace’s 24/7 access and text messaging is a significant benefit for anyone looking for something easy and adaptable. A chat room on your favorite device might help you keep your calendar clear while also saving you time commuting.
It’s affordable and offers the benefit of switching therapists at no cost, which can be great for finicky teens. While live video sessions cost extra, Talkspace is a solid choice for a wide range of teens (and it’s available in every U.S. state).
For parents who want to be a part of their teens teletherapy journey…
…With Teen Counseling, parents can communicate with their child therapist independently. A parent or guardian can begin the process by filling out a brief and free questionnaire. Their suggestions are carefully reviewed in order to match their teen with a therapist. Teen Counseling also provides two separate, private session environments to the parent and the teen. Counseling is always kept private unless there is a major risk involved.
The Bottom Line: Despite the massive demand for mental health care, families and young people encounter various challenges, including a lack of skilled and conveniently placed therapists, high costs, and stigma. Online therapy for teens can be beneficial to assist them in overcoming a wide range of challenges that are impeding their mental health and well-being.
Having said that, online counseling may not be appropriate for teens who are suicidal, engaging in high-risk behaviors (such as substance abuse and self-harm), or have been diagnosed with a severe mental health condition that necessitates intense treatment and monitoring.
Although research on online text therapy is sparse, it may be a viable choice if you are searching for easy, cost-effective therapy from the comfort of your own home.
Have you given online teen therapy platforms a shot? Tell us how it went in the comments below!