In this article, we review some of the best virtual and online group therapy apps, including TherapyTribe, Support Groups Central, Hims & Hers, and others. We’ll take a look at the clinical data that talks about the effectiveness of online therapy, and what patients are saying about the different options.
Maintaining your mental health during a pandemic can be a tough task to bear. Even if you do all of the self care rituals that you’ve found on the internet, get moving every day, and eat well, it can still be tough to manage the waves of emotions that come with what we’re all going through right now.
Sometimes, the best medicine for mental health is just talking it out and hearing about other peoples’ problems and successes when it comes to taking care of their minds and hearts.
Enter virtual group therapy.
While you can’t go anywhere right now and mingle with ten or so other strangers, the opportunity to benefit from group therapy is making a transition to the virtual world. Yes, it means another hour on Zoom, but it also gives you time during the day to take care of yourself.
Alongside an uptick in online group therapy is the growth of the virtual therapy world. Chances are you’ve seen an Instagram ad with a testimonial for one or more of the top players and it’s for good reason!
Mental health counseling has helped many people deal with a full spectrum of challenging situations, attack depression and anxiety, discover themselves, push past personal barriers, and unearth childhood trauma. And just as telemedicine has started to bring real innovation – and help – to people using the power of technology, it’s finally starting to bring real solutions to mental health counseling.
Is virtual group therapy for you?
Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take a look at some of the big names in the online therapy world, as well as how you can even begin to research therapist options. Then, we’ll dig into the differences between group and individual therapy to see which one makes the most sense for your challenges.
Finally, we’ll identify a few new players in the group therapy game so you can find the best online group therapy for you.
Important note before we dive in: if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or think you are having a medical emergency, call 911 right away or go to an emergency room! These online group therapy apps are not intended for acute mental health crises.
Some of the best options for virtual 1-1 therapy
Even before the COVID pandemic confined us to our homes, virtual therapy was becoming a great option for anyone looking for a more accessible, convenient and affordable option for therapy.
Online therapy provides a solution to addressing mental health challenges without the discomfort of having to commute to a therapist each week. Unlike traditional, in-person sessions, virtual therapy services also boast a more on-demand approach, allowing clients to message their therapist 24/7. And they also relieve a lot of the stress of finding a provider who will accept your insurance, find time to talk with you when you aren’t working or in school.
In a study done by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, tele-therapy was found to be just as effective as face-to-face counseling. 98% of study participants made significant progress and 70% saw reduced depression symptoms. And this review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found, “Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with clinical care has been shown to benefit people with depression, anxiety and emotional distress from illness, according to an evidence-based review…”
So it is possible to get mental health help online, if you get it from a reputable provider. Let’s review some of the leading online therapy options so you can get an overview of the different options that are out there:
BetterHelp, one of the leaders in the virtual talk therapy space, prides itself as the world’s largest e-counseling platform. BetterHelp’s goal is to make therapy more accessible, affordable, and convenient so more people can take advantage of the benefits of therapy.
BetterHelp partners with licensed and trained psychologists, therapists, social workers, and board licensed professional counselors so you can find the best fit for your needs.
To figure out what your needs are and match you with the best therapist, BetterHelps asks a series of questions related to your mental, emotional, and physical help. They also ask you to provide detailed information on why you’re seeking help so they can expertly match you with a provider who has the right expertise.
Once you’re matched with a therapist, you can message them through the app whenever you want, chat with them live, speak with them over the phone, or schedule a video conference.
The versatility of communication is great for anyone who is just getting started with therapy. BetterHelp’s cost ranges from $50 to $80 per week (billed monthly) and you can cancel your membership at any time.
Since it can be stressful to have a counselor who is not a good fit, we also care about how easy it is to change therapists. Thankfully, BetterHelp makes it simple to make a switch – you simply open your profile menu and click “Change Counselor.” This takes you to a page with a list of other counselors who might be a better fit – simple, painless and another huge advantage of online therapy.
Similar to Betterhelp, Talkspace operates within a sole app, allowing you to contact your therapist as needed. Talkspace was founded to provide people with convenient access to mental health counseling. It’s a great option for anyone who could benefit from talk therapy in a stigma-free environment.
To start, you get an assessment through one of Talkspace’s matching therapists to help identify your needs. Then, you’ll choose a plan based on your budget. Plans with Talkspace start at just $65 per week. They’ve partnered with several U.S. health insurance providers, so your sessions may be covered.
Once you’re matched with a therapist, you can begin chatting with them as needed. Typically, therapists respond 1-2 times a day and if you’re looking for more, you can easily schedule a video chat with your counselors.
They also make it easy to change your counselor. Simply log in, click on your username then “manage subscription” and you’ll see an option for changing your therapist. They’ll ask you a few questions about your experience so far, and then propose a list of matches who may be a better fit.
Again, we appreciate how great of a job Talkspace does to try to eliminate this stressful part of the process.
For more of a one-time solution, Amwell provides access to therapists and psychotherapists. They work with licensed therapists to allow you 24/7 access to someone who can help you with your challenges.
They even accept a range of insurance policies to make the process even more affordable. Amwell also provides various other forms of telehealth solutions if you’re looking for a quick doctor’s visit or consultation.
For couples or anyone who is looking to improve their romantic relationships, ReGain is a great virtual solution for couples therapy. Their assessment will help identify which areas of your relationship you’d like to improve in order to match you with a provider.
ReGain offers both individual and couples sessions related to common relationship problems, such as divorce, communication, intimacy issues, and more. ReGain offers phone and video sessions for you or you and your partner.
Starting at just $50 per week, ReGain is a great solution for those specifically with romantic relationship issues.
What’s the best app for finding in-person therapists?
While you may not be able to start in-person therapy right away, many therapists have pivoted their offering to be virtual during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you’re looking to find a therapy option that could allow for some in-office visits, you can always check out some of the established therapist directories.
Psychology Today is one of the go-to resources for finding a therapist, psychiatrist, treatment center, or support group near you. They also allow for searching for teletherapy options based on your location.
Each therapist profile on psychology today features the professional’s name, photo, bio, contact information, education and qualifications, the specialities and issues they treat, as well as treatment approach.
Psychology Today also has a verification badge, so anyone that is verified has been vetted in terms of name and contact details, the professional’s license and validation within the practicing state, and that the professional is not subject to any license strictures that might prevent them from practicing. It’s an extra level that can help in terms of your validation of various therapists.
Good Therapy is another great resource for finding information on mental health professionals near you. By entering your location, Good Therapy allows you to filter professionals in terms of specialty, service, and even insurance. You can also find professionals based on age, gender, and the type of therapy that they typically treat with.
On a professional’s profile, Good Therapy provides information on the professional’s services, treatment style, as well as a bio, photo, and contact information. You are able to contact and schedule a session with the professional right on Good Therapy’s website.
Those are some good options to locate in-person mental health counseling, if you aren’t excited about online therapy. If you’re in Canada, take a look at this review of therapist matchmaking platforms.
What’s the benefit of group therapy vs 1-1 therapy?
When it comes to mental health counseling in general, it seems that individual therapy is the more popular route. As mental health can be a vastly personal subject, it may seem intimidating to add more people to the room! But group therapy has its place in the world of mental health and has proven to be beneficial for many people’s growth.
Group therapy was actually first introduced by a physician named J.H. Pratt. He started group sessions to instruct individuals who were in the care of tuberculosis.
Throughout the sessions, Pratt noticed that members were benefiting emotionally due to the immense support they were receiving from one another, as well as the power of shared experiences.
Eventually, these sessions were referred to as group psychotherapy and became even more popular after World War II when combat veterans were treated together and observed.
While one-on-one time with a therapist is immensely valuable to dissect your past and ingrained behaviors, group therapy has many benefits that come more from the people struggling with the same challenge that you are.
Attending group therapy can show you that there are other people dealing with the same thing you are. Having that feeling that you are no longer alone in your pain can be immensely helpful when battling depression or anxiety.
In addition to hearing other’s stories, the exercise of sharing your story with other people, not just a therapist, is powerful. You learn to develop more self awareness, as well as get many points of view on your issues, rather than just one. And you might help someone else out as well, which can be a really uplifting experience – especially if you are feeling depressed and don’t feel like you’ve been successfully engaging in the world recently.
What are the best online group therapy apps and platforms?
While your picture of group therapy might be 10 people sitting around on plastic chairs in a middle school gymnasium or church basement, the picture is starting to shift. With the popularity of virtual therapy for individuals, solutions have begun to pop up for group therapy at just the right time.
1. Hims & Hers FREE online group therapy
Hims & Hers was founded on a mission to make caring for yourself easier and more affordable. By offering online group therapy, Hims and Hers are showing us that they care about delivering telemedicine for mental health, not just physical conditions.
Hims and Hers have started to offer free anonymous therapy groups for men and women on a variety of topics, including sleep, relationships, and stress. All you have to do is sign up for a session, submit any questions you might have, and tune in as often (they host the sessions weekly) or as little as you’d like.
Hims & Hers are currently offering these sessions for free (normally $15 per session) due to the global pandemic. They’re a great option if you want to dip your toe into the waters of therapy; however, they do evoke more of a workshop-vibe, rather than true group therapy. Either way, you’ll come away with solid strategies to improve your overall mental health.
2. Support Groups Central
Support Groups Central offers a ton of different group therapy options, based on whatever you’re dealing with. All you have to do is pick your topic, sign up for a session, and then attend the meeting. It’s super simple to sign up and the meetings are very affordable, costing nothing at all or just $5-$10 to attend. You can join the meetings from your computer, tablet, or phone, and as often as you’d like.
While their branding and website may be a bit behind the time, Support Groups Central serves as an online directory of support groups all over the country. You can join a virtual support group based on your location, or hop into one that’s based across the country. Their meetings are led by trained facilitators who keep the conversation respectful and flowing.
Support Groups Central is free to join and only takes a few keyboard strokes to sign up. From there, you just have to find the group that fits you. The number of different topics they cover is impressive – from addiction recovery, depression, eating disorders, stress and anxiety and more.
TherapyTribe has supported over half a million people since its inception in 2005. TherapyTribe is a place where people from all walks of life can connect on common issues and challenges.
They have easy to navigate “tribes” for anyone to join and connect with others. Their services are free to use and offer resources related to mental health, a way to find a local therapist, as well as online support groups.
Once you join your tribe, whether it’s for LGBTQ or anxiety, you’ll have access to a community of people who share your same challenges. You’ll be able to access resources, a chat room, wellness tracker, mood mapping, and more. It’s truly an all-in-one resource for your mental health.
Another great option is to reach out to therapists in your area and see if they know of or offer any group therapy sessions that have gone virtual for the time being. It never hurts to ask!