What Parents Should Know About Teen Counseling Online Therapy

Teen Counseling users can message, live chat, or have video sessions with therapists.

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Teen Counseling

Teen Counseling caters to teens by allowing them to communicate with therapists in the way that feels most comfortable to them, whether that's video, live chat, messaging, or phone calls. Parents.com feels that it’s a good option for parents and teens who are looking for alternatives to traditional talk therapy. We also like that parents and teens get separate portals so they can message their therapist securely 24/7.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Easy to switch therapists 
  • Teens can choose how to communicate with therapists: video, chat, messaging, or phone call 
  • Reasonable monthly subscription rate 
  • Website is easy to use and intuitive
  • Therapists are all master's-level and above psychologists, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional therapists 
  • Canceling is simple and immediate 
  • Financial aid is available

Cons

  • Video connectivity and resolution can be clunky and poor
  • Therapists may or may not have experience working with teens 
  • Does not accept insurance 
  • Unused sessions not refunded if you cancel before the end of your subscribed month
  • Customer service is only available via email or a contact form—no telephone or chat options
  • Video sessions currently only supported in Chrome or Firefox browsers

Mental health is a nationwide problem. Teen mental health, however, is a nationwide crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of all adolescents had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives. The pandemic—as well as a growing lack of mental health providers—exacerbated this issue. This means, for many parents and teens, finding a therapist can become a full-time job.

A subsidiary of BetterHelp, Teen Counseling was created to fill this service gap. The online therapy provider caters specifically to young adults aged 13 to 19, with help available for parents or other caregivers, too. In order to see how well the service addresses the teen mental health crisis in America, I researched its website, interviewed a therapist from Teen Health, and we surveyed 105 users who tried Teen Counseling. I also tested the service out myself.

What Is Teen Counseling?

Teen Counseling was founded in 2013. It is owned and operated by online therapy platform BetterHelp, which was acquired by Teladoc Health Inc. in 2015. The success of Teen Counseling and its parent site BetterHelp is a big part of Teladoc Health’s overall financial success, according to the site’s third-quarter financial results. The service says it has more than 15,000 therapists with different qualifications and areas of expertise.

When you sign up, two users—typically a teen and a parent—share a joint account in which they can each communicate with the therapist separately. (My teen did not use the service, though.) You can also use the site to schedule live interactions, including text-based chats, phone calls, and video sessions. These various communication options give you the opportunity to speak with your therapist in real time. It’s all included in the subscription plan, but must be scheduled with the therapist ahead of time. 

Therapy sessions now last between 30 and 45 minutes, rather than the 30 minutes we noted in last year’s review. That review also noted that, in answer to a questionnaire, the company explained that it practices surge pricing, setting fees based on the demand for service where the client lives. In my experience trying to sign up for a few different accounts in different states, it still does this. 

It’s also important to note that BetterHelp, of which Teen Counseling is a subsidiary, is being investigated for its data-use practices, which seem to exploit its privacy policies. Clients’ personal health information was being used for marketing purposes without their knowledge or consent.

What Services Does Teen Counseling Offer?

Teen Counseling offers exactly what its name suggests: mental health therapy for teens. Parents and legal guardians are welcome to use the platform, too, and the company says family counseling is also an option, as long as both parties are able to be in the same room at the time of the session. 

Users can choose how they want to communicate with their therapists during live sessions: online chat, phone call, or video call. There’s also a messaging option that’s always available to caregivers and teens to share questions and comments with their therapist.

Who Is Teen Counseling For?

The service caters to teens ages 13 to 19 as well as their parents and guardians. After signing up for the service, teens and parents or guardians can use the platform to communicate with a therapist alone or with each other, if desired. While the main focus of the site is providing therapy to teens, parents can also have their own private sessions. 

Teen Counseling's providers can help people with a wide variety of mental health conditions, including depression, LGBTQIA+ issues, anger, panic attacks, trauma and abuse, school challenges, addiction, grief, friend relationships, family conflicts, eating disorders, and fears and phobias. There are some therapists who list the therapeutic approach they use, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in their bios, but many do not.

How Much Does Teen Counseling Cost?

Unlike many other online therapy sites, Teen Counseling doesn’t have a set of tiered prices. Instead, there’s a range. According to the FAQ, a subscription “ranges from $60 to $90 per week (billed every four weeks) and it is based on your location, preferences, and therapist availability.” 

A subscription gets you four live therapy sessions via your choice of telephone, video, or live chat. When I first came to the site I was offered a price of $80 per week. Seventy percent of Teen Counseling users we surveyed said the company’s value for the money was good to excellent.

Does Teen Counseling Take Insurance?

Teen Counseling does not take insurance or payment via health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs), although you may be able to get reimbursed depending on your plan and where you live.  There are other online therapy companies that cater to teens and take insurance—Hopscotch and Talkspace, for example—which may be a better option for some. Of the users we surveyed, 21% said a company that accepts insurance was important to them.

Conversely, in 2022, Medicare only reimbursed practitioners between $75 and $140 per session, depending on the type of therapy, so having access to a program that’s cheaper than the industry standard may be a huge benefit for some.

Does Teen Counseling Offer Discounts?

Discounts are available. I was offered a discount of $60 per four-week session by simply not signing up right away. I got an email with the offer and was able to click on the link and receive the discount. There are financial aid options available for those who have financial constraints, as well. 

When you first sign up, you’re asked a series of questions that help the company understand your financial situation. These include how much you earn each month and whether you receive any government-provided services such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Social Security, or unemployment. Interestingly, I also signed up as a teen and during that sign-up process, I was offered a month free. In addition, since I said I’d heard about the service from a celebrity (Ariana Grande), I was offered an additional discount that brought the service down to $68 per month. 

I also decided to try and sign up stating I had limited funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I  was offered an even steeper discount of $195 for four weeks, or $48.75 per week. I was informed that I could re-certify this discount every three months for the duration of my treatment plan. Given that I said I earned about $2,100 a month, this might still be too expensive, but it’s good to know that there are discounts available should you need them

Navigating the Teen Counseling Website

The Teen Counseling homepage is pretty barebones, featuring a wide photo of a teen looking at their phone. At the top of the page are two buttons, a log in button and a “Get Started” button. You’ll also find four links: Parent FAQ, Teen FAQ, Reviews, and Contact. You click through the green “Getting Started” button in the top right of the homepage to start the sign-up process. You can also click the green “Parent” button or the orange “Teen” in the middle of the homepage to start each sign-up process. 

Teen Counseling Homepage

Underneath that, you’ll see the text, “Professional therapy by text, phone, and video,” and a green “Get matched with your therapist” button that will also take you to the sign-up page. 

There are also seven circular photos of Teen Counseling therapists within this box.

Teen Counseling2

Below that, you’ll find a simple explanation of how Teen Counseling matches you with a therapist. There are also links to the Parents and Teen FAQ pages as well as a Contact page. 

Teen Counseling

At the bottom, there are constantly changing number boxes that note the growing number of therapists in the network, therapy sessions, and people who have been helped across BetterHelp’s platforms. Underneath that are links to Teen Counseling’s privacy policy, terms and conditions, contact information, and FAQs, again.

There’s no blog, nor are there informational pages about mental health conditions, a mission statement, or a diversity statement. This may be to keep people focused on therapy, but it does seem like any or all of these features would be welcome additions. 

When asked how easy it was to navigate the company’s website, 64% of users said it was easy or very easy.

Does Teen Counseling Have an App?

Teen Counseling has an app that you can download from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Once you download the app, you sign in with your email address and password. You’re then asked to create a four-number PIN. I have an iPhone so I was given the option to sign on with my fingerprint as well. The first time you sign on, the app sends a verification code to your email address for an added level of security. 

Teen Counseling4

What’s most interesting is that the app has features that are not available on the website. For instance, there’s a Therapy Tools option where you can anonymously attend a Groupinar—the site’s equivalent of a webinar—to learn more about specific topics. My options included trauma, wellness, anxiety & depression, relationships, employment, and LGBTQ+, among others. There are subtopics under each heading. For example, I could select a Groupinar called, “Can I Call In Racism: The Impact of Racism on Your Mental Health.”

How Do You Sign Up for Therapy at Teen Counseling?

Whether you’re a teen or a parent, the Teen Counseling site makes it very easy to sign up. You’re asked to select a gender from a long list, choose the teen’s age, select why you or your teen are seeking therapy, and write a note that gives more information about the care that you’re seeking. 

Teen Counseling5

Teens and parents are taken through the same sign-up process. As a parent, you’re first given the option to invite your child to the platform, choosing “Yes, I want therapy for my child,” “No. I only need parental advice” or “Not sure yet. Decide later.” Then you move into the section that the site says will help it match you to the right therapist. 

Here, you’re asked to reply “yes” or “no” to a series of questions, starting with whether your teen is currently experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression. The questions then touch on specific concerns with family and/or peer relationships, coping with life changes, ADHD/ADD, school challenges, criminal behavior, substance use, or sexuality-related issues. Based on my answers to the questions, I was told that professional therapy could benefit my child and that I could sign up to “get matched with a licensed, board-certified therapist” who could help.  

After entering my first name (I was also allowed to enter a nickname instead), email address, and password, and agreeing to the terms and conditions and site privacy policy, I was taken to a set of questions that help narrow down what type of therapist you’re looking for. For instance, I could say I preferred a therapist with one of 15 counseling specialties including trauma and abuse, coping with addictions, family conflicts, eating disorders, anger management, motivation, self-esteem, and confidence. The next screen asked me to write in my own words why I wanted therapy for myself or my child. The site said that my few sentences would give my new therapist a good understanding of where to start. 

After that,  I was brought to a welcome page that gave me more information about what would happen next, what I could do if I didn’t like the therapist I was matched with, and what my cost was for the subscription. 

Once you’re signed up there are two main options: Therapy and Journal. The Therapy menu is where all the magic happens. There, you’ll communicate via text-based messaging, sign up for your sessions using a calendar-based pulldown menu, and start your actual sessions. The Journal is a simple text-based writing interface. You can choose to have your journal sent directly to your therapist and attach emojis to provide a feelings check-in. There are journal prompts you can use if you’re having trouble getting started, too. Entries are saved and accessible by date so you can go back and read what you’ve written.

Matching With a Therapist at Teen Counseling 

It didn’t take very long after signing up to get matched with a therapist. I signed up and paid for four sessions on a Thursday around 1 p.m. and was matched with a female therapist the following day. I read her bio and was surprised to see she was licensed and based in Louisiana given that I live in New York. I did some research and found that she is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who has her own private practice. Even more interesting: She actually took my insurance.

I was excited to get started and talk about some parenting issues I was having with my teen, but when I went into my portal to look at her availability there was nothing that worked with my schedule. As a busy mom who works full-time, I was trying to do the therapy sessions in the evening and she didn’t have that kind of availability. The site suggests reaching out to the therapist if you don’t see a time that works for you. I did that, explaining that none of the times she had available worked for me. She responded that I should take another look at the schedule, which I did but there still wasn’t anything that worked for me. I reached out two more times to no avail, so I asked to change therapists. 

After going through the site’s simple process to switch therapists (more on that below) I was able to choose my second therapist—someone who had decades of experience—from a long list of options. Coincidentally, we were both new to Teen Counseling. He’d started working for BetterHelp the previous month and recently began taking clients at Teen Counseling. 

After messaging in the portal and introducing ourselves, my therapist urged me to choose a therapy time slot on the platform. The therapist had a lot of availability. He said he has up to 35 sessions in any given week and close to 80 clients a month. Given that, it’s not surprising to me that I was able to find a good time slot.

How Do Therapy Sessions Work at Teen Counseling?

Joining a therapy session happens right in the main section of the patient portal (found on the website or app). 

My first therapy session was over the phone since we couldn’t get the video session to work despite trying several times. My therapist messaged me on the platform and we discussed moving to the phone. Once we agreed, I was asked to input my telephone number. Once my number was in the system my phone rang. When I picked up, there was an automated message asking me to hang on to be connected with my therapist. After a few seconds, our lines were merged. 

Once we got through introductions, the actual therapy was like most first therapy sessions that I’ve had. I was impressed that the therapist often referred to his notes, asking me questions about the issues I had flagged when I signed up. He was kind, attentive, and appropriately probing, asking for more details when he wanted to clarify a feeling or experience.

Messaging Your Therapist

As soon as our session was over, the therapist messaged me in the therapy portal. He also sent me an anxiety questionnaire. The messaging portal is fairly simple to use, both on the app and the web interface. It looks like most messaging applications. There’s a text box to write in and messages appear above the box. You can change the text, make it bold, underline words, cross out, add bulleted lists, and insert emojis. You can also attach files to your messages. When they respond, the therapist’s photo appears next to their messages along with a timestamp.

When I interviewed him about his experience, my therapist told me that he is required by the company to respond to messages “almost immediately” or risk losing new clients. I sent him one very long message with a lot of information about my daughter and myself and he responded with a rather short message back, which was surprising given that he told me that they get paid “cents” per number of characters typed. 

I messaged my therapist at least once a day during my nearly month-long trial and he always responded fairly quickly, usually within an hour or so, but within a day. The responses didn’t actually answer my questions or address my comments, which was strange. They were typically one sentence at most. One—right after our first meeting—was a sentence asking me if things were “getting better.”

Video Sessions

After trying, and failing, to connect on video during my first session, we gave video a second try during my second session. Connecting to video is nearly the same process as connecting to telephone sessions. When it’s time for your therapy session and the therapist is connected, you accept the video call and you’re ready to chat. 

The video window can be set to one of three sizes on the web portal ranging from small to full-screen. Video on the phone app is one size. A small timer runs letting you know how long you’ve been in the session and you can mouse over it to see it; otherwise, it’s hidden. 

The video quality itself was not what I would expect from a platform that caters to teens who are always on their devices. I did like that I could blur my background, but didn’t really bother considering I doubted my therapist could see anything back there. Last year’s reviewer reported extremely low quality, so low that she couldn’t see the details of her therapist’s face. Mine was not that bad, but still not good enough. There were moments when the video went out or froze and there were a few times where I had to ask the therapist to repeat his question.

 Audio Sessions

My final session was an online audio call using my computer’s microphone and my internet connection. Again, the call happened via the therapy portal. Once I gave the platform permission to access my microphone, I was connected to the therapist. It was the most comfortable session I had because I was sitting at my desk, wearing headphones, and relaxing. The audio quality was crisp and clear. There were no lags or audio cutting out, which was a relief after my buggy video session.

What Happens If I Miss a Session at Teen Counseling?

There’s nothing on the site or the app that lets you know what happens if you miss a session. I reached out via the Contact Us form and asked. I was told that you aren’t charged if you miss a session, but I wasn’t clear if you forfeit the session you missed. You can, however, reschedule a session by clicking on that option on your next scheduled session in your portal. 

Switching Therapists at Teen Counseling

The site makes it simple to switch therapists, although it does ask you to rate the therapist you’re leaving before you make a new selection. Once you’ve rated (or declined to rate), you’re taken to a screen that asks you to choose preferences for your new therapist. You can check one or more of the following options: 

  • I prefer a male therapist
  • I prefer a female therapist
  • I prefer a therapist who provides Christian-based therapy
  • I prefer an LGBTQ+ therapist
  • I prefer an older therapist (45+)
  • I prefer a non-religious therapist
  • I prefer a therapist who speaks Spanish
  • I prefer a therapist of color

Once I picked the options I was most interested in, I was immediately taken to a page of ten therapists that I could choose from. If none of those worked there was an option to see additional therapists. This list was very useful since it not only displayed a photo of the therapist, their specialities, years of experience, and license, but also their live session availability. 

Using this information, I could narrow down my choice by speciality as well as schedule. For example, I was able to instantly see that a woman who may have looked great wouldn’t work for me because she was only treating patients three days a week. One of my options offered therapy six days a week including Saturdays and was available most days until 10 p.m.—perfect for someone like me who is a night owl. 

Twenty-five percent of user respondents switched therapists at least once, but 51% were happy with their first match.

Pausing or Canceling Therapy at Teen Counseling

Canceling the service is extremely easy, too. You either click on the Cancel Service button in your therapy portal or go to your payment settings and select Cancel Service. You’ll be asked why you’re ending therapy and, on a scale of one to ten, how likely you are to recommend the site to a friend or colleague. You can skip both, but you are required to click a box that says you confirm your session history may become unavailable after your membership ends. 

Once you’ve confirmed this, you receive a message saying the membership will not be renewed. Since I still had a few days left on my service term I also got a message saying I could use the service until my membership expired. 

If you are in between therapists, it can be hard to find how to cancel your membership. There’s no obvious button or link. You’ve got to go into your Payment Settings to cancel the service.

Quality of Care and User Satisfaction

Once I found someone I liked, I enjoyed my experience with Teen Counseling. I was really impressed that the therapist didn’t automatically stop the session when the timer hit 45 minutes. When I interviewed him about that later, my therapist told me that he was “old school” and wanted to make sure he was actually helping people. “I don’t get paid if I go over the 45 minutes,” he explained, “but that’s inconsequential.” 

Most of the people who took our survey after using Teen Counseling felt like I did, with 85% rating the service overall as excellent, very good, or good. Nearly 30% said it was excellent. When asked how many of their needs their provider met, 32% said all their needs were met and 44% said most of their needs were met. Only 3% said that not many of their needs were met. 

I was not able to find out what kind of turnover rate the company has, however, the pay scale and flexibility seem like they would keep people working at the company. My therapist told me that the pay for platform therapists ranges from $30 to $70 per session, depending on experience and how well they can help clients. 

Given that licenses are only given for specific states and countries, I was curious how the site can provide therapy to people all over the world (my therapist told me about treating people in Australia and New Zealand). I also wondered about how no one is checking to make sure you are who you say you are. When I started speaking to my last in-person therapist, I had to give him a copy of my driver’s license and insurance card. At Teen Counseling, I didn’t even have to give a last name and I could have said I lived in Alaska or Arkansas to get a cheaper rate given that I know the parent company uses surge pricing. 

“This could actually become a legal problem,” explains Hannah Owens, LMSW and subject matter expert. “Therapists are only allowed to practice in states where they are licensed and only allowed to see patients who are in those states. So, if a therapist is treating someone who has lied about their location, that therapist is technically breaking the law.”

Privacy Policies at Teen Counseling

The site collects a lot of data. This includes

  • Visitor data such as the type of device and browser you’re using and your IP address
  • Account registration data such as the account name the user selects, the email that they use, their age, phone number, emergency contact details, and whether a user verifies their email address
  • Transaction data that relates to payment transactions 
  • Member engagement data such as therapy information and what you do on the platform

As the privacy policy points out, “Even though we try to limit the kinds of information you must provide to us as discussed above, it is very difficult to be truly ‘anonymous’ when you use any app or the internet.” 

“In general, I appreciate that Teen Counseling guarantees the client's privacy from parents/guardians. I believe their terms of service indicate that the client has the right to privacy in their sessions outside of mandated reporting issues like safety concerns,” says subject matter expert Amy Marschall, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. 

“That said, Teen Counseling is owned by BetterHelp, which has had a lot of negative media attention for not being HIPAA compliant and for selling client data to third parties. So that's my concern with all of the platforms they own,” she continues.

Teen Counseling vs. Its Competitors

Teen Counseling isn’t the only option out there for people ages 13 to 19. Talkspace has a teen counseling service, and Amwell treats kids 10 and up. Talkspace has a wider variety of providers—everything from LCSWs to psychologists to psychiatrists. The site also has more content and information available for parents and kids. Most important: It takes insurance and provides coverage through corporate employee assistance plans. Even out-of-pocket costs are lower, and users can choose a plan that fits their needs: messaging only; video sessions and messaging; or video sessions, messaging, and workshops.

Eighty-eight percent of users felt Teen Counseling was a better service overall compared to similar services they’d used in the past, and while that may seem high, it’s eclipsed by the 97% of Talkspace users who said the same. When we asked users how likely they were to still be seeing their therapist in six months, only 30% of Teen Counseling users said they were likely or very likely to be. Meanwhile, 50% of Talkspace said they were likely or very likely to do so—a big difference. 

There was also a big difference between the two sites in terms of how satisfied users were with their therapist options.  Only 66% of Teen Counseling users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with them compared to 83% who said the same about Talkspace. Just as important, though: 92% had generally positive feelings about Talkspace’s therapists’ qualifications. Only 85% of Teen Counseling users felt the same. Yet 76% of both Teen Counseling and Talkspace users rated their service’s value for the money as excellent, very good, or good.

Final Verdict

I really enjoyed talking to the second therapist I chose for myself. I assumed that I would, given his level of experience, and was happy to see that I wasn’t too far off the mark. My therapist was wonderful in all three of my sessions. I also liked that the sessions were a minimum of 45 minutes long and that I was able to book a second session during the same week if I needed one and the therapist had availability. Sometimes you just need a little extra care when something is going on in your life. 

I appreciated the ease of use of the website and the email reminders I received so I didn’t miss a session. It was also wonderful to do therapy wherever I was. It was certainly easier than having to drive to an office. I chose my therapist based on years of experience so I ended up with someone who knew what he was doing and had a good demeanor. 

Despite all that, it was a pain to have to do my own research and change the therapist I was first matched with to someone who better met my needs. Someone who was is in crisis might get frustrated and walk away. (Although, as the site states, if you or your child are having a mental health crisis, you should call 911 or go to a local hospital emergency room.) My first therapist match just wasn’t a good fit and I wasted some time researching the dozens of new therapist options I was provided with when I said I wanted to switch. 

Also, Teen Counseling’s connection to BetterHelp’s inappropriate data sharing may, understandably, give you pause in using the site, especially with your kids.

Methodology

To fairly and accurately review the best online therapy programs, we sent questionnaires to 55 companies and surveyed 105 current users of each. This allowed us to directly compare services offered by gathering qualitative and quantitative data about each company and its users’ experiences.

Specifically, we evaluated each company on the following factors: website usability, the sign-up and therapist matching processes, therapist qualifications, types of therapy offered, the service's quality of care, client-therapist communication options, session length, subscription offerings, client privacy protections, average cost and value for money, whether it accepts insurance, how easy it is to change therapists, overall user satisfaction, and the likelihood that clients would recommend them.

We also signed up for the companies in order to get a sense of how this process worked, how easy to use the platform is, and how therapy takes place at the company. Then, we interviewed a therapist who currently works for this company, and worked with three subject matter experts to get their expert analysis on how suited this company is to provide quality care to therapy seekers.

Key Specs

  • Price: $240 to $400 per month
  • Is Insurance Accepted? No
  • Types of Therapy Offered: Teen and family therapy
  • Communication Options: Text-based therapy, live messaging, live audio/phone, live video
  • HIPAA Compliant? No
  • Is There an App? Yes
  • Accepts HSA or FSA? No
  • Prescriptions Available? No
  • Billing Cadence: Monthly subscription or pay-per-session
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Sources
Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Mental illness. National Institute of Mental Health. 2022.

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