How Does Live Chat Therapy Work, And Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban
Updated November 30, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Chat therapy is a type of counseling delivered over a live messaging session on an internet-enabled device like a computer, smartphone, or tablet with a licensed therapist. Through an online platform, clients can ask questions, receive advice, and talk to a provider without using phone or video calling capabilities. 

With over 41.7 million US adults seeing a therapist, the demand for mental health services is growing. Online therapy chat services allow many Americans to receive counseling in a flexible format that may be more cost-effective. Chat therapy can be a practical choice for those facing concerns like social anxiety or a busy schedule. However, anyone can use chat therapy, regardless of diagnosis or needs. 

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Advantages Of Chat Therapy 

Some individuals may feel reluctant to try chat therapy, as it might feel less connected than an in-person or video chat therapy session. However, online treatment can often make it easier for specific clients to express themselves.

Below are a few of the advantages of a live chat therapist. 

Cost-Efficiency 

The cost of in-office therapy can range from $100 to $200 per session for individual professional counseling and $175 to $275 for couples therapy. Those with insurance coverage may also be left with a co-payment of around $20 to $65 per session. These charges could amount to a high monthly cost. Chat therapy through many platforms costs around $65 to $90 per session, with extra features, such as messaging your therapist outside of sessions and receiving worksheets on your phone or device. 

No Location Restrictions 

It can be challenging to find a quality therapist that is nearby or in a convenient area. In addition, some insurance companies require clients to find a provider within a specific network. With chat therapy, location doesn't matter. Through many chat providers, you can log in from any location with an internet connection. Although you may have to schedule live chat sessions, online therapists often have a more flexible schedule than in-person ones since they can work from home. 

Time-Efficient 

Life, school, career, and social activities may take a significant amount of time from a person's day. It may be challenging to schedule a counseling session if you factor in the time for a commute, parking, and waiting in the waiting room. With a chat platform, you can talk to a therapist as soon as you open the app for your scheduled session, and you can do so from your bed or couch if you wish. 

Less Stigma 

There are many stigmas and myths surrounding mental illness that can be challenging to confront in communities. At times, these stigmas may prevent clients from seeking effective treatment methods. Through a chat therapy platform, you can often sign up using a nickname or leave out your last name to receive therapy discreetly. In addition, you can talk to a professional without going to a public building or letting anyone else know about your appointment. 

Less Social Interaction 

For those with social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, or fear of in-person therapy, chat therapy can reduce anxiety while you focus on your treatment. A chat therapist can talk to you without seeing your face or hearing your voice, and you can have time to consider what you want to say before you send it. In addition, your therapist can type out their responses to you, and you can give some thought to their message before responding. 

What To Look For In Therapy Chat Sessions

Chat therapy may benefit you if you are living with stress, a mental health diagnosis, or relationship challenges. When seeking online treatment, connect with a reputable platform. Do your research before choosing a therapist, and ensure they have licensure and clinical supervision hours. 

You can also ensure you are working with a therapist with experience in the area you're seeking support with. Some platforms may allow you to specify your preferences for a therapist upon joining, including the following areas: 

  • Their gender identity
  • Whether they offer LGBTQIA+ informed care
  • Whether they are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color) 
  • Their specialty 
  • The type of therapy you'd like to try
  • Your goals for treatment and preferred approach 

Anyone can use chat therapy for any purpose. Whether you're looking to address a mental illness, talk about symptoms, or rant to a provider about your situation, you can do so with an online chat. Note that live chat sessions are often around 30 to 45 minutes in length, so typing out your information may take up more of the session than talking to a therapist over the phone or via video chat. However, you can switch to another format anytime with many platforms. 

Preparing For Therapy Chat

Therapy chat counselors are certified and experienced professionals. When an online therapist is matched with you, you can receive the same type of care and impact as in-person sessions may offer. Consider the following when preparing for your first chat session. 

Choose A Therapist You Connect With 

Whether you're matched with a therapist or choose your own, try to find a provider that meets your needs. If you are matched with someone you don't like or connect with, you can change your therapist anytime. Finding a provider you click with can take time, so allow yourself to have boundaries and standards. Finding someone specializing in your unique symptoms can be more effective than discussing an issue with a therapist specializing in a completely different topic. 

Consider And Set Goals 

Therapists utilize various methods and approaches to help clients work through their issues. There are over 400 modalities available in psychotherapy, and each process can take a different approach. Consider whether your treatment goals are centered around the past, present, or future and whether you prefer a structured and logical approach or an emotional and validating one. You might feel invalidated if you're looking for someone to validate your emotions and help you heal your inner child but connect with someone who only offers behavior-based coping strategies. 

Make The Most Of Your Time 

You might prepare for a visit with your medical doctor by compiling a list of symptoms and current treatments, you can do the same with a new therapist. Write out any questions or concerns before the consultation. Proper preparation may allow you to maximize the results of your consultation. The following are a few questions you can ask a new therapist: 

  • How do you decide which approach works best for me?
  • What will you do to help me achieve my goals?
  • What should I expect during our sessions?
  • Should I expect assignments to be completed at home?
  • What is the counseling frequency and duration?
  • How much will chat therapy cost me?
  • Is this a long or short-term approach?

Prepare For Technical Challenges 

Although digital therapy offers a category of conveniences, prepare for technical interruptions that may occur. Talk with the therapist about the action plan should you be disconnected during a session. Power outages, internet connectivity problems, and other digital factors could interfere with or prevent a session from being completed. Plan ahead of time to ensure that you still receive the counseling you need in the event of an interruption.

Practice Internet Safety 

In addition to safety tools recommended by online therapists, consider the following: 

  • Log completely out of each session after the fact, especially if using a public computer 
  • Don't use sites that aren't reputable and reviewed by multiple businesses in the industry 
  • Review the terms and conditions and policies of any platform you use 
  • Review the credentials of any therapist you speak to 
  • Use a personal device to avoid safety challenges 
  • Use a unique passcode for your online therapy account and write it down in a safe location, such as a journal 
  • Talk to your therapist in a safe room where others can't hear or see what you're saying 
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Is Chat Therapy The Right Option For You?

Chat therapy might benefit you if convenience and comfort are essential to you. This format can offer a sense of freedom that allows you to chat with your therapist during times you may not see an in-person one. Through many platforms, you can use unlimited messaging capabilities to ask questions throughout your week outside of live sessions. 

Individuals have different needs regarding their therapy sessions, and some benefit from the body language projected by their therapist. Video therapy allows one to experience a full-body reaction or face-to-face session remotely. Whether you want to hear their voice or see your therapist's face, chat therapy offers options that work for you.  

The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

Online platforms like Regain for couples and BetterHelp for individuals offer live chat, video, or phone sessions with licensed therapists that have been vetted for experience and licensure. In addition, you can get matched with a provider meeting your needs. However, if you're unsure about the effectiveness of this format, note that several studies have found it as effective as in-person therapy. 

Researchers in one study on back-and-forth live chat communication between a therapist and client found that the chat format was as effective as traditional formats and was associated with symptom reduction in participants experiencing depression and anxiety. 

Takeaway

Chat therapy is a convenient, affordable, and effective way to receive support if you're unsure about seeing a therapist face-to-face or through other online methods. Consider contacting an online therapist by signing up for a platform or contacting your preferred provider for further guidance. 

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