For some, the idea of online counseling might sound odd. What is it, exactly? And could a virtual chat with a mental health professional really give you the support you’re looking for? Below, we’ll explore what online counseling is, how to get started, and more.

The basics 

Online counseling — also known as online therapy, telehealth, or e-therapy — simply means having your therapy session over the internet. Most often, your therapist will speak with you over a computer, tablet, or smartphone using an app or website. 

Benefits of online counseling for special groups 

Online counseling can work for anyone, but certain types of patients may especially benefit. 

Teens and young adults who are naturally the most tech-savvy out of all generations may be the most comfortable with online counseling. In fact, one study revealed that 72% of adolescents said they would use online therapy largely because it has less perceived stigma. Sensitive issues like sex might also be less embarrassing to talk about in an online session than face-to-face. Plus, they won’t need to rely on Mom and Dad for transportation.

Men who have a harder time accessing and expressing their emotions may find online counseling more comfortable, especially if it’s their first experience with therapy. They may be less likely to freeze up if the session is not face-to-face.

Those who are ill or suffer from chronic pain might not be able to travel easily. This makes online counseling an excellent way for them to get emotional support without too much physical stress.

Residents of rural areas who often have to drive up to an hour or more to see a mental health provider will find online counseling much more convenient. Not only is there zero commute, but online counseling gives them access to many more therapists. This way, they can more easily find someone who specializes in their area of need.

People living with PTSD, agoraphobia, or other debilitating disorders who don’t want to leave their comfort zone may prefer online counseling for that reason. Even if they eventually do go in for a face-to-face session, online counseling can be an easier way to start therapy.

How to prepare for your session

To be able to conduct an online counseling session with your therapist at home, you’ll need a few things. 

First, you’ll need a computer or smartphone with reliable internet access. Depending on how you and your therapist decide to conduct the session, you may need to connect using an app or online software. Here at Orange County Health Psychologists, we use two secure, HIPAA-approved portals: Doxy.me and Zoom. 

You’ll also need a private room so you won’t be overheard.

Finally, your provider will also ask you to sign a consent form to get started. 

Health insurance options 

As of this writing, both Medicare and Medicaid cover online counseling via Doxy.me and Zoom. Coverage from other insurance providers varies widely, so you’ll need to do some investigating to find out what will be covered for you. When you contact your insurance provider, be sure to ask if there’s anything you need to do beforehand (some require pre-authorization).

Some questions to ask before you start 

Is your therapist licensed? Your therapist’s license is how you know they’re trained and qualified to help you. All of our providers at Orange County Health Psychologists are licensed to practice in California. While a therapist traditionally would need to be licensed in the state where you have your session, we’ve seen many large insurance companies cover interstate therapy (if, for example, you needed to contact your therapist while out-of-state on a trip). Contact your insurance carrier for details.

Is the platform they’re using secure? When you’re sharing sensitive information with your therapist, you want to make sure it’s completely private. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) aims to protect your confidentiality while getting treated by healthcare professionals, which is why they only approve certain platforms for online counseling. Both platforms used by Orange County Health Psychologists, Doxy.me and Zoom, are HIPAA-approved.

What is more comfortable for you: computer, tablet, or smartphone? Private and protected online counseling can be accomplished with Doxy.me or Zoom regardless of the device you use.

Online counseling delivers the support you need

Several studies have shown that online counseling is just as effective as in-person therapy. It has been known to significantly reduce depressive symptoms,1 as well as successfully treat other mental disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bulimia nervosa, for example.

The idea of online counseling may be new to you — but like many things, a whole new world can open up once you give it a try. Imagine being able to contact your therapist whenever it’s convenient, right from your couch or even your car. Support through online counseling can be much more flexible than traditional therapy, allowing you to fit it into your daily lifestyle with less stress. 

Not only that, but online counseling gives you access to provider specialists that you may not have considered before because of distance. At Orange County Health Psychologists, our therapists specialize in a wide variety of areas. Whether you’re looking for someone to help you with a sleep disorder, addiction, marital conflict, caregiver stress, PTSD, anxiety/depression, grief, or any other mental health issue, we have a skilled and knowledgeable therapist to meet your specific needs.

If you’re ready to try online counseling, we encourage you to contact us. Our practice manager, Jennifer Koran, can help you find just the right therapist from our expert team. Give us a call at 949.528.6300 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also, for more information, be sure to check out our blog post, How Does Online Counseling Work?

1 Mohr, D., Vella, L, Hart, S., Heckman, T., Simon, G. The Effect of Telephone-Administered Psychotherapy on Symptoms of Depression and Attrition: A Meta-Analysis. National Institutes of Health. Clin Psychol (New York). 2008; 15(3): 243–253. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2008.00134.x.