Teen Counseling, an online counseling for teens service, caters to adolescents by allowing them to contact therapists through their preferred method, whether it’s video, live chat, texting, or phone conversations. Parentsnkids.org considers it a viable solution for parents and adolescents seeking alternatives to traditional talk therapy. We also appreciate that parents and teens have separate portals so they can communicate with their therapist securely around the clock.
Pros & Cons:
- Easy to change therapists.
- Teenagers have the option of communicating with therapists via video, chat, messaging, or telephone.
- Reasonable monthly charge.
- The webpage is user-friendly and intuitive.
- Therapists are all psychologists with a master’s degree or above, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, or licensed professional therapists.
- Cancellation is straightforward and prompt.
- Financial help is offered.
- The video connection and resolution can be clumsy and inadequate.
- Therapists could or might not have prior experience working with adolescents.
- Does not accept insurance.
- Unused sessions will not be refunded if the membership is canceled before the end of the month.
- There are no telephone or chat alternatives for customer assistance; only email and a contact form are offered.
- The only browsers that work for video sessions are Chrome and Firefox.
Mental health is a concern on a national scale. Yet, teen mental health is a nationwide epidemic. Statistics show that over 50% of teenagers may experience mental health problems during their lifetimes, as the United States Department of Health and Human Services reported. This situation was compounded by the epidemic as well as a growing shortage of mental health professionals. This implies that hiring a therapist can become a full-time task for many parents and adolescents.
Teen Counseling, a subsidiary of BetterHelp, was founded to address this service need. The online counseling company caters exclusively to adolescents ages 13 to 19 and also offers support for parents and other caregivers. To determine how effectively the program handles teen mental health crises in the U.S., I examined its website, interviewed a therapist from Teen Counseling, and surveyed 105 Teen Counseling consumers. I personally evaluated the service as well.
What Is Teen Counseling?
In 2013, Teen Counseling was created. It is owned and maintained by BetterHelp, an online counseling platform that Teladoc Health Inc. bought in 2015. Teladoc Health’s overall financial performance is primarily attributable to Teen Counseling and its parent site BetterHelp, according to the website’s third-quarter financial figures. The firm claims to employ more than 15,000 therapists with various credentials and areas of specialty.
Upon registration, two users, generally a teen and a parent, share a joint account through which they can speak individually with the therapist. On the website, you may also arrange live interactions, such as text-based chats, phone conversations, and video conferences. These many modes of contact allow you to communicate with your therapist in real-time. All of this is included in the subscription plan but must be planned in advance with the therapist.
The duration of therapy sessions has increased to between 30 and 45 minutes, up from 30 minutes, as highlighted in last year’s evaluation. This assessment also observed that, in response to a query, the company explained that it employs surge pricing, determining rates based on the client’s location’s service demand. In my experience, attempting to sign up for many accounts in different locations continues to occur.
Teen Counseling is a subsidiary of BetterHelp, which is currently being investigated for its data-use activities, which appear to violate its privacy policies. The personal health information of clients was exploited for marketing reasons without their consent or knowledge.
What Services Are Provided by Teen Counseling?
Teen Counseling provides precisely what its name implies: mental health counseling for adolescents. Parents and legal guardians are also invited to use the platform, and family counseling is available so long as both parties can be in the same room at the time of the session.
During live sessions, users can communicate with their therapists via online chat, phone call, or video call. There is also an always-available texting tool for parents and adolescents to communicate with their therapist.
Who Does Teen Counseling Serve?
The service is designed for adolescents ages 13 to 19 and their parents or guardians. Teens and their parents or guardians can utilize the platform to connect with a therapist individually or together, if preferred, after signing up for the program. While the site’s primary focus is giving counseling to adolescents, parents can also have individual sessions.
Providers at Teen Counseling may assist individuals with a wide range of mental health illnesses, such as depression, LGBTQIA+ issues, rage, panic attacks, trauma and abuse, school challenges, addiction, grieving, friend relationships, family disputes, eating disorders, and fears and phobias. Some therapists include their therapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in their biographies, although the majority do not.
How Much Does Teen Counseling Cost?
Unlike many other online treatment sites, Teen Counseling does not provide tiered pricing. Rather, there is a range. According to the Frequently Asked Questions, a subscription runs from $60 to $90 per week (paid every four weeks) and is dependent on geography, preferences, and therapist availability.
A subscription grants access to four live counseling sessions via phone, video, or live chat. I was quoted $80 per week when I initially visited the site. Seventy percent of Teen Counseling users we polled rated the company’s cost-effectiveness as good to outstanding.
Does Teen Counseling Take Insurance?
Teen Counseling does not accept insurance or payment via health savings accounts (HSAs) or flexible spending accounts (FSAs), but depending on your plan and location, you may be eligible for reimbursement. Some online treatment organizations that cater to adolescents and accept insurance, such as Hopscotch and Talkspace, may be a better alternative for some. Twenty-one percent of the users questioned indicated that an insurance-accepting business was crucial to them.
Medicare paid therapists between $75 and $140 per session in 2022, depending on the type of therapy, so having access to a program that is less expensive than the industry standard may be a big benefit for individuals.
Does Teen Counseling Provide Discounts?
Discounts are available. I was offered a discount of $60 per four-week session for delaying my enrollment. I received an email containing the offer and was able to click the link to obtain the discount. Those with financial constraints also have access to financial assistance options.
When you sign up for the service, you will be asked a series of questions designed to help the company understand your financial status. They include your monthly income and eligibility for government-provided assistance such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Social Security, and unemployment. Incidentally, I also signed up as a teenager and was offered a free month throughout the sign-up process. In addition, I was granted an additional discount, bringing the monthly cost of the service down to $68 because I had heard about it via a celebrity (Ariana Grande).
I also opted to register despite having low cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A further discount of $195 for four weeks, or $48,75 each week, was offered. I was informed that I might recertify my eligibility for this reduction every three months throughout the life of my treatment plan. Given that I earn approximately $2,100 each month, this may still be too expensive, but it’s comforting to know that discounts are available if you need them.
Does Teen Counseling Have a Mobile Application?
Teen Counseling offers an application available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. After installing the application, you log in with your email address and password. You are then required to generate a four-digit PIN. Since I have an iPhone, I was also given the opportunity to sign in using my fingerprint. For enhanced security, the app sends a verification number to your email address the first time you log in.
Most intriguing is the fact that the app contains functionality not available on the internet. With the Treatment Tools option, for instance, you can join a Groupinar, the website’s version of a webinar, to learn more about particular themes. Among my available alternatives were trauma, wellness, anxiety & depression, relationships, employment, and LGBTQ+. There are subtopics associated with each heading.
How Do You Register at Adolescent Counseling for Therapy?
Teen Counseling’s website makes it incredibly easy to sign up, whether you are a teen or a parent. 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.
Teenagers and parents go through the same registration 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 the site says will help 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 next address specific difficulties with family and/or peer connections, adjusting to life changes, ADHD/ADD, school challenges, criminal behavior, substance use, or sexuality-related concerns. I was informed that my child could benefit from professional counseling and that I could sign up to “be matched with a licensed, board-certified therapist” who could assist.
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. On the Treatment menu, all the magic occurs. There, you will communicate via text-based chat, schedule your sessions using a calendar-based pull-down menu, and initiate your sessions. The Journal is a simple text-based interface for writing. You can select to have your notebook delivered straight to your therapist and include emoticons as a check-in on your emotions. You can also use diary prompts if you’re having problems getting started. Entries are saved and available by date, allowing you to read what you’ve previously written.
Therapist-Patient Pairing at Teen Counseling
After registering, it did not take long to be connected with a therapist. I registered and paid for four sessions at about 1 p.m. on a Thursday and was paired with a female therapist the next day. I was shocked to see in her bio that she was licensed and headquartered in Louisiana, given that I reside in New York. According to my research, she is a certified clinical social worker (LCSW) with her own private practice. Interestingly, she really accepted my insurance.
I was eager to begin and discuss some parenting concerns I was having with my adolescent, but when I logged into my login to view her availability, nothing fit my timetable. Being a full-time working mother, I attempted to schedule counseling sessions in the evening, but she was unavailable at that time. If you cannot find a time that works for you, the website offers to contact the therapist. I did so, noting that none of the listed times worked for me. She replied that I could reevaluate the schedule, which I did, but nothing fit my needs. I reached out twice without success, so I requested a new therapist.
I was able to select my second therapist, who had decades of expertise, from a large pool of candidates after completing the site’s simple process for switching therapists. We were both, coincidentally, new to Teen Counseling. He began working for BetterHelp the month prior and has only recently begun accepting clients at Teen Counseling.
After introducing herself and exchanging messages via the portal, my therapist invited me to select a treatment time slot on the platform. The therapist was quite accessible. He reported having up to 35 sessions per week and close to 80 clients per month. Knowing this, it does not surprise me that I was able to secure a convenient time period.
How Do Teen Counseling Therapy Sessions Work?
Joining a therapy session occurs directly in the patient portal’s main area.
Despite repeated attempts, we could not get the video session to work for my first treatment session. My therapist sent me a message on the platform, and we discussed transitioning to the telephone. After our agreement, I was asked for my telephone number. Once my phone number was entered into the system, it rang. As I answered the phone, an automated message instructed me to remain on the line until I was connected with my therapist. A few seconds later, our lines merged.
After introductions, the real therapy was similar to the majority of my initial therapy sessions. I was amazed by how frequently the therapist referenced his notes and questioned me about the concerns I had identified when I signed up. He was kind, attentive, and suitably inquisitive, asking for additional information when he wished to clarify a feeling or experience.
Writing to Your Therapist
Immediately following our session, the therapist sent me a message through the counseling portal. He also sent me an anxiety questionnaire. The app and the messaging gateway’s online interface are intuitively designed. It resembles the majority of messaging programs. A text box is provided for entry, and messages appear above the box. You can modify the text by making it bold, italic, underlining, crossing out, adding bulleted lists, and inserting emojis. Moreover, you can attach files to your communications. The therapist’s photo and a timestamp appear next to their messages when they reply.
My therapist told me during our interview that his firm compels him to react to texts “very instantly” or risk losing potential clients. I wrote him a lengthy message with a great deal of information about my daughter and myself, and he responded with a pretty brief response, which was unexpected considering that he had told me that they are paid “cents” per number of characters typed.
Throughout my nearly month-long trial, I sent my therapist at least one message each day, and he always responded within a reasonable amount of time, generally within an hour but never more than 24 hours. Strangely, the responses neither answered my queries nor addressed my comments. These were often no longer than one sentence. Immediately after our initial meeting, I was asked if things were “getting better.”
Having attempted and failed to connect through video during my first session, we attempted video again during my second session. Connecting to video sessions is almost identical to connecting to telephone sessions. When it’s time for your therapy session, and the therapist is connected, you accept the video connection and prepare to converse.
On the web site, the video window can be changed to one of three sizes, ranging from small to full-screen. Video in the mobile app has a single size. A little timer indicates how long you have been in the session; it is only visible when the mouse is placed over it.
The video quality was subpar for a platform that appeals to kids who are constantly on their mobile devices. I liked that I could blur my background, but I didn’t bother because I doubted that my therapist could see anything in the background. The reviewer from the previous year stated that the image quality was so poor that she could not make out the facial features of her therapist. My effort was not terrible, but it was insufficient. There were instances when the video cut off or froze, and I had to ask the therapist to repeat his questions a few times.
My final session consisted of an online audio call using my PC’s microphone and internet connection. Once again, the call was made using the therapeutic site. After granting the platform access to my microphone, I was connected to the therapist. It was the most soothing session I’ve ever had because I was seated at my desk, wearing headphones, and unwinding. The sound quality was clean and sharp. There were no lags or audio interruptions, which was a relief following my video session’s bugs.
What Happens If I Miss a Session?
There is no information on the website or app regarding the consequences of missing a session. I submitted a question via the Contact Us form. I was told that you are not charged if you skip a session, but it wasn’t made clear whether or not you forfeit the session. You may, however, reschedule a session by selecting this option during your next scheduled portal session.
Therapist Swapping at Teen Counseling
The website makes it easy to swap therapists, although you are required to grade the therapist you are leaving before making a new choice. After rating (or declining to rate), you are led to a screen where you can select preferences for your new therapist. You may select any of the following options:
- I prefer a male therapist.
- I prefer a therapist of color.
- I prefer a therapist who provides Christian-based therapy.
- I prefer a female therapist.
- I prefer an LGBTQ+ therapist.
- I prefer a non-religious therapist.
- I prefer an older therapist (45+).
- I prefer a therapist who speaks Spanish.
As soon as I selected the ones I was most interested in, I was led to a website with ten therapists from which to choose. There was the option of seeing additional therapists if none of the above treatments worked. This list was really beneficial because it included not only a photo of the therapist, their specialties, years of experience, and licensure but also their availability for live sessions.
With this information, I was able to reduce my options by specialty and scheduling. For instance, I could immediately discern that a woman who appeared attractive but only saw patients three days a week would not work for me. One of my possibilities provided therapy six days a week, including Saturdays, and on most days until 10 p.m. – ideal for a night owl like me.
25% of user responses switched therapists at least once, while 51% were satisfied with their initial match.
Treatment Suspension or Cancellation at Teen Counseling
Canceling the service is also a breeze. You can either click the Cancel Service button in your therapy portal or navigate to your payment preferences and choose Cancel Service. You will be asked why you are discontinuing therapy and, on a scale from one to 10, how likely you are to suggest the website to a friend or colleague. You may bypass both, but you are asked to check a box acknowledging that your session history may become inaccessible if your membership expires.
After confirming this, you are notified that your subscription will not be renewed. While I still had a few days remaining on my membership, I also received a notice stating that I may continue to use the service until my membership ends.
If you are between therapists, locating the cancellation procedure for your subscription can be difficult. No obvious button or link is present. To cancel your subscription, you must go to your Payment Settings page.
Care Quality and Patient Satisfaction
After I found someone I liked, I enjoyed my Teen Counseling experience. I was quite impressed that the therapist did not end the session when the timer reached 45 minutes. My therapist told me at a subsequent interview that he was “old school” and wanted to ensure he was genuinely helping people. “I don’t get paid if I exceed 45 minutes,” he continued, “but that is irrelevant.”
Eighty-five percent of those who responded to our survey after utilizing Teen Counseling rated the service overall as outstanding, very good, or good. Over 30 percent felt it was great. 32% responded that their provider provided all of their needs, while 44% responded that most of them were met. Just 3% of respondents indicated that many of their needs were not addressed.
I was unable to determine the company’s turnover rate; however, the pay range and flexibility appear to be sufficient to attract and retain employees. My therapist informed me that platform therapists are compensated between $30 and $70 per session, depending on their skill and ability to assist clients.
Given that licenses are only issued for specific areas and nations, I was interested in how the website could provide therapy to individuals from all over the world. I also wanted to know why no one verifies that you are who you claim to be. I had to provide a copy of my driver’s license and insurance card to my last in-person therapist before we could begin meeting. Given that the parent firm employs surge pricing, I didn’t even have to disclose my last name at Teen Counseling, and I could have said I resided in Alaska or Arkansas to receive a discount.
This might become a legal issue, warns Hannah Owens, a licensed social worker and subject matter expert. “Therapists may only practice in places where they are licensed, and they may only see patients in those states.” So, a therapist who treats a patient who has been misled about their location is technically breaching the law.”
Rules on Privacy at Teen Counseling
The website collects a great deal of data. This consists of:
- Your IP address and the type of device and browser you are using are collected as visitor data.
- Account registration information such as the user’s chosen account name, email address, age, phone number, emergency contact information, and email verification status.
- Transactional information pertaining to financial transactions.
- Member engagement data include therapeutic information and platform activity.
“I love that Teen Counseling ensures the client’s anonymity from parents and guardians. Amy Marschall, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, and subject matter expert, believes that the program’s terms of service indicate that the client has the right to privacy during sessions, except for mandatory reporting issues such as safety concerns.
“However, Teen Counseling is owned by BetterHelp, which has received a great deal of bad media exposure for failing to comply with HIPAA and for selling client information to third parties. Hence, this is my concern regarding all of their platforms,” she continues.
Teen Counseling Against Its Rivals
Teen Counseling is not the only available option for individuals ages 13 to 19. Talkspace offers a counseling service for adolescents, whereas Amwell handles children aged ten and older. Talkspace features a greater selection of service providers, including LCSWs, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
The website also provides extra content and information for parents and children. Moreover, the company accepts insurance and offers coverage via corporate employee assistance plans. Even consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses are reduced, and they may select the package that best suits their needs: messaging simply, video sessions plus messaging, or video sessions, messaging, and workshops.
Eighty-eight percent of consumers believed Teen Counseling was superior to similar services they had used in the past. While this percentage may seem high, it is exceeded by the 97% of Talkspace users who had the same sentiment. When we questioned Teen Counseling users about how likely it was that they would still be seeing their therapist in six months, only 30% answered it was probable or extremely likely that they would. In contrast, 50% of Talkspace users indicated they were likely or very likely to do so a significant difference.
I chose the second therapist because I liked talking to him. I thought I would because of how much he knew, and I was glad to see that I wasn’t too far off. During all three sessions, my therapist was wonderful. I also liked that each appointment lasted at least 45 minutes and that, if needed and if the therapist was available, I could schedule a second session within the same week. You may need a little more attention when something is going on in your life.
I liked how easy it was to use the website and how I never missed a session because of the email reminders. It was definitely easier than driving to the office. I chose my therapist based on how long he had been in practice, so I got a professional with a nice personality.
Even so, it was a hassle to do my own research and switch out the therapist I was first matched with for someone who was a better fit for me. When in trouble, a person may get angry and walk away. My first therapist could have been a better fit for me, and when I asked to switch, I spent hours looking into the dozens of new therapist options I was given.
But the fact that Teen Counseling and BetterHelp inappropriately share information may make you hesitant to use the service, especially with your kids.