Online therapy is a new way to get individual treatment from a professional therapist, It is becoming increasingly popular because it solves the problems many people have with traditional office-based therapy. You don’t have to get to the therapist’s office, you can get help on your schedule, and it is more affordable and private.

Online therapy uses video chat and text messaging. Video therapy works like traditional therapy with scheduled sessions, but instead of meeting in person you meet online. Some platforms focus on video therapy, but the fastest growing approach seems to be text messaging with occasional video sessions. I’ll focus on how text messaging therapy works, since this is less familiar for most people seeking help.

Here’s what you can expect.

Getting Started With Online Membership

After you select an online therapy platform, you’ll sign up for an account. You’ll answer questions about yourself and why you are seeking therapy. If you’ve ever been to therapy before, this is similar to an intake process. And you’ll enter a credit card and pay for the initial period of treatment.

Next, you’ll be matched with a therapist who can meet your needs. Most of the time, this process will be done within 24 hours of sign-up, but could take longer depending on when you sign-up. You’ll get a text from your therapist who will tell you a bit about themselves and how they approach therapy.

Just like traditional therapists, online therapists are individuals clinicians who have their own styles and approaches. It is important that you feel comfortable with your therapist. If you get matched up with someone you don’t like, you won’t have to continue talking to them. Therapy is incredibly personal, and it can take a few tries before you find someone you really click with. Don’t be afraid to ask for someone new if the first one doesn’t work.

Texting With Your Therapist

The nice thing about online therapy is that you can text your therapist whenever and as much as you want. If your situation is complicated, you can take the time you need to explain it. If you are going through a stressful period, you can get feedback and support daily. You won’t have to pay for extra sessions in order to do that. There’s one cost each week, so say as much or as little as you would like.

While this is an unlimited service, your therapist isn’t going to be available at a moments notice. They need to be able to help other people, and have other things going on in their lives. However, there’s no limit to what you say.

Most therapists set aside a time each day for responding to text messages and will also respond if they have free time during other parts of the day. So you’ll usually get feedback much sooner than you would in traditional therapy.

Remember your therapist wants to understand and help you. So, if you feel the therapist is not understanding your messages, by all means tell them. If you are confused by his or her messages, speak up right away.

Message your therapist whenever you need to talk or when it is convenient for you. Trying to schedule an office visit with a therapist can be a nightmare, especially if the therapist only works when you do or the office is hard to get to. Text messaging therapy is available when and where you are.

Paying for Treatment

Seeing a traditional therapist can cost anywhere between $75-150 a session. If you were to go in once a week, that would run you $300-600 a month. However, online therapy costs between $100-200 a month, depending on the platform you choose. Most online therapy platforms work on a subscription basis. You pay a fixed amount for a week or month of unlimited text messaging. Some platforms include a monthly video session. Other platforms have a separate charge for video.

If you want to take a break from therapy, you can pause your subscription and not be charged until you are ready to start again.

Some insurance has coverage for online therapy. You can find out more by contacting your insurer. If you are covered, be sure to ask if there will be a copayment and what therapists are covered. Online therapy without insurance might be less expensive than the copays the insurance would require.

Privacy and Security

Online therapy is a healthcare service. Make sure the platform you select follows the federal regulations for protection of personal health information. Of course, it is important to protect your user ID and password and close the app when you are not using it,

Chatting with someone online is much easier to keep private than even a video call. Getting help can cause a lot of embarrassment. Those in abusive relationships may need to be careful about their partner learning about them reaching out for help. Talking to a therapist online is a great way to keep the process private. No one has to know that you’re in touch with a therapist.

Online therapy isn’t complicated. Getting help shouldn’t involve shame or worry about how you’re going to make it work. Turning to online therapy is a great way to start talking to someone about what you’re going through and start getting answers.