Mental health therapy and counseling can be offered online or in-person.
Talk therapy can be truly lifesaving for people who need help treating mental health issues, dealing with big life changes, or replacing maladaptive behavior patterns. But it can also be difficult for some people to access. Online therapy is a convenient alternative to traditional, in-person therapy for those who live in rural areas, are home bound, or want to avoid a long commute to a therapist’s office. And, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), teletherapy isn’t going away.
Interested in learning how to become an online therapist? Whether you’re studying to become a therapist, or you’ve been in practice for years, here’s what you need to know about providing virtual therapy.
What Is Online Therapy?
The APA has set guidelines for what it calls telepsychology. Providing counseling or therapy sessions virtually is also known as:
- Online Therapy
- Distance Therapy
- Web Therapy
- Therapy E-Visits
- Virtual Therapy
Regardless of the name, online therapy is traditional “talk therapy” that takes place remotely rather than during an in-person office visit. Therapists and clients can communicate using several methods—private message boards, live chat, texting, calls, and video conferencing.
But you can’t become an online therapist just by picking up the phone to talk to your clients. Learning how to become an online therapist includes using specialized software that keeps your therapist-client conversations and client records safe and compliant with HIPAA privacy rules.
What Does an Online Therapist Do?
An online therapist’s job is almost identical to that of a traditional therapist. In an initial visit, the therapist talks with the client and sometimes administers tests to assess mental health disorders. They also pinpoint sources of trouble with specific challenges like relationship and marital issues. After the assessment, the therapist provides advice, strategies, and a safe space for the client to talk to help them cope with their situation.
Studies and clinical trials have shown that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face sessions for depression and anxiety, and online sessions have more long-term efficacy. In post-therapy follow-up, participants who received online therapy experienced a continued reduction in depression symptoms three months after treatment. The face-to-face participants’ symptoms increased significantly three months after their last session.
For the therapist, flexibility is the overriding advantage of offering online therapy, with benefits that include:
- the ability to provide online therapy part-time to supplement your income or move your practice to 100% online.
- working from anywhere during any hours you’d like.
- having little to no overhead.
- increasing the number of clients you see, since online therapists spend about 10% less time with clients.
Who Can Provide Online Therapy?
According to the APA, “therapist” is an umbrella term that encompasses psychologists, therapists, and counselors. Anyone who carries a state-approved license as a counselor, therapist, or psychologist can set up shop and learn how to become an online therapist. This includes:
- Clinical Social Workers: LCSW, LICSW, LISW
- Marriage & Family Therapists: LMFT, CMFT, LIMFT
- Mental Health Counselors: LMHC, LCMHC, LMHP, LPMHC
- Professional Counselors: LPC, LPCC, LCPC
- Psychologists: PhD
There are a few restrictions for online therapists to keep in mind. The therapist and client must both be located in the state in which the therapist is licensed. Most therapy networks do not support substance abuse therapists, registered nurses, career therapists, Christian therapists, or business/life coaches unless they have additional licenses for mental health therapy.
How to Become an Online Therapist
The education and experience to become a therapist varies depending on your title.
How to Become a Therapist
All therapists need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field relevant to therapy, such as psychology, education, sociology, or social work. You then need to enter a master’s program in the area of therapy you wish to provide such as social work, child psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy, or psychology. Part of your master’s program will include an average of 2,000 supervised clinical hours as an intern—the exact number varies by state.
After you’ve received your master’s, you’ll need to get a license in your state. Once you meet your state’s licensing requirements, you can then begin your practice as a therapist or counselor.
How to Become a Psychologist
If you have your sights set on becoming a psychologist, you will go on to get your Ph.D. This doctoral degree can be in generalized psychology, or you can specialize in an area like child psychology. Along with taking classes, Ph.D. candidates write and present a dissertation based on a theory or research study they create. If you pass your classes and you dissertation is accepted by a committee, you attain the title of “Dr.” and begin to practice.
Psychologists are different from psychiatrists, who are also called “Dr.” A psychiatrist goes to medical school, and only psychiatrists can write prescriptions for medication.
Set Up an Online Therapy Practice
Once you are a therapist or psychologist, you can start or move all or part of your practice online. Software packages are available to set up a stable internet connection and HIPAA-compliant practice management system for storing patient records. While this might be a benefit for your existing clients, you need to let them know you are offering online services. You will still have to market to new clients.
Join an Online Therapy Network
A quicker way to work as a virtual therapist is to join an existing online therapy network. An established company can show you how to become an online therapist, provides you with the software, and handles all billing, insurance processing, tech support, customer service, and platform operations.
Some networks assign clients to you based on geography and your specialties. This is helpful for therapists who are just starting out. Other networks enable you to bring your own clients online. Most networks let you choose whether to work part-time or full-time. Specialized networks are available for therapists that concentrate their practices on couples, LGBT people, and teens.
How Much Do Online Therapists Make?
An online therapist’s salary varies depending on a variety of factors, including location, education level, and the number of years they’ve been in practice. If you have your own online therapy practice, you’ll make the same salary you would for offering traditional in-person therapy. According to Monster data, psychologists make about $73,534 a year, while clinical social workers make about $59,197.
One of the advantages of joining an online therapist network is that the network administration takes care of all the billing, insurance, and operations for you. They then pay you a flat fee per client session that varies between $20 and $110 per hour.
How to Find Online Therapist Jobs
You know how to become an online therapist; are you ready to look for virtual therapist jobs? To be considered for psychotherapy jobs, psychology jobs, and other online therapy jobs at any of the therapy networks, you’ll need to submit an application that includes a resume and cover letter.
In your resume, be sure to highlight your education, your licensure and other credentials, and what experience you have working with different populations. You can browse Monster’s resume samples to get started. You can also check out our sample psychology cover letter, which will show you how to write a cover letter that conveys your competence and your passion for helping people in need.
Monster Can Help You Find Your Online Home
Need a game plan for how to become an online therapist? Monster can help. Get in the loop by completing your Monster profile. It’s the fastest way to get in front of recruiters and to get the newest online therapist job postings delivered straight to your inbox. Let us help you, so you can start helping those who are most in need.