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In today’s fast-paced world, mental health issues are becoming more and more common. Yet, the stigma of seeking therapy is still present in many communities, which is why many people are trying to seek anonymous help. But can you go to therapy anonymously?
You can’t go to therapy with 100% anonymity since you’ll have to share personal details with your therapist. However, your therapist will always keep your records confidential. If you don’t want to meet a therapist in person, you can still seek help on online platforms like Talkspace and BetterHelp.
In this post, we’ll explain what remains confidential in a therapy session, and we’ll also recommend multiple alternatives to in-person therapy if you prefer complete anonymity.
Before we start, if you think you’re dealing with a mental health crisis, stop reading now and check these sources to seek immediate help.
Is Therapy Confidential? Yes, but With Some Caveats
Generally speaking, your therapist is legally and ethically obliged to keep your conversations private. They won’t contact anyone without asking you first, and they may also ask for written consent to make sure you’re fully aware of all the information they’ll share.
That said, therapists are also legally required to disclose private information in some cases. We can’t list all these cases in one post, but here are some examples to give you some context:
- When you may hurt yourself: If the therapist thinks you may hurt yourself or have suicidal thoughts, they’ll have to contact someone who can keep you safe, either from family or friends.
- When you may hurt others: If you reveal an intent to hurt a particular person, your therapist will have to inform authorities to keep that person out of harm’s way.
- Cases of domestic violence: Therapists will contact the local Child/Adult Protective Service if they believe a child or an elder client is experiencing domestic abuse.
Therapists don’t break confidentiality unless someone’s life or well-being is at stake.
On the other hand, situations involving non-violent conflicts will generally remain confidential. For example, if a person was cheating on their significant other before going through a divorce, the therapist can’t reveal that information in court.
Will Insurance Companies Know About Your Therapy?
Therapists have to share your diagnosis and treatment plan with your insurer to determine whether the care you need is covered or not. The same applies if you’ll ask the insurer for reimbursement.
From a legal perspective, insurers can ask for any documentation they deem necessary to pay for your therapy. And although they’ll say your information will remain confidential, you shouldn’t take their word for it.
For example, if the insurance is provided via work, the employer may need to know about your diagnosis to cover your therapy.
If You’re Worried, Ask
We know that keeping track of all the legal details can be daunting, especially if you’re already stressed out. To save yourself the hassle, you can always talk with your therapist before sharing any information. Since a therapist’s primary goal is making you comfortable, they’ll put all cards on the table.
Can Minors Go to Therapy Anonymously?
This matter depends on two factors: location and financial status.
In the US, some states may allow minors to go to a therapist without their parents knowing, while some states don’t.
For instance, Illinois allows minors older than 12 years to seek therapy without parental consent. The therapist can only notify the parents in emergencies.
On the other hand, Texan therapists can’t accept minors younger than 18 years without parental consent unless the patient is dealing with domestic abuse, thinking about suicide, or struggling with addiction.
As you probably know, therapy isn’t cheap. Sessions can cost anywhere between $100 and $200, and most people need up to 20 sessions to recover.
If you can’t pay for that out of your own pocket, you’ll have to use your parent’s insurance, and that may come at the cost of your anonymity.
Why? Well, the insurer sends a statement called the explanation of benefits (EOB) to inform your parents about the nature, date, and cost of the provided service. In some cases, the report may explicitly say “mental health treatment,” but it can also say, “office visit.” Even if the insurer uses discreet phrasing, your parents will still ask about the nature of that office visit.
Alternatives to In-Person Therapy
If conventional therapy isn’t discreet enough for you, it’s still possible to seek help through other online platforms and communities.
Talking to an Online Therapist
You can find dozens of online therapy platforms where you can talk to licensed therapists and even psychiatrists. Unlike traditional therapy, you get to control almost all treatment aspects.
For instance, if you’re not comfortable with a live video chat, you can talk on the phone or even via text. Besides, some platforms may offer sessions at night and on weekends, so you can always seek help whenever things get too overwhelming.
Choosing a platform comes down to your needs and preferences. We’ve prepared a brief list of the most famous platforms, explaining what sets each one apart from the others.
Talkspace: Best Overall
After you sign up, you’ll answer some questions about your problem. Then, one of Talkspace’s team members will review your answers to match you with the most relevant therapist available.
One of the unique advantages of Talkspace is the availability of psychiatrists who can prescribe medications. They also have special plans for teens and couples.
If Talkspace’s plans are too expensive for you, BetterHelp should be your best bet. Not only are their plans more affordable, but they also offer financial aid for those struggling to make ends meet.
It’s also important to mention that BetterHelp provides one live session per month in their most affordable plan, whereas Talkspace offers none. You can still sign up for live sessions on Talkspace, but you’ll have to pay more.
Also, BetterHelp goes the extra mile by offering help via phone calls, which aren’t available on Talkspace. That said, you can’t find psychiatrists on BetterHelp.
Can’t make up your mind? We highly recommend checking our detailed comparison between BetterHelp and Talkspace. We’ve covered everything you need to know, including the cost, experience, ease-of-use, and even employee satisfaction.
7 Cups of Tea: Most Affordable
7 Cups of Tea offers therapy for only $150 per month. However, you get what you pay for — their therapists are only available via text, and they don’t respond on weekends.
Keep in mind that 7 Cups has two paid services. The first allows you to talk to licensed therapists. In contrast, the second grants access to the 7 Cups Collection (a collection of interactive resources to help you overcome anxiety, depression, breakups, etc.).
As the name suggests, Teen Counseling can help your kids overcome problems like bullying, school stress, eating disorders, and so forth. However, they only accept teen clients aged between 13 and 19.
Pride Counseling dedicates its services to the LGBTQ+ community. Their services include live sessions, phone calls, and text messages.
Participating in Online Communities
If you can afford neither in-person nor online therapy, you can still blow off some steam in an online chat room by chatting with people who are going through the same hardships you’re encountering.
But of course, such communities can’t provide real mental therapy. If you’ve been dealing with depression for a long time, we don’t think these communities will help you.
Thankfully, you can find dozens of communities that specifically cater to your problem. Here are some famous options to get you started:
- 7 Cups (they have a free community alongside the paid services)
- The Tribe
- The Mighty
- Daily Strength
- 18 Percent
Final Thoughts: Anonymity Isn’t Always Ideal
It’s completely normal to seek anonymity when dealing with a mental illness, especially if you’re living in a non-supportive community.
However, it can be hard to deal with mental illnesses on your own. Talking with others can help you deal with toxic thoughts as long as you pick the right people.
Remember, tough times don’t last, but tough people do!
- HuffPost: What Therapists Are Legally Obligated To Report Despite Confidentiality
- The American Psychological Association: Understanding Confidentiality
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Understanding What HIPAA Means For Mental Illness
- Healthline: Top 10 Online Therapy Picks for 2021
- Mental Health America: How Can I Get Help Without My Family Knowing?
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Disclosing to Others
- Teen Vogue: How to Find a Therapist When Your Parents Won’t Help