Best Online Peer Counseling

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Peer counseling is a way of making mental health care and support more accessible. It allows people with lived experiences with mental health conditions, learning differences, substance use issues, loneliness, or other concerns to support and uplift one another in a safe and inclusive space. Healthcare professionals often recommend peer counseling to improve self-confidence, hope, and quality of life. Research shows that peer counseling can be effective at supporting people with some mental health conditions as well as provide improvements in happiness, self-esteem and effective coping and reductions in depression, loneliness, and anxiety. 

Peer counseling is different from seeing a therapist. Therapists are licensed professionals who have been extensively trained to help you learn coping skills and new behaviors to improve your mental health. When you choose peer counseling, there will often be trained listeners or moderators, and group chats or sessions will include people like you who are looking for help. To help you find support, below are our picks for the best online peer counseling services of 2023. 

Best Online Peer Counseling of 2023 

Our Top Picks

1

Best Overall: Peer Collective

Peer Collective logo

Key Specs

  • Price: $14 to $28 per session
  • Insurance accepted: No
  • Communication options: Audio, Messaging, Video 

Why We Chose It

Peer Collective is an easy-to-use peer counseling platform that connects you with a rigorously vetted and trained counselor who is matched to your needs and personal situation. However, you can choose to change your counselor, and you also have choices for how often you’d like to connect.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Affordable pricing

  • Free first session

  • Trained peer counselors are matched with your needs

Cons
  • No group chat

  • No customer service phone number

  • No licensed therapy service should you need it

Overview


Peer Collective was formed by counseling psychology scholar Tim Desmond as a platform for providing an empathetic listening ear to those who need it. The company aims to improve mental health through emotional support, personal attention, and care. 

With Peer Collective, you will be matched to a vetted and trained counselor who has been screened for emotional intelligence and other skills that the company feels are vital for providing top-notch help. Options are available based on whether you’d prefer a counselor of a particular gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. You can choose to speak to someone as a one-time session, weekly, or more or less often. 

Types of counseling include anxiety, crisis, depression, trauma, anger management, loss, and grief. Counselors can provide an empathetic listening ear or will offer practical advice to help you manage or overcome issues—the type of support is up to you.

While we didn’t survey users in 2022, we did survey users in 2021, and 74% reported that they either had a very good or excellent experience signing up for Peer Collective services. Eighty-two percent of users said their video sessions were very good or excellent, while 86% reported the same about their phone call sessions.

2

Best Subscription: Sesh

Sesh Review Logo

Sesh

Key Specs

  • Price: $30 per day or $60 per month
  • Insurance accepted: No
  • Communication options: Video

Why We Chose It

Sesh is an affordable, easy to use, and inclusive platform for peer support with groups on a wide variety of topics led by licensed therapists. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Group support led by licensed therapists

  • Inclusive, culturally informed, diverse staff and groups

  • Easy to use platform with several topics

Cons
  • No one-on-one talk therapy

  • Not available for teens under 18

Overview

Before transitioning to an online service, Sesh was an in-person group therapy company. While it doesn’t identify as a group therapy service now, it offers a place for peer support under the guidance and leadership of licensed therapists. Your first month is free, so you can try Sesh before deciding on a daily ($30) or monthly membership at an affordable price of $60.

Groups and conversations cover a wide variety of topics, including addiction and recovery; anxiety and stress; using art, music, and movement for mental health; body positivity and self-esteem; communication and relationships; Black wellness, LGBTQ empowerment and other culture-specific topics; depression; grief; parenthood; trauma and more.

Of users surveyed in 2021, 78% rated Sesh’s services as good to excellent, and 70% said the groups met most or all of their needs. Fifty-one percent of people said their insurance paid for part of their therapy costs. Another 70% said they were very likely or likely to recommend Sesh to a friend or someone like them. 

3

Best With Insurance: Sanvello

Sanvello

 Sanvello

Key Specs

  • Price: Basic is free; Premium is $8,99 (but is covered by some employers and insurance plans)
  • Insurance accepted: Yes
  • Communication options: Messaging, video

Why We Chose It

Sanvello offers different levels of support, including peer groups and one-on-one counseling with a trained mental health coach. The coaching may be available through your employer or health plan benefits, as Sanvello partners with some of the largest health insurance providers, employers, and employee assistance programs in the U.S.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Self-care, group peer support, coaching, and therapy available

  • One-on-one mental health coaching and live anonymous classes

  • Coaches have a background in mental wellness and over 200 hours of cognitive behavioral therapy training

Cons
  • Premium features may not be affordable without insurance

  • Training and credentials of coaches unclear

  • Advanced version requires paid subscription

Overview

Sanvello offers options for peer support, counseling, and therapy. Its app also includes self-care features, such as mood tracking, journaling, and guided meditations, which can help reduce symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety and depression. 

Peer support through the app is provided in groups on a wide variety of topics where you can listen, share experiences, ask for or give advice, and talk to people who are likely to understand your feelings and struggles. Coaching is a one-on-one listening option where you can speak to someone trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) who will give you personalized guidance based on your needs.

Of the users surveyed in 2021, 46% said Sanvello was very good to excellent value for their money. Overall, 53% of Sanvello users were satisfied or very satisfied with the app, and 58% would recommend it to a friend.

4

Best for Grief: Circles

Circles logo

Key Specs

  • Price: $79 per month for all features
  • Insurance accepted: No
  • Communication options: Messaging, Audio, Video

Why We Chose It

Circles focuses on providing affordable and accessible help for those experiencing grief and loss. It offers meaningful group support in an environment that promotes security and safety for those who need to talk to others who understand what they’re going through. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Provides peer support for grief, loss, divorce, relationship separation

  • Structured 12-week group sessions

  • Unlimited messaging in group and can message outside of group

Cons
  • No one-on-one options provided

  • Not available for teens under 18

Overview

For those whose group support and peer listening needs arise from experiencing grief, loss, divorce, separation, or other relationship endings, Circles aims to provide a safe and secure place to listen and be heard by those who understand. When joining, you will be asked a few questions to help you find a circle of individuals that suits your needs and preferences.

While Circles is a group therapy peer support platform, you can have an introductory meeting with your chosen group’s facilitator to feel more comfortable when you join the larger group. Each facilitator is either a professionally trained social worker, psychologist, or therapist. Each group meets at the same date and time, which you can choose, for 12 weeks. This consistency helps encourage growth and security, since the same people are working at the same pace to find comfort and healing. Sessions last for one hour. 

In our 2021 survey, 40% of users felt that the company met all of their needs. Seventy percent said they were likely to recommend Circles. Overall, 66% said they were satisfied with Circles’ services.

5

Best for Sobriety Support: Monument

Monument logo

Monument

Key Specs

  • Price: $0 to $259 per month
  • Insurance accepted: Yes
  • Communication options: Messaging, video, audio

Why We Chose It

Monument provides free online chats and support groups you can join anonymously if you choose. Groups are moderated, and you can pay for additional therapy or medication management.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Free therapist-moderated support group chat

  • Can join anonymously or not

  • Support sessions available for several topics

Cons
  • One-on-one support comes at a cost

  • Not suitable for other mental health conditions unless sobriety is also a factor

Overview  

Monument offers support specifically for people who want to achieve and maintain sobriety. You can use free chat and group support forums or subscribe to a membership that suits your needs. Monument also offers therapy and medication management, should you desire it.

Support groups run at different dates and times, meeting consistently with topics that include gender-, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC-specific needs and care; preventing relapse; navigating relationships; self-compassion; and more. Groups are often interactive, with Q&A sessions; when sessions are complete, you can chat with your peers from the group in a chat room 24/7.

The therapist-moderated support groups are free, along with the 24/7 chat rooms. You can choose from three plans offering physician care, medication options, and therapist appointments ranging from $10 to $249 per month.

6

Best Support Chat: HeyPeers

HeyPeers logo

HeyPeers

Key Specs

  • Price: Free chat; $0 to $6 per group meeting; $0 to $40 for one-on-one support
  • Insurance accepted: Yes
  • Communication options: Messaging, video

Why We Chose It

HeyPeers includes three options for finding support: peer support groups, one-to-one coaching, and private chat rooms, each with diverse topics to choose from. Trained peer supporters lead chat groups and meetings, so groups are always moderated.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Chats and groups led by trained peer support moderators

  • Wide variety of chat room topics available

  • Group meetings available for different needs, led by peer support facilitators

Cons
  • Trained peer support leaders are not licensed therapists

  • Some chat groups and meeting topics may not be very active

  • Some free groups and 1:1 meetings are not made public 

Overview

HeyPeers is a chat-based peer support platform with three different ways to interact, including chat rooms available anytime, scheduled video group meetings, and one-on-one sessions with a trained support person. Each option is led or facilitated by a trained support person who has lived experience with the issues and struggles faced by members. 

After joining, you will be matched with groups, peer support, or individual coaching that suits your needs and preferences. You can connect through any device with the trained support person you choose and join their scheduled group meetings on various topics.

HeyPeers has groups and meetings for mental health struggles like anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and so on, and also provides safe spaces for those dealing with chronic illness, pain management, rare diseases, parenting and postpartum, and more. Facilitators and peers offer encouragement, advice, and active listening. 

7

Best for 24/7 Chat Options: Supportiv

Supportiv logo

Supportiv

Key Specs

  • Price: $15 per day
  • Insurance accepted: No
  • Communication options: Messaging

Why We Chose It

Supportiv is a 24/7 peer support chat platform you can access anonymously in under a minute. Chat rooms are always moderated, and moderators provide resources and suggestions to help you. 

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Anonymous chat

  • Chat is always moderated by trained psychology students

  • Chat group matching and targeted recommendations

Cons
  • Moderators are not licensed therapists

  • No options for therapy or 1:1 support

Overview

Supportiv is a “mental wellness” space that does not claim to be therapy. Instead, the company custom-matches you with people who want to talk about the same types of struggles or concerns as you do, with precision. Moderators are always present and will recommend resources that relate to your specific need without any fluff, ads, or spamming. 

Beyond supportive chat rooms matched to your needs, you will find a wealth of resources on Supportiv that trained psychology-student moderators will offer based on your specific needs, or you can browse them yourself. Some organizations and employers cover Supportiv as a benefit, but if not, you can access it for $15 per day.

8

Best for Group Therapy: Mindful Care

Mindful Care

Mindful Care

Key Specs

  • Price: $35 per group therapy session
  • Insurance accepted: Yes
  • Communication options: Video

Why We Chose It

Mindful Care has options for individual therapy, but its group therapy stands out for being led by licensed psychologists using CBT methods in an inclusive, judgment-free environment designed to challenge and change undesirable thoughts and behaviors. Many insurance companies are accepted, but self-pay is available at an affordable rate.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Group therapy is led by licensed therapists

  • Based on proven therapy practices (CBT, DBT, psychotherapy, etc.)

  • Affordable group therapy sessions for those without insurance coverage

Cons
  • Groups only meet at specific times of the day between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  • No follow-up chat with group members available

Overview

Mindful Care offers multiple therapy options so you can choose the type of care you need or prefer. You can choose from one-on-one therapy sessions or connect with peers for group sharing. Mindful Care helps you find the best treatment option for your needs.

The group therapy option is called MindFit Group Therapy. There are options to choose from: anxiety, depression, LGBTQA+, life’s challenges, healthy relationships, substance use, emotional concerns (borderline personality disorder and other diagnoses), bipolar disorder, and trauma. Each group meets for one hour weekly in the morning, afternoon, or evening. 

Eighty-three percent of those we surveyed are so confident in Mindful Care’s services, they’d recommend them to a friend. Additionally, 84% said they were happy with Mindful Care’s ability to match them with a therapists. Overall, 92% of surveyed users said Mindful Care’s service were good to excellent. 

9

Best National Service: Togetherall

Togetherall logo

Togetherall

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Insurance accepted: No
  • Communication options: Messaging

Why We Chose It

Togetherall provides a safe space online to share feelings and receive encouragement and support anonymously. The community is monitored by licensed and registered mental health practitioners and is available across the U.S. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can join and use the community free if your employer or school offers it as a benefit.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Communities led by licensed mental health care practitioners

  • Moderators ensure anonymity and safety

  • Options for tools, courses, and resources

Cons
  • No options for one-on-one therapy

  • No self-pay option

Overview

Togetherall is a free service for employees and students, providing a community for sharing, giving, and receiving support and encouragement under the guidance of licensed, registered mental health care practitioners. The company aims to help people improve their mental health and well-being in a nonjudgmental space while remaining anonymous.

Moderators also proactively respond to members in crisis, offering support, which may involve guiding them to find local assistance from a doctor or therapist. You can choose to “ask a wall guide,” which will open a chat between you and a licensed mental health care practitioner where you can ask for specific help using the platform or finding further care or resources. Resources on the website include articles and self-help courses covering topics such as anxiety, sleep, depression, and many more.

10

Best Online Community: The Tribe

The Tribe logo

The Tribe

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Insurance accepted: N/A
  • Communication options: Messaging

Why We Chose It

The Tribe combines five groups from long-standing support websites into one place, with groups and chats for a variety of challenges plus resources like helpful activities, mood mapping, and member blogs.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Well-rounded environment to find support and resources

  • Peer-to-peer support groups on several topics

  • Trained listeners and moderation

Cons
  • Website may be challenging to navigate

Overview

The Tribe is a peer-to-peer support platform with both live chat and forum posting. Topics include anxiety, addiction, depression, HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ, marriage and family, OCD, and teen-focused. There are additional resources you can use, including helpful activities, mood mapping, expert-created articles, and blogging. 

Although the Tribe is not therapy or one-on-one care, you can use it to search for therapists based on your needs and location. You can tailor your posts and chats to only be visible to your chosen online connections or the general public, providing a level of privacy you are comfortable with.

11

Best for LGBTQ+: Pay What You Can Peer Support LGBTQ Virtual Peer Support Group

Pay What You Can Peer Support logo

Pay What You Can Peer Support

Key Specs

  • Price: By donation
  • Insurance accepted: N/A
  • Communication options: Video

Why We Chose It

The LGBTQ Virtual Peer Support Group is a pay-what-you-can group run by a mental health practitioner that provides a safe space for people to connect, share their struggles, help others, and receive advice. Although the groups are video-based, there is no pressure to have your camera on during sessions.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Accessible and based on donations

  • No pressure to have your camera turned on or to speak

Cons
  • Groups are run at particular times only

  • Spaces are limited

Overview

Pay What You Can Peer Support was created by Daniel Cole, who found immense benefit from joining a peer support group for his own struggles. He wanted to bring the benefits he experienced to a broader community, making it accessible to anyone with a donation-only payment. The LGBTQIA+ support is one of several available group on the site and is led by a certified social support worker and counselor.

The group meets virtually on Zoom once per week and provides an outlet for people to meet, connect, and discuss their feelings and struggles with one another. The pay-what-you-can model allows you to add a donation after your group meets while providing feedback about your experience. 

Final Verdict

Peer Collective is our top choice for the best online peer counseling due to its ease of use, affordability, communication options, and ability to choose specific options for counselor matching. Peer Collective is also exclusive about who it will allow to work as a peer counselor and provides extensive training.

If you prefer to talk to a group rather than a trained listener, you may want to check out Sesh for a therapist-led support group. If you prefer instant messaging or posting on a forum, try HeyPeers or Togetherall.

Compare the Best Online Peer Counseling 

Company Price  Insurance Accepted  Communication Options 
Peer Collective Best Overall $14 to $28 per session No Audio, messaging Video
Sesh Best Subscription $30 per day $60 per month No Video 
Sanvello Best With Insurance Free for basic $8.99 per month for premium Yes Messaging
Circles Best for Grief $79 per month No Audio, messaging
Monument Best for Sobriety $0 to $259 Yes Audio, messaging, video 
HeyPeers Best for Support Chat Free chat $0 to $6 per group meeting $0 to $40 for 1:1 No Messaging, video 
Supportiv Best 24/7 Chat Options $15 per day No Messaging
Mindful.care Best for Group Therapy $35 per session Yes Video
Togetherall Best National Service Funded No Messaging
The Tribe Best Online Community Free Messaging, forums
Pay What You Can Peer Support Virtual Peer Support Group Best for LGBTQ+ By donation Video

Guide to Choosing the Best Online Peer Counseling 

What Is Online Peer Counseling? 

Online peer counseling is an effective way to connect with others and share your struggles while giving and receiving support, advice, and a sense of community. People with lived experiences similar to yours join group chats, forums, video calls, and sessions to create a safe place where you feel others understand you and care about you. Peer counseling can also take place one-on-one or include a combination of group and one-on-one care.

How Is Online Peer Counseling Different From Online Therapy?

Online peer counseling is different from online therapy because you are meeting with others sharing lived experiences of similar struggles as you face. The idea is to provide mutual support rather than expert advice. However, many peer groups are led by experts and can include advice, resources, and actionable tips to help you through your struggles. Not all peer counseling is led by or includes licensed therapists or mental health experts.

How to Decide Which Peer Counseling Service Is Right for You

To help decide which peer counseling service is right for you, it’s wise to consider exactly what your needs and preferences are. Keep in mind that peer counseling services are inappropriate for those experiencing a mental health crisis or feeling suicidal. Factors to consider include:

  • Type of support: Look for a peer counseling service that has a community you think you'll connect with. Peer support works best when you can share and listen to others with similar experiences.
  • Mode of communication: There are options for video, audio, instant messaging, forums, and more. Consider what type of communication you prefer or if you’d like multiple options. Also, consider whether you can join using a computer, mobile, or other device based on your needs.
  • Moderator qualifications: Some peer counseling platforms provide groups led by or moderated by trained listeners, while others are led by licensed therapists or other qualified mental health practitioners. Consider the level of training and qualifications of those leading and moderating and your preferences before joining.
  • Anonymity: Many peer counseling platforms provide complete anonymity and privacy. If this is important to you, investigate the level of anonymity you will be provided before choosing.
  • Price: Whether you’d like a more basic free or pay-what-you-can service or require more structured peer counseling that comes at a cost, consider the price you are willing to pay before deciding. It's also wise to consider whether your benefits or insurance may cover the costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Online Peer Counseling Effective?

Online peer counseling can be effective alongside traditional therapy or as a stand-alone support for those without severe mental health issues. Research shows that peer counseling can improve mental health recovery and empowerment. Peer counseling can also help you feel less socially isolated and lonely and allows for connection with others who may understand your struggles, increasing feelings of validation and hope.

Is Online Peer Counseling Expensive?

Online peer counseling ranges in price from free chat groups or pay-what-you-can models to pay-per-session or subscription-based payment methods. Prices range from $0 to over $200 per month, depending on the type of counseling service and plan.

Does Insurance Coverage Online Peer Counseling?

Insurance coverage does pay for some online peer counseling, but not all. Check with your insurance provider to be sure. Some organizations or employee benefits include membership in peer counseling and social support groups. 

How Long Are Online Peer Counseling Sessions?

Online peer counseling sessions range in length, with the average being one hour. Some platforms offer quicker meetings, while others can be longer, depending on what type of session you choose and which company you use.

Do Peer Counselors Have Training?

Peer counselors often have training, but the training varies from company to company. Some peer counselors have a background in mental health and psychology, while the company gives others brief training. 

Methodology

To perform this review, we looked at approximately 25 peer support platforms. Factors considered in the evaluation include safety, ease of use, anonymity options, moderation and training of peer counselors or group leaders, and affordability. Companies that did not make the list either provided less accessible or lower quality services, had issues with safety and privacy, included too many ads, or had lower-quality websites or apps. Verywell did not re-survey users when creating this article.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shalaby RAH, Agyapong VIO. Peer support in mental health: literature review. JMIR Ment Health. 2020;7(6):e15572. doi:10.2196/15572

  2. Smit D, Miguel C, Vrijsen JN, Groeneweg B, Spijker J, Cuijpers P. The effectiveness of peer support for individuals with mental illness: systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychol Med. 2022:1-10. doi:10.1017/S0033291722002422

  3. Richard J, Rebinsky R, Suresh R, et al. Scoping review to evaluate the effects of peer support on the mental health of young adults. BMJ Open. 2022;12(8):e061336. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2022-061336

  4. White S, Foster R, Marks J, et al. The effectiveness of one-to-one peer support in mental health services: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2020;20(1):534. doi:10.1186/s12888-020-02923-3

By April McCormick
April is the health editor for performance marketing at Verywell, where she oversees family health, wellness, and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Time, Parents Magazine, The Huffington Post, TripSavvy, Parenting.com, First Time Mom and Dad, Mama Mia, All4Women, the New York Times Bestseller, A Letter To My Mom, and more.

Edited by
April McCormick
April McCormick

April is the health editor for performance marketing at Verywell. Her work has appeared in Time, Parents Magazine, The Huffington Post, TripSavvy, Parenting.com, First Time Mom and Dad, Mama Mia, All4Women, the New York Times Bestseller, A Letter To My Mom, and more.

Learn about our editorial process
and
Simone Scully
simone-scully-verywell

Simone is the health editorial director for performance marketing at Verywell. She has over a decade of experience as a professional journalist covering mental health, chronic conditions, medicine, and science.

Learn about our editorial process