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Guide to Finding the Best Online Psychiatrist

Find out how the best online psychiatry providers compare in price, quality, and services

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2022
online psychiatrist

Around 25% of Americans have a mental health condition, yet more than half don’t seek treatment. Many people experience barriers to psychiatric treatment, including cost of services, difficulty attending in-person appointments, and fear of the stigma associated with seeing a psychiatrist.

Online psychiatry helps overcome a number of these barriers. It offers private, convenient access from the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the cost of traditional services. As many people become more comfortable holding a range of meetings online, online psychiatry’s rising popularity is no surprise.

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic also led to looser restrictions on telehealth prescriptions. To reduce in-person consultations, governments updated the laws and guidelines on remote prescription of drugs. This makes telemedicine in general, and online psychiatry in particular, a viable option.

We have thoroughly tested and compared all of the significant online psychiatry providers in 2022. This guide presents the best providers to help you decide which one is right for you.

Our Top Choice

Cerebral Psychiatry

Cerebral offers a convenient and affordable service for psychiatric consultation and ongoing prescription management.

With a monthly subscription, you save money compared to rivals, and you save considerable time and headache compared to a traditional, in-person route. Though talk therapy isn’t available in all 50 states yet, the psychiatric care is highly recommended.

Why you should trust us

Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

Like all health-related content on this website, this guide is thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. Additionally, we extensively analyze each health-related service we review. We evaluate the entire customer experience from signing up to using the product or service and then offer unbiased, marketing-jargon-free analysis based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255).

What characteristics of online psychiatrists should you consider?

Modes of communication

Online psychiatry provides a range of ways to contact your psychiatrist. Video calls are standard for remote consultation, but some platforms also have the option of voice calls, live chats, or a messaging system. Choosing the modality that works best for you will likely lead to higher satisfaction with your service.

Psychiatrists available

An advantage of online psychiatry is that you don’t have to travel to your psychiatrist’s office. This means it is easier to access different doctors and find one with whom you’re comfortable.

Psychiatrists need to be licensed in your state to provide diagnoses or prescriptions. On some platforms, it’s possible to view a directory of the doctors available in your state; choosing a platform that employs many psychiatrists increases your chances of finding someone who works well with you.

Many platforms allow you to view provider profiles that give you details about each psychiatrist. You can learn about their background, specialties, and other information before matching with them. If you’re not matched with the ideal provider, you can switch to a different doctor.

Pricing structure

Seeing a psychiatrist online is usually cheaper than in-person psychiatry, but the pricing and structure vary across platforms. Some platforms work on a subscription basis, where a monthly payment covers a certain amount of therapy throughout that time, while others are based on a per-visit price.

In addition to the price per visit, you should consider the length of the sessions offered to make sure it fits your expectations.

Insurance

Some online psychiatry providers can accept insurance and health plans to cover or contribute to their services’ costs. If you have insurance, it’s a good idea to check if your particular program is listed with each platform, so you know what is covered before you sign up.

Sign-up process

The sign-up process for each provider is different but often starts with inputting your data into a form or questionnaire. The amount of information you have to provide varies: for services that include diagnosis and prescription, you will need to provide your full name and address. It may be possible for some other therapy programs to use a nickname and not provide any identifying information at all.

The platform matches you to a licensed professional to help meet your objectives.

  • On some platforms, this is performed by an algorithm based on a questionnaire you complete.
  • On other platforms, you live chat with a staff member to understand your needs better and match you with a provider.
  • In some cases, there is a directory you can browse to select the doctor you prefer.

Privacy and confidentiality

Licensed psychiatrists are bound by state and national privacy and confidentiality laws regarding your data and clinical information. Additionally, all online telemedicine platforms are obliged to follow HIPAA regulations to ensure the security of your data.

The amount of personal information you have to share depends on the platform, some allowing you to use a nickname for therapy sessions to avoid sharing identifying information. However, for your online psychiatrist to prescribe medication or coordinate with your primary care physician (PCP), you must provide personal information. This is the main difference between online psychiatry and online counseling, where prescriptions are unavailable.

Which companies offer online psychiatry?

There are several online platforms for psychiatry, each with distinct features and policies. While these companies offer remote psychiatry services, they differ in price, media, prescriptions, insurance coverage, and many other features.

Below, you’ll find profiles of several companies that currently offer online psychiatry services. We’ve divided them into two categories: companies with a mental health focus and comprehensive telehealth companies.

Companies with a mental health focus include:

We’ve also included information about BetterHelp, a big name in online therapy. Please note: BetterHelp does not offer online psychiatry services at this time. We do recommend BetterHelp for online counseling if you are not seeking a prescription.

Some companies offer a more comprehensive approach to health overall, with mental health services as just a part of their offerings. These comprehensive companies include:

  • Hims
  • Hers
  • Doctor on Demand
  • MD Live
  • Teladoc
  • Amwell

The chart below summarizes some of the features and services these companies offer.

  Talkspace Cerebral Hims Hers Doctor on Demand MD Live Teladoc Amwell
Initial Session Cost $249 $30 $85/month $85/month $299 $284 $229 $279
Follow Up Session Cost $125 $85/month $85/month $85/month $129 $108 $119 $109
Subscription Required?  
Yes
Yes
Yes
       
Do I Choose Provider?
Yes
     
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Companies with a mental health focus

Some online health companies cover more expansive offerings – like skin care, primary care, sexual health, etc. – in addition to mental health. Companies like Talkspace, Cerebral, and BetterHelp focus exclusively on mental health.

For Talkspace and Cerebral, telepsychiatry services are just one facet of their mental health offerings. Note: BetterHelp does not offer telepsychiatry at this time. However, their ongoing therapy services are unmatched, which is why we’ve included them here. In our experience, quite often, people who are new to therapy may think they need one type of therapy (psychiatric or talk) but end up benefiting significantly from the other.

Cerebral

Pros

  • Works with insurance providers and HSA/FSA to keep costs low
  • Prescriptions are $10/month on average for uninsured patients
  • Care counselor and prescriber work together to find the right prescription
  • Free prescription delivery
  • Reduced subscription cost for first month

Cons

  • Some treatments only available in certain states

Cerebral is a telehealth company that focuses on mental health, providing both therapy and psychiatry services. Currently, they offer services that treat:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD

For some of these issues, Cerebral is bound by location. To find out what they can treat in your area, visit their webpage.

For all the details, read our full Cerebral review.

Cerebral offers both psychiatry services and therapy using a subscription system. Because not all team members that can prescribe medications are psychiatrists, Cerebral uses the term “prescriber.” Prescribers include psychiatrists, doctors, nurse practitioners, and other board-certified healthcare professionals that can prescribe medication.

You’ll meet with your prescriber only once unless a follow-up is necessary. During this appointment, your prescriber assesses your condition and prescribes a medication that can help. From there, you meet monthly with a care counselor to discuss how your medication is working.

  • Medication + Care Counseling is $85 per month.
  • This includes prescription, medication delivery, progress tracking, and a monthly appointment with your care counselor.

Your care counselor monitors your progress with your prescribed medication to ensure that it is working for you. If necessary, your care counselor can set up a follow-up with your prescriber to adjust your medicine. Currently, Cerebral offers a discounted first month of services for $30.

  • Medication + Therapy is $325 per month.
  • In addition to everything covered in Medication + Care Counseling, this package includes weekly talk therapy and unlimited messaging with your therapist.

Those needing medication for mental health issues often benefit from talk therapy, so Cerebral offers this more comprehensive subscription. (They also provide a therapy-only subscription for $259/month.)

One thing that sets Cerebral apart from other telepsychiatry services is health insurance coverage. Cerebral works with some insurance plans, making your subscription only $29 per month. Some insurance plans will also cover the cost of prescription medications. Cerebral keeps medication costs low for uninsured customers who pay just $10 on average per month. You can also use HSA/FSA accounts to pay for services.

Bottom line

Cerebral offers high-quality telepsychiatry that sets them apart from competitors. They work with various insurance companies and HSA/FSA to cut costs. They also provide a discounted first month so you can try out their services without paying full price. The Medication + Care Counseling package gives you access to medication (with free delivery) as well as a counselor who monitors your progress for only $85/month.

Talkspace

Pros

  • Talkspace psychiatrists prescribe medication as needed
  • You make the final decision about which doctor to see
  • Accepts some insurance and health plan providers
  • Initial consultation is cheaper than many telemedicine providers
  • Take $100 off your first month

Cons

  • Only video consultations offered

Talkspace has been offering online therapy since 2012. In 2018, they launched a psychiatry service, covering everything from initial consultations to prescription management.

Read our full review of Talkspace.

To start the process:

  1. Answer a few questions about your mental health status, location, and provider preferences.

  2. Select a psychiatrist from the list provided.

  3. Check out each provider profile to see who is the best fit for your needs.

All providers are either psychiatrists or psychiatry-specialized nurse practitioners.

All sessions with the psychiatrist are performed through video chat using the Talkspace app. The app is available on phones and tablets. You can also access video chats using a web browser on your computer or laptop.

Talkspace psychiatry services are pay-per-visit.

  • The initial consultation costs $249.
  • Follow-up appointments cost $125.
  • Talkspace partners with some insurance companies and Employee Assistance Program providers to cover the costs of some of their services.

Talkspace psychiatry isn’t ongoing mental health counseling; instead, it focuses on finding the right prescription and discussing it as needed. Talkspace recommends its therapy program for those who seek ongoing counseling.

All Talkspace practitioners are based in the US, and you’re matched with one who is licensed in your state. By default, you consult with the same psychiatrist throughout your treatment but can change psychiatrists if you request. Talkspace services are not available outside of the US.

Bottom line

Talkspace offers online psychiatry services where you’re allowed to choose between a few doctors. The initial consultation ($249) is a good value, and overall, Talkspace provides a very convenient service. The primary reason for psychiatry services through Talkspace is for diagnoses and medication prescription; those seeking ongoing counseling should subscribe to additional therapy services.

BetterHelp

Pros

  • Affordable monthly therapy subscription for unlimited contact, rather than pay-per-session
  • Financial aid offered to qualifying patients
  • Easy to change counselors if you are unhappy
  • Can see licensed, accredited psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers
  • Therapy service available worldwide
  • The best flexibility in how to interact meaningfully with your therapist — through messages, voice, or video calls
  • Take 20% off services with code INNERBODY

Cons

  • No online psychiatry services
  • BetterHelp’s network does not include psychiatrists who can prescribe medication or make diagnoses
  • Referring relationship with Brightside for access to prescriptions no longer exists

One of the best-known platforms in online therapy and counseling, BetterHelp connects patients with licensed and experienced counselors and therapists. However, BetterHelp does not offer telepsychiatry.

You can also check out our full BetterHelp review to learn more.

BetterHelp’s psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers are all licensed and accredited, with master’s or doctoral degrees in their field and over 1,000 hours of professional experience. BetterHelp evaluates these professionals for weeks before allowing them into the network; fewer than one in five applicants end up meeting the company’s standards to provide care. But BetterHelp can’t connect you with psychiatrists. For that, you must look elsewhere.

BetterHelp therapy works on a subscription for unlimited contact with your designated therapist. This includes written messages and live sessions, which can take the form of text chats and audio and video calls.

  • Subscriptions are charged monthly or quarterly.
  • The average rate is $60-$90 a week.
  • The platform does not accept insurance but offers significant financial aid discounts for qualifying patients.

All BetterHelp therapists are based in the United States, but the service is available worldwide. For continuity, you work with the same therapist throughout your treatment. If you are unhappy with your therapist, you can request to change at any time.

Diagnoses and prescriptions

BetterHelp doesn’t offer telepsychiatry, so no one in their network can make diagnoses or prescribe medication.

Previously, BetterHelp provided a convenient path to get a prescription. If a BetterHelp therapist determined that you could benefit from a prescription medication – for instance, to treat depression or anxiety more effectively – the therapist could connect you with a prescribing psychiatrist through a telemedicine company called Brightside. However, this referring relationship between BetterHelp and Brightside no longer exists.

Bottom line

Right now, BetterHelp does not offer psychiatric services, which means patients looking for help arriving at a diagnosis or getting prescription medication should look elsewhere. Even if you seek a psychiatrist, you may still benefit from BetterHelp’s talk therapy. Your BetterHelp therapist can help you determine whether you need to see a psychiatrist or not. With some of the most affordable and flexible online therapy services, BetterHelp is our Editor’s Choice for online talk therapy in 2022 for many reasons.

Comprehensive telehealth companies that offer psychiatry

The companies in this section offer a broad range of services, including mental health. Many of these companies assist with primary care, nutrition, sexual health, skin and hair care, and many others, in addition to behavioral health. If you’re looking to treat both physical and mental issues, consider a more comprehensive telemedicine company.

Hims

Pros

  • Low-cost psychiatry subscription covers initial visit and follow-ups
  • Prescriptions ship directly to your door
  • Certified, vetted providers in your area
  • Offers mental health services that cater specifically to men’s issues
  • Free mental health visit

Cons

  • You don’t get to select your provider – Hims assigns one to you
  • Not covered by most insurance

Hims is a men’s health telemedicine site that offers subscription services for various issues like sexual health, hair care, skin care, primary care, and mental health. Part of their mental health offering includes telepsychiatry.

Read our full Hims review here.

Hims’ interface allows you to schedule virtual sessions with a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication. Fill out a questionnaire that asks about your current mental health issues and personal information like medical history and location.

Then you choose a day and time that works for you for an initial consultation. Hims pairs you with a certified provider in your state, which could be a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

During your video call, you and your provider discuss your mental health needs to determine the best treatment plan. If this involves medication, your provider will write the prescription and discreetly ship the medication directly to you.

You’ll see the same provider during follow-up appointments who will monitor your progress and make adjustments if needed.

  • The psychiatry subscription costs $85/month.
  • This includes the initial consultation and any follow-up visits.
  • Most insurance plans do not cover Hims psychiatric services.

Hims also offers individual and group counseling, with individual sessions costing $99. Once you match with a therapist, you can work with them to establish a schedule that works for both of you. Group sessions can vary by topic on a weekly or monthly basis, and many are poorly attended.

Bottom line

Hims is a men’s health brand that offers a low-cost subscription for psychiatry services. At $85/month which covers the initial consultation and all follow-ups, Hims service may be the most affordable out there. But, you will sacrifice some convenience for this budget-friendly price. You don’t get to select your provider, and most health insurance plans do not cover Hims.

Hers

Pros

  • Low-cost subscription that includes medication, delivery, and appointments
  • Robust mental health offerings – psychiatry, therapy, support groups, free resources
  • Medications ship discreetly
  • A woman-focused company
  • All providers are board-certified and vetted by Hers
  • Free mental health assessment

Cons

  • You’ll likely pay out-of-pocket – Hers isn’t covered by most insurance plans
  • You don’t get to choose your provider

Hers is the sister site to Hims, offering woman-focused telehealth services that include

  • Skin care
  • Hair care
  • Sexual health
  • Primary care
  • Mental health
  • Supplements

Read our full Hers review here.

To get started with Hers, fill out a mental health survey. Your survey results pair you with a provider for a telehealth video call. All providers are licensed psychiatrists or psychiatric professionals who can prescribe medication. Your medicine ships to your door in discreet packaging. With your provider, you also schedule periodic check-in visits to monitor your treatment and ensure that it’s effective.

Hers telepsychiatry services include a subscription of $85/month. This subscription includes medication delivery and appointments with your doctor. You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Medications available include generics of well-known medicines like:

  • Wellbutrin
  • Celexa
  • Cymbalta
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor

In addition to telepsychiatry services, Hers also offers online therapy, support groups, and loads of free mental health-related resources, including videos on self-care, stress reduction, and mindfulness. Online therapy costs $99 per session, and support groups are temporarily free during the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, they cost only $15 per session.

Bottom line

Hers is a woman-focused company that offers high-quality, convenient telepsychiatry services. For $85 per month, you receive consultations with your provider and your prescribed medication mailed directly to your door. Providers are qualified and well-vetted. In addition to psychiatry services, Hers offers many other mental health resources to ensure a holistic approach.

Doctor on Demand

Pros

  • Accepts many major insurance plans
  • No subscription necessary to receive care
  • Highly skilled providers

Cons

  • Expensive cost per visit for uninsured patients
  • No live chat, only video or phone sessions

Doctor on Demand is a comprehensive telehealth company that covers urgent care, behavioral health, preventive health, and chronic care. Unlike many telepsychiatry services, Doctor on Demand is covered by many health insurance plans, including:

  • Aetna
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • United Healthcare

Doctor on Demand’s behavioral health services provide treatment for:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Postpartum
  • Relationships
  • Trauma and loss

They also offer screenings for anxiety, PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and more. Currently, all sessions are held via phone or video. Live chat sessions are not available.

To get started with telepsychiatry, take a quick mental health assessment. The site then provides you with provider profiles to look through. Doctor on Demand states that their providers are certified and have an average of 15 years of experience in mental health. After choosing a provider, schedule your initial session.

  • For uninsured patients, initial psychiatry sessions cost $299 for 45 minutes.
  • Follow-up appointments cost $129 for 15 minutes.

Doctor on Demand does not offer a subscription service, so customers pay per visit and can stop visits without canceling a subscription. In addition to telepsychiatry, Doctor on Demand also offers online therapy for $129 for a 25-minute consultation and $179 for a 50-minute consultation.

Bottom line

An expansive telehealth company, Doctor on Demand offers high-quality telepsychiatry services for various conditions. Unlike many of their competitors, their services are covered by many major insurance providers. However, out-of-pocket costs for uninsured patients are much higher than other companies. If you’re insured and want a high quality of care without needing a subscription, Doctor on Demand might be the right choice for you.

MDLive

Pros

  • Long-established and reputable company
  • The patient selects a doctor from a directory, which some prefer
  • Can consult by phone or video call
  • Accepts a range of insurance and health plans
  • Follow-ups are cheaper than some competitors
  • Sessions can last longer than 15 minutes as needed

Cons

  • A much more expensive first consultation cost than other providers like Talkspace

MDLive Behavioral Health was established in 2014, offering psychiatric care and counseling. In 2017, they became the first platform to provide telepsychiatry in all 50 states.

Patients usually start with counseling and are then referred to one of the MDLive psychiatrists in addition to a counselor if needed. When signing up for psychiatric services, patients can select a provider based on their online profile in the MDLive directory. Some patients like the autonomy this gives them, compared to being automatically matched with a doctor. It is usually possible to schedule the first session within the same week.

MDLive psychiatry consultations are conducted via video or audio call and last 15-30 minutes.

  • The first visit costs up to $284, and follow-up appointments are up to $108.
  • The amount you pay depends on your insurance coverage.
  • MDLive partners with several insurance and health plan providers, so it is worth checking if your treatment will be covered.

Bottom line

We recommend MDLive for patients who have used online psychiatry before. The initial fee is high, but follow-up costs are low with comparatively generous session durations. This makes MDLive a solid long-term option for people who know that telehealth services work well for them.

Teladoc

Pros

  • Accepts a range of insurance and health plans
  • Patients choose psychiatrists from a directory
  • Can consult by phone or video call
  • Health plan coverage makes the follow-up consultation prices more affordable

Cons

  • Relatively high follow-up consult price for uninsured patients

Teladoc offers remote psychiatrist consultations as part of their mental health services. The sign-up process involves filling out a form with your personal details, including insurance or health plan information. After selecting which type of provider you want to connect with, Teladoc provides a directory of doctors to make your choice.

Teladoc’s consultations occur by phone or video. Initial sessions are typically between 45 and 60 minutes long, while follow-up psychiatry appointments are shorter. Teladoc accepts several insurance and employer health plans, but you can also access the services as a self-pay patient.

  • The first visit costs up to $299, and follow-up appointments are up to $119.
  • The amount you pay depends on your insurance coverage.

For the sake of continuity, the Teladoc system usually schedules you with the same psychiatrist throughout your treatment. However, if you’d like to switch, you can request to do so.

Bottom line

Teladoc provides telepsychiatry through phone and video calls, allowing patients to select the doctor they wish to see. The pricing structure can be relatively expensive in the long-term for self-pay patients, but Teladoc works with a range of insurance and health plans that may cover the costs.

Amwell

Pros

  • Collaborative approach with the patient’s PCP, providing a broader spectrum of medications if needed
  • Platform supports three-way video sessions so family members can join
  • Works with insurance and health plans

Cons

  • Short follow-up sessions
  • Initial consultation is more expensive than some providers like Talkspace

Amwell offers online psychiatry within the US. Once you input your data, the Amwell platform presents you with options for psychiatrists who are licensed to work in your state. Some patients like the freedom to select their provider, while others feel that this step took a lot of time.

Amwell psychiatry appointments happen via live video sessions. If there are technical difficulties with the video platform, an audio call is the backup plan. One unique aspect is that the video platform supports three-way video calls, meaning the patient can invite a family member or partner to join some sessions.

Additionally, Amwell’s video interface allows you to hide your face from your view, which is comforting for some people who find it distracting to see themselves on-screen while talking with someone else.

  • The first session with the Amwell psychiatrist is 45 minutes long and costs $279.
  • Follow-up appointments are 15 minutes and cost $109.
  • Amwell works with some insurance and health plans, so your treatment costs may be covered by your plan.

The psychiatry offered by doctors through Amwell does not include psychotherapy, but your psychiatrist can refer you to an online counselor or psychotherapist within the Amwell network if talk therapy and behavioral therapy would be helpful for your condition.

Amwell offers a collaborative psychiatry setup in which the psychiatrist coordinates with your primary care provider with your consent. This ensures oversight of your medications. Amwell’s system also enables the psychiatrist to recommend the prescription of controlled drugs by the PCP — medications they cannot prescribe to you remotely — and request lab tests and other diagnostics.

As psychiatrists can only work within the states where they are licensed, Amwell lets you update your location if you are out of your normal state and connect to a new licensed psychiatrist in the state where you are temporarily located.

Bottom line

Thanks to the low follow-up appointment cost, Amwell’s telepsychiatry services could be the most affordable long-term solution for people without insurance. The company prioritizes a collaborative approach, involving the patient’s PCP with permission and facilitating family members to join the psychiatry sessions if needed.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

While psychiatrists and psychologists are both professionals who help patients in the field of mental health, there are significant differences between the two roles.

Psychologists usually have a doctorate in psychology (either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.) and internship training for several years to acquire their license. They work in the field of psychotherapy and behavioral intervention. While they make diagnoses, they cannot prescribe drugs since they aren’t medical doctors. Instead, they refer you to a doctor as needed.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with a further specialization in psychiatry and mental health. They can diagnose and prescribe medication for psychiatric conditions. Some psychiatrists also provide psychotherapy the same way that psychologists do, or they may work alongside a counselor.

This handy guide has a more comprehensive look at the differences among mental health provider types.

What are some disorders that a psychiatrist can treat?

Psychiatrists are licensed to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders. An online psychiatrist can help with the following conditions:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Depression
  • Medication management
  • Personality conditions
  • OCD
  • Substance abuse
  • Trauma and PTSD

Online psychiatry is not suitable in emergencies or for patients with a severe diagnosis. If you or someone you know is in an emergency situation, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255).

How does online psychiatry work?

There are variations from platform to platform and some differences in how you interface depending on the company, but the process generally has 4 main components: sign-up, scheduling a consultation, attending the consultation, and receiving follow-up care – all from the privacy of home. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what you can expect.

Step one: Sign up

On your provider’s website, input information about yourself and your objectives for treatment. Usually, there is a short form or questionnaire to complete. Some platforms also have an additional stage of discussion with a qualified staff member to identify your priorities and ensure you are matched to the most suitable doctor.

Step two: Set up your appointment

Once connected to your doctor, make an appointment to consult with them virtually. With most online psychiatrists, you make your first appointment within a week of signing up for the service. Consultations usually occur through video calls, although some platforms support phone or live chat consultations. No special equipment is needed – just your phone or computer and an internet connection.

Step three: Initial consultation

In your appointment, your psychiatrist will discuss your condition with you and, for platforms that provide complete psychiatry services, make diagnoses and prescribe medications. With your consent, the psychiatrist can coordinate with your primary care provider to help your condition, such as recommending diagnostic tests or controlled drugs that cannot be prescribed remotely.

Step four: Follow-up care

You will usually continue to consult with the same psychiatrist throughout your treatment to provide continuity of care instead of starting over each session with a new doctor who doesn’t know your history. However, if you are unhappy with your psychiatrist, most platforms make switching to a different doctor easy.

What’s the difference between online and in-person psychiatry?

The idea of consulting a psychiatrist online may be daunting. Some patients worry that they won’t be comfortable opening up to a psychiatrist through a virtual connection. For a growing number of people, however, the idea of seeing a psychiatrist from the comfort of their own home without having to commute to the doctor’s office or juggle childcare is a huge plus.

Online psychiatry tends to have a more straightforward start-up process, enabling patients to get the help they need faster than the conventional in-person system. Many platforms get new patients their first online appointment within a week, compared to a two-month referral process through a primary care physician.

Remote care is beneficial for some patients who have difficulty accessing in-person services. This includes:

  • People living in remote areas, making travel to the nearest in-person provider difficult.
  • Patients with physical limitations or anxiety disorders.

Psychiatrists need to be licensed to practice and prescribe medication in your state. This means that people who often cross state lines can only access their psychiatrist when in their home state. Some online psychiatry platforms allow you to consult with an alternative psychiatrist if you are away from home, which means a loss of continuity.

Another aspect that makes online psychiatry more accessible than conventional face-to-face appointments is the cost.

  • An initial in-office consultation with a psychiatrist usually costs around $400.
  • The equivalent from an online provider can be as low as $199.

Nevertheless, there are some situations in which in-person psychiatry is more appropriate. As most providers state, online psychiatry is not suitable for emergencies or patients with severe diagnoses. Most also only offer services for patients over the age of 18.

Although online psychiatrists can prescribe a range of medications, they cannot prescribe “controlled” drugs under current law. These are federally regulated and can only be prescribed by a doctor who has met you in person. Controlled psychiatric drugs include:

  • Opiates, such as morphine, oxycodone, and Vicodin
  • Medicinal marijuana
  • Antipsychotics like Seroquel (quetiapine), Risperdal (risperidone), and Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Controlled ADHD medications, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall
  • Benzodiazepines for anxiety and seizures, such as Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Valium (diazepam)
  • Other controlled substances like Ambien (zolpidem)

Suppose your online psychiatrist prescribes psychiatric medication. In that case, you should discuss what you should do if you experience any adverse side effects from the drug, as they may not be available for consultation at short notice.

From a clinical perspective, telepsychiatry is equivalent to face-to-face psychiatry, both in diagnosis accuracy and treatment efficacy. Nevertheless, a common theme is that patients show the most significant improvement when working with a doctor with whom they are entirely comfortable.

How we evaluate online psychiatrists

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. When assessing online psychiatrists, we look at five important criteria.

Quality

When choosing an online psychiatrist, it’s important to know that you’re receiving high-quality care. This means that your provider is board certified and qualified to diagnose and treat your issue and prescribe the proper medication that will help you. Many online psychiatrists also offer follow-up appointments or other ongoing care to ensure your treatment is working. Appointments should be easy to schedule, convenient, and consistent without long wait times or other barriers to care. Your provider should make you feel heard and meet your needs.

Cost

A cost-effective online psychiatrist offers a competitive price for services compared to other comparable providers. Many sites provide discounts, treatment bundles, or reduced-price first sessions to help mitigate costs. Some sites offer a subscription service covering initial and follow-up appointments, while some use a pay-per-visit model. For insured patients, it can be a priority to choose an online psychiatrist that works with insurance plans or also accepts HSA/FSA funds. Overall, it’s important to feel that you’re getting a good value for services rendered.

Prescription service

One benefit of online psychiatry over online therapy is the availability of medication to treat certain issues. A high-quality online psychiatrist works with the patient to choose the right medication and removes barriers to receiving the prescription. Many online psychiatrists provide free prescription shipping, so you don’t even have to visit a pharmacy. Others work with your primary care physician to prescribe medications outside the psychiatrist’s jurisdiction. During follow-up visits, you should feel comfortable sharing your reaction to the medication with your psychiatrist.

Speed

With traditional, face-to-face psychiatry, patients sometimes wait weeks or months for appointments. Online psychiatry cuts those wait times down, so you’re only waiting a few days or a week to see a provider. You can schedule an appointment soon after completing an entry questionnaire, and follow-up appointments are easily accessible. With medication, you should receive your prescription within a few days. If you experience any issues with your medication, you can easily reach out to your provider and receive a quick reply.

Privacy

For some, there is still a stigma associated with visiting a psychiatrist or any mental health care provider. Customers should feel confident that their medical information is protected and that anonymity is upheld, if possible. Many online psychiatrists allow patients to use a nickname during sessions to preserve privacy. All online psychiatry platforms should be fully HIPAA-compliant to ensure medical info confidentiality. If your psychiatrist needs to contact your PCP or other providers on your behalf, they should do so only with your consent.

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