Online psychiatry is the delivery of psychiatric evaluations and treatment over the internet. Licensed psychiatrists can provide evaluation, diagnosis, prescription, and therapy services just as effectively in a virtual setting.
Below, you can learn about the difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist, where to find the best online psychiatrists, how to reduce costs and what these treatments entail.
When assessing the quality of over-the-phone psychiatrists along with the platforms themselves, there will always be an element of subjectivity. However, by breaking down ratings into smaller categories, we can better assess individual elements with more objectivity. Furthermore, by taking the consensus of each platform’s reviews into account, we can quantify customer satisfaction which is a useful indicator.
The categories we rated each online psychiatrist platform on are: price, treatment options, the app and software, customer service, and safety and privacy. When putting these together, we arrive at an overall rating.
That said, just because one psychiatry telehealth company is rated higher than another, it doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. It’s important to take into account one’s own needs to see if they align with the strengths of each platform. For example, some do not accept insurance or Medicare, which could be a deal-breaker for some.
Brightside Health is a 2017-founded telehealth company located in San Francisco Bay. In the short time that Brightside has been operating, they have built up a positive reputation quickly along with a fairly advanced tech platform.
Brightside claims to specialize in treating anxiety and depression. While they do provide psychiatric care, there are not too many therapists available – nor can the patient choose their therapist.
Even though the free assessment and fast appointments are useful, the platform isn’t appropriate for someone with mental health disorders beyond anxiety and depression.
However, the small team provides excellent customer service, some surprisingly fantastic software, and a very flexible pricing structure of $95 – $345 per month. Medication can be prescribed and they also work with Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, and Anthem.
Ultimately, this is a great option for managing online mental health prescriptions. You won’t get lost with the tight-knit team at Brightside, who will stay on top of your medical history and medication with close care.
Talkspace is the opposite of Brightside in many ways. Founded in 2012 and with half a billion in funding behind them, Talkspace has become something of an industry leader in the online therapy space. Unlike its core competitor BetterHelp, Talkspace offers online psychiatric evaluations along with medical prescriptions.
The cost of Talkspace ranges from $65 to $95 per week, though live sessions aren’t included in the lower price. Talkspace also works with a wide variety of insurance companies, Medicare, and depending on the state, Medicaid as well.
Sesame Care is a 2018-founded telehealth company that is located in New York. Sesame’s core unique value proposition is that they can provide same-day, on-demand appointments.
With a strong focus on providing immediate treatment and strong customer relations, customer satisfaction ranks very high. With a strong reputation such high-quality therapists, Sesame Care also ranks high for safety, too.
When it comes to the range of services available, Sesame Care falls short because it does not have a mobile app – only video and phone sessions are supported. Users can very freely choose their psychiatrist and see the subsequent price of each; this is good for some users, but bad for others who want things to be more flexible.
Ultimately, Sesame Care has a fairly competitive pricing and 20% off the first booking, but it does not accept insurance. It’s great for emergency care and same-day psychiatrist online appointments.
Amwell has become an industry leader when it comes to credibility and authority. During its operations since 2006, Amwell has been offering a vast range of telehealth services, from online pediatrics and nutrition counseling to virtual psychiatry and urgent care.
Psychiatric assessments, evaluations, and treatment are all available. Getting mental health medication online is made easy – as there’s a lot of flexibility and responses are fast.
Like Sesame, no chats or texting is allowed, nor are there quite as many psychiatrists available as some other competitors. But, Amwell works with many insurance companies, has great customer service, and a fairly competitive pricing structure of $99-$119 per meeting.
Rethink My Therapy is another telehealth provider with plenty of mental health specialists available. While user ratings of the platform has been overall positive, there are significant negatives that Rethink My Therapy ranks poorly in.
Firstly, no text or chat therapy is available. Secondly, therapists take a while to get back to users and the first appointment can take up to 7 days to set up. Finally, no insurance is accepted.
However, there are some positives to consider before ruling the platform out. Online medication management is available for those that already have a prescription, and all of the therapists are there (with bios) to choose from.
Most importantly, Rethink specializes in providing a cheap online psychiatrist. Between $99 and $159 per month, these are some of the cheapest rates around for licensed psychiatric services.
Founded in 2012, Doctor on Demand is one of the largest telehealth companies in the US. This telehealth company provides a doctor for a wide range of healthcare needs, much like Amwell. Users have the ability to browse and choose a psychiatrist of their liking.
Live video sessions are the only option and prices can be quite steep. There isn’t a subscription model unlike other sites, meaning you can expect to pay around $179 per meeting.
On the positive side, the mobile app is very easy to use and has fantastic ratings (4.9 out of 5 on Google Play Store). In fact, the app performs better than the website, which is a unique advantage for some users. Insurance is accepted (including Medicare), and psychiatric treatment can be combined with many, many other services.
An online psychiatrist is a medically trained doctor. They can perform a full psychiatric evaluation and prescribe medication in response to the results. A therapist, while strictly licensed, cannot.
A therapist is usually a trained counselor or psychologist who performs talking therapy on patients to treat their mental health symptoms. For example, conducting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to alleviate anxiety, depression, and OCD.
But, if a patient is suffering from psychosis, schizophrenia, and other server disorders, then a psychiatric evaluation is needed. Generally, a psychiatrist does not administer talking therapy, which is why using an online platform that has both psychiatrists and therapists is often recommended.
There are many symptoms that may indicate you should consider booking a virtual psychiatry session:
Whilesome of these symptoms may simply be a mental health condition that a therapist can adequately tackle, a psychiatric evaluation is a great first step. This will be the place in which you can receive a diagnosis from a trained doctor.
If they believe you would benefit from CBT administered by a therapist, then this will be what they recommend. But, if it’s something more severe that potentially will require medication or more intensive psychiatric treatment, they can spot this in the assessment.
Online psychiatry works in a very similar way to regular face-to-face psychiatric care and results are comparable. The first session will be an assessment or evaluation which will determine what future sessions will look like.
Even though there are some limitations, psychiatry is both effective and important in tackling mental illness in the US. Furthermore, there are fairly strong prerequisites in place before prescribing medication online – it’s a case of being extra safe to overcome any obstacles that arise from being remotely assessed.
Unlike online counseling, there are some limitations to online psychiatry. Firstly, physical examinations aren’t possible. The way around this, however, is for the company to organize a call-out doctor, or to simply get recent medical records from your current local doctor.
Secondly, psychiatrists may want to assess nonverbal behavior for more accurate readings of a patient. For example, autistic disorder can have symptoms coming from facial expressions, eye-to-eye gaze, and repetitive motor mannerisms. These can be used in an online video call, but not to the full capacity of a physical meeting. Schizophrenia, substance withdrawal, ADHD, and many other conditions also have nonverbal cues.
Receiving a proper psychiatric diagnosis means the patient can finally begin to accept their condition, educate themselves on it, connect with others that have it, and begin treatment to alleviate its negative symptoms.
Online psychiatric sessions, like traditional face-to-face sessions, can lead to medication prescriptions and therapy sessions. Studies show that online psychodynamic counseling and CBT have similar results whether it’s in person or online.
Moreover, online psychiatric sessions yield many unique benefits. Most studies show telepsychiatry to be cheaper than face-to-face delivery, as well as more accessible and convenient. Certainly for those with mobility issues, living in rural areas, or with busy lives will significantly benefit from online sessions.
Finally, there is more choice with online psychiatry than in-person. An initial search of psychiatrists in Philadelphia – a large US city – yields fewer than 20 options on Google. For smaller US cities, even fewer options are available. On top of that, local sessions may be fully booked.
Many online psychiatrist platforms are available in all 50 states. Sometimes with thousands of therapists working for a single platform, this means there is far greater choice, availability, and flexibility with psychiatry telehealth.
When it comes to psychiatry in the US generally, around 59% of psychiatrists accept private insurance plans and 60% accept Medicare.
As mentioned above, many of the biggest online psychiatrist platforms accept insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. An online psychiatrist without insurance may still be affordable though, particularly compared to soaring prices of face to face treatments.
Not all telehealth platforms accept insurance, but the large online market means that there’s a good chance users will find one that does and that is the right platform for them.
Initial sessions are always designed to assess the individual first before looking toward treatment. The first thing a psychiatrist will do is outline the assessment they’re about to conduct.
The things that the psychiatrist is assessing include: the problem as you perceive it, your general life, your thoughts, and possibly some physical examinations like blood pressure.
Some example questions may include “how can I help you?” and “what brings you here today?” – much like any doctor might. Psychiatrists are not trying to catch their patients off guard, nor deceive them. A family history of psychiatric issues will also be asked, as well as current medication.
Usually, the initial mental health assessment takes between 20 and 90 minutes.
The telehealth industry has made therapy and psychiatry cheaper and more accessible. Studies show that whilst there can be some unique limitations to receiving psychiatric evaluations over a video call, results are still comparable to in-person.
When it comes to the best online psychiatrist provider, it’s a matter of deciding on a couple of priorities. Firstly, whether or not you want to use insurance – as this can limit your options if so – and secondly, your budget.