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Psychiatrists can help a person manage mental health conditions. Online psychiatry allows people to communicate with a psychiatrist through an app, video chat, or phone call.
This article explains what online psychiatrists are and what conditions they can help treat. It also provides a list of online psychiatry services that a person may wish to access.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health conditions and prescribing medication.
Traditionally, people had to make an appointment to see a psychiatrist in person. However, some companies now operate an online psychiatry system. Online psychiatry allows individuals to communicate with a psychiatrist via a video chat or phone call.
Online psychiatrists may benefit people who cannot see a psychiatrist in person. These professionals may be able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions without an in-person appointment.
It is also important to note that many private psychiatrists now offer virtual appointments.
Psychiatrists can help treat several mental health conditions, including:
- bipolar disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- eating disorders
- difficulty sleeping
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Some psychiatrists may also help people with long-term or terminal physical health conditions. Psychiatrists can help individuals manage the symptoms of their conditions through medication and other forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 800-273-8255.
Online psychiatry sessions vary among different companies and may also depend on a person’s preferences.
For instance, some companies may offer phone calls, video calls, and messaging, allowing the person to choose which contact method they would prefer.
Some online psychiatry providers require an individual to subscribe to their service and pay a monthly subscription fee. Others will require a person to pay a one-off fee for the initial consultation and further fees for any follow-up appointments.
People may wish to consider how frequently they would use this service to determine the most cost-effective plan for them.
Research suggests that video-based psychiatry is reliable and effective. A
Additionally, the author notes that video and telephone psychiatry is effective for the following groups of people:
- children and adolescents
- older adults
- people in prisons and other correctional facilities
- people attending the emergency department with mental health conditions
This research also suggests that video-based psychiatry may lead to more culturally appropriate care for American Indian veterans and the Hispanic community. However, more research is necessary in this area.
Medical News Today chooses services that meet the following criteria:
- Health claims: MNT includes companies that make no questionable health claims.
- Trust: MNT includes companies that operate with transparency regarding their products, services, and leadership. Also, where relevant, that companies have certifications from reputable, third-party organizations.
- Business standards: MNT will choose companies that follow safe and ethical business and marketing practices.
- Reputation: MNT will choose companies that have no warnings from governing bodies or unresolved lawsuits.
People can choose from several online psychiatry services.
While all psychiatrists qualify to treat mental health conditions, some may have more experience than others with a certain mental health condition.
Many online psychiatry services offer people the choice of several psychiatrists.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Best for sessions with an in-state professional
Talkspace has an app that allows a person to make appointments and manage their profile.
The client completes a brief assessment, and the company then matches them with a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner in their state who can help them with their needs. A licensed prescriber conducts these sessions and can prescribe medication if necessary. Each session will be with the same professional.
A person’s insurance plan may cover some of the cost of Talkspace appointments. However, its services are not currently available through Medicare or Medicaid.
An initial appointment costs around $200, and follow-up appointments cost around $125.
Talkspace is available on iOS and Android.
Best for lower budgets
LiveHealth Online offers online psychiatry appointments, as well as other medical appointments.
The company’s board certified psychiatrists have completed training in online psychiatry. People can use this service and make appointments at any time during the week. They can choose which doctor they would like to speak with after reading about their qualifications and experiences.
Psychiatrists are available 24/7, but some medications cannot be prescribed through this service.
It is free to create an account with LiveHealth Online. However, without insurance, an initial consultation costs around $175, and each follow-up appointment costs around $75. LiveHealth Online states that a person’s insurance plan may cover part of these costs.
LiveHealth Online also has a free app that a client can use to access their account and make appointments. This app is available on iOS and Android.
Best for range of medical care services
Amwell is a telemedicine company. People can access various types of medical care, such as urgent care, psychiatry, and nutritional counseling, online. Amwell psychiatry services use board certified psychiatrists.
Amwell services are available nationwide. The psychiatrists who work with the company can help treat many conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, OCD, and PTSD.
The company collaborates with a person’s primary care physician, so duplicates of prescriptions or tests are less likely, and all the treatment information is in one place. However, currently, it can only take on customers over the age of 18 years.
An initial online consultation costs around $280, and follow-up visits cost around $110. A person’s insurance may partially or completely cover the costs of Amwell appointments.
Amwell also has a free app that people can use to make and manage appointments. This app is available on iOS and Android.
Best for 24/7 availability
MDLIVE medical professionals are available 24/7. The company also has a free app that people can use on iOS or Android to make appointments and pay for services.
MDLIVE states that it carefully vets all of its board certified psychiatrists. A person can choose a phone or video appointment. Psychiatrists can send prescriptions to a person’s nearest pharmacy if necessary.
An initial consultation costs around $285, and follow-up appointments cost around $110. A person’s health insurance may cover all or some of the costs of this service.
Best for choosing a psychiatrist
Doctor On Demand psychiatrists are available at all times. People who use this service will have a video appointment with their psychiatrist.
Prospective clients will need to complete an initial mental health assessment. They can then browse the company’s psychiatrists and schedule a video consultation with a professional of their choice.
The psychiatrists can screen for mental health conditions and treat pre-diagnosed conditions. Doctor On Demand licensed psychiatrists can provide medications — with the exception of controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines and stimulants.
An initial, 45-minute consultation costs around $300, and follow-up appointments cost around $130. A person’s insurance plan or employer may cover all or some of the costs.
Doctor On Demand also has a free app that people can use to book and take appointments. This app is available on iOS and Android.
Best for a monthly subscription
Cerebral is a company that specializes in virtual appointments for mental health conditions.
This company operates a subscription service. Cerebral has separate medication and therapy plans, but a person can also choose a plan that includes both medication and therapy. The prices vary among the plans.
Depending on the plan, a subscription can include regular video or phone appointments both with a prescribing provider and with a care counselor or licensed therapist. Some plans also include the delivery of prescription medication at no extra cost to the client’s home.
The company accepts flexible savings account and health savings account payments, as well as some major insurance plans. Some of Cerebral’s subscription plans are not available in certain states.
Depending on a person’s plan, the cost ranges between $85–325 per month. Cerebral partners with various insurance providers. For those who have insurance coverage, a subscription costs around $30 per month.
Cerebral also has an app that people can use to book and manage appointments. This app is available on iOS and Android.
The table below compares the online psychiatry services discussed in this article based on six criteria:
|Talkspace||LiveHealth Online||Amwell||MDLIVE||Doctor On Demand||Cerebral|
|Initial consultation cost||around $200||around $175||around $280||around $285||around $300||$85–325 per month|
around $29 per month with insurance
|Follow-up appointment cost||around $125||around $75||around $110||around $110||$130||n/a|
|Format||video, messaging, or phone||video||video or phone||video or phone||video||video or phone|
Below are answers to some of the most common questions about online psychiatrists:
Are online psychiatrists legitimate?
All the psychiatry services featured in this article are legitimate and provide licensed professionals with appropriate qualifications.
A person should always ensure that the company they choose uses licensed professionals that can legally operate in their state.
Can online psychiatrists prescribe controlled substances?
These platforms do not prescribe controlled substances. This is in accordance with the Ryan Haight Act. This federal law prohibits psychiatrists from prescribing controlled substances to individuals whom they have never seen for an in-person visit first.
What should I expect during an appointment?
During an initial consultation, a psychiatrist may ask about medical history and the reasons a person booked a psychiatry appointment. They can also help work toward a treatment plan and prescribe medication if needed.
Follow-up appointments are usually shorter. They help monitor a person’s progress and may also cover the medication a person is taking.
What are the differences between online therapy and online psychiatry?
Online therapists use talk therapy to help a person manage their symptoms and discuss how they feel. Psychiatrists can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication.
Various online companies offer virtual appointments with a licensed psychiatrist. Many of these psychiatrists can also prescribe medication. Companies either require a payment for each appointment or offer a subscription service. In most cases, they accept health insurance to help cover the costs of their services.
Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They may prescribe medication or recommend other treatments, such as psychotherapy.