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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 who online psychiatrists are and what conditions they can help treat. It also provides a list of online psychiatry services a person may wish to try.
A quick look at the best online psychiatry services
- Best for communication options: Talkspace
- Best for smaller budgets: LiveHealth Online
- Best for a range of medical services: Amwell
- Best for counselors and psychiatrists: MDLIVE
- Best for Medicare coverage: Doctor On Demand
- Best subscription option: Cerebral
- Best direct-to-patient care service: Sesame
- Best for Crisis Care program: Brightside Health
- Best for flexible availability: Teladoc
Traditionally, people had to make an appointment to see a psychiatrist in person. However, some companies now operate online psychiatry systems.
Online psychiatry allows individuals to communicate with a psychiatrist via 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.
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 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.
Online psychiatry sessions vary among companies and may also depend on a person’s preferences.
For instance, some companies may offer phone and video calls and messaging, allowing the person to choose their preferred contact method.
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.
A therapist is a licensed doctor who can provide mental health care sessions. They can also be counselors or psychologists.
They assess people’s past and recent life events and relationships to help them work through their problems. They also find the causes that are holding individuals back from moving further in their life.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), they can prescribe medications or recommend counseling.
During the visits, psychiatrists can perform a physical exam and measure the individual’s blood pressure, especially if they offer a medical plan. This may not be possible through online psychiatry services.
An increasing number of people are seeking and receiving video-based psychiatric consultations.
Research from 2022 suggests that telepsychiatry is a reliable and effective substitute for in-person therapeutic consultations. Studies mentioned in this work indicate that telepsychiatry and face-to-face psychiatric care have comparable clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction levels.
However, there is also evidence that people communicate differently on videoconferencing calls. This may lead to ethically relevant changes in the relationship between a person and their psychiatrist and therapy results.
The services an online psychiatry provider will offer may vary from company to company. However, the sessions will be very similar to in-person appointments.
In the first session, the psychiatrist may:
- verify the person’s identity
- explain how their service works
- request information on their medical history
- ask about current medication
- talk about the person’s expectations and goals for the sessions
- discuss therapy and other treatment options
- explain what to do in a mental health emergency
In later sessions, a person can discuss how their treatment affects them, whether it has improved their symptoms, and talk about how to manage side effects from medication. In these sessions, they will work with the psychiatrist to adjust their treatment if necessary.
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People can choose from a wide range of online psychiatry services.
While all psychiatrists qualify to treat mental health conditions, some may have more experience than others in treating 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.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more about our vetting process here.
Best for communication options: Talkspace
- Price: from $125–249 without insurance
Talkspace offers an app for Android and iOS devices that allows a person to make appointments with a psychiatrist.
A person will fill out an online assessment before Talkspace matches them with a licensed psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner in their state. People will see the same psychiatrist for each session unless they decide to change.
Some insurance plans may cover some of the cost of Talkspace appointments. However, the company states its services are unavailable through Medicare or Medicaid.
An initial appointment costs around $249. Follow-up appointments cost around $125.
Talkspace features include:
- video, phone, and messaging appointments
- help with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more
- 24/7 access to psychiatrists
- medication management
- offers licensed psychiatrists in all U.S. states
- accepts insurance from certain mental health service providers and mental health professionals
- flexible plan options
- expensive if insurance does not cover sessions
- not available through Medicare or Medicaid
Best for smaller budgets: LiveHealth Online
- Price: from $75–175 without insurance
LiveHealth Online offers online psychiatry appointments as well as other medical appointments. The company claims all of its psychiatrists are board certified and have completed training in online psychiatry.
Individuals can choose which doctor they would like to speak with after reading profiles about their qualifications and experiences.
LiveHealth Online writes that people can use its services and make appointments 24/7, including days, nights, and weekends.
However, the company warns that its psychiatric services are not suitable for people experiencing suicidal thoughts or those in a mental health crisis.
Additionally, LiveHealth does not prescribe some medications, specifically controlled substances.
People can create an account with LiveHealth Online for free. However, there are costs for consultations and appointments.
Without insurance, an initial consultation costs around $175. Follow-up appointments cost around $75 each.
A person may be able to have these costs covered through their insurance.
LiveHealth features include:
- video appointments
- appointment management app
- psychiatrists trained to provide help online
- prescriptions for medication
- psychiatrists take specific online training
- users have 24/7 access to care
- lower per-session cost than other companies
- can accept insurance
- there is a higher price point for initial consultations without insurance
Best for a range of medical services: Amwell
- Price: from $109–279 without insurance
Amwell is a telemedicine company. People can use its services to access a wide range of medical care, such as urgent care, psychiatry, and nutritional counseling, online.
Amwell claims its psychiatry services use board certified psychiatrists. It writes that these psychiatrists can help treat many conditions, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The company collaborates with a person’s primary care physician. This means duplicates of tests or medication are less likely to occur, and a person can find all their treatment information in one place.
At present, Amwell only accepts customers over 18 years old.
An initial online consultation costs $279. Follow-up appointments cost $109. A person’s insurance may cover the cost of these sessions.
People can also book and manage their appointments via the free Amwell app, available on iOS and Android.
- works with a person’s primary care medical professional
- a person can also use Amwell for urgent care and other health conditions
- available across the entire U.S.
- expensive initial consultation
- does not provide services to individuals under the age of 18 years
Best for counselors and psychiatrists: MDLIVE
- Price: from $108–284 without insurance
People can see MDLIVE psychiatrists or counselors via phone or video chat. Sessions can be over a smartphone or on a computer.
To start with MDLIVE, a person must create a free account and schedule an appointment. Users can look through the directory to choose a psychiatrist.
Appointment times will vary based on the psychiatrist’s availability, but some professionals may offer evening and weekend appointments.
MDLIVE psychiatrists can send prescriptions to a person’s nearest pharmacy.
Depending on a person’s insurance coverage, mental health services from MDLIVE cost $0–108. Initial appointments for psychiatry services are more expensive, ranging from $0–284. Follow-up appointments are then $108 each without insurance.
MDLIVE features include:
- smartphone or computer app
- a national network of psychiatrists
- access to counselors
- help with over 16 conditions and life challenges
- sends prescriptions to the nearest pharmacy
- provides access to counselors and psychiatrists
- helps with a wide range of conditions and problems
- does not offer 24/7 access to psychiatrists
- higher price point initial consultation fee
Best for Medicare coverage: Doctor On Demand
- Price: from $129–229 without insurance
Doctor on Demand psychiatrists are available 24/7. People who use this service will have video appointments with a psychiatrist.
To get started with Doctor On Demand, a person must complete an online mental health assessment. They can then browse the company’s psychiatrist directory and schedule a video appointment with their chosen professional.
Doctor on Demand writes that its psychiatrists can screen a person for mental health conditions and treat prediagnosed conditions. They can also prescribe medications — except for controlled substances, such as benzodiazepines and stimulants.
An initial 45-minute consultation costs $229. Follow-up appointments cost $129. A person’s insurance plan or employer may cover some or all of the appointment costs for Doctor On Demand services.
This company also accepts Medicare.
People can book and manage appointments on the free Doctor on Demand app for iOS and Android.
The main features of this service include:
- video appointments
- prescriptions sent to pharmacies
- personalized care plans
- 24/7 access to support
- 24/7 support
- free app for appointments
- Medicare coverage
- higher price point initial consultation fee
- cannot write prescriptions for controlled substances
Best subscription option: Cerebral
- Price: from $99–325 a month without insurance, $30 a month with insurance
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 choose a plan that includes both medication and therapy.
The prices vary among the plans. Depending on a person’s plan, the cost ranges from $99–325 a month. For those with insurance, the monthly cost is around $30.
Depending on a person’s plan, a subscription can include regular video or phone appointments with a prescribing professional and a care counselor or licensed therapist.
Some plans include prescription medication delivery to the client’s home at no extra cost.
The company accepts flexible spending account (FSA) and health savings account (HSA) payments and some major insurance plans.
However, some of Cerebral’s subscription plans are unavailable in certain states.
The free Cerebral app for iOS and Android allows people to manage their appointments.
Cerebral features include:
- monthly subscription packages
- video and phone appointments
- cost includes appointments, prescriptions, and medication delivery
- accepts insurance, HSA, FSA, and Medicare
- low monthly cost with insurance
- personalized care plans
- delivers medication
- higher price point without insurance
- does not operate in some U.S. states
- only treats people over 18 years old
- the company has a mixed reputation
Best direct-to-patient care service: Sesame
- Price: varies by doctor, but can range from around $60–290
Sesame is an online platform that offers psychiatry, individual, and couples therapy. Sessions can take place online or in person.
Sesame lists its mental health professionals on its website, and a person can filter them to see psychiatrists. The list shows when a doctor is available for appointments and a review rating.
People can also look up doctors based on the mental health conditions they specialize in.
The company claims its services are affordable and accepts HSA and FSA payments. While it does not accept insurance, people can contact their insurance provider to enquire about partial coverage. This may include medication.
There are no fixed prices, as each doctor sets their own. At the time of publication, the platform’s psychiatrists charge around $60–290 for a consultation.
The main features of this service are:
- ability to filter doctors by specialism
- variable cost
- same-day appointments
- $5 medication in some cases
- no insurance necessary
- possible same-day appointments
- does not require insurance
- accepts FSA and HSA payments
- not available for emergencies
- couples therapy only available to people in the same location
- no set price
- does not accept insurance
Best for Crisis Care program: Brightside Health
- Price: from $95–349 per month
Brightside Health is a telehealth company that offers psychiatry services for people with anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and suicidal thoughts, among other conditions.
It works with psychiatrists who can offer medication and therapy sessions. It claims that most individuals feel better within 12 weeks of starting its services. It is open to people with and without health insurance.
To start with Brightside, a person must complete an assessment before speaking with a psychiatrist.
Prices vary depending on the services. A medication plan costs $95 per month, while a medication and therapy plan costs $349 a month.
There is also a Crisis Care and medication plan. This telehealth service is for people at a higher risk of suicide, including those who have attempted suicide, currently feel suicidal, and those who need follow-up care after being in the hospital. However, it is only available in certain states.
Features of Brightside’s service include:
- personalized treatment plans
- one-to-one support
- interactive lessons about behavioral patterns
- plans for those at higher risk of suicide
- quick appointments
- medication and therapy plans available
- accepts insurance
- Crisis Care plan is not available in all states
Best for flexible availability: Teladoc
- Price: up to $299 without insurance
Teladoc works with therapists who can help people with anxiety, stress, mood swings, and other mental health concerns.
A person must provide information about their medical history before choosing a therapist and scheduling an appointment.
The 45-minute sessions are available any day of the week. Follow-up visits for medication take 15 minutes.
Teladoc does not offer a fixed price for its service, and the cost will vary depending on a person’s insurance coverage. With insurance, psychiatry sessions can be free, but they can cost up to $299 for those without coverage.
The main features of this service include:
- available with and without insurance
- possible follow-up visits
- customers match with psychiatrists based on their needs
- accepts insurance
- available 24/7 via video and phone
- accepts HSA and FSA payments
- available for employers
- can be expensive without insurance
The table below compares each of the online psychiatry services in this article. Prices reflect the cost of services without insurance coverage.
|Initial consultation cost||Follow-up cost||Accepts insurance||Type of appointments||Available 24/7|
|Doctor On Demand||$229||$129||yes||video||yes|
|Cerebral||$99–325 per month without insurance|
around $30 per month with insurance
|Sesame||varies by doctor|
can range from around $60–290
|varies by doctor||no||video|
|Brightside Health||from $95–349 per month||—||yes||video||yes|
|Teladoc||up to $299||varies by insurance coverage||yes||video|
Psychiatrists can help treat several mental health conditions, including:
- bipolar disorder
- eating disorders
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
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.
The American Psychiatric Association recommends that individuals see a therapist if they have any of the following:
- increased absenteeism in school or at work
- mood changes
- reduced interest in performing tasks
If the symptoms interfere with the individual’s life, making it difficult to focus on work or hobbies, they may have a mental health condition.
Online sessions may be an option for those with busy schedules and those who cannot travel to in-person appointments.
Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions about online psychiatrists.
Are online psychiatrists legitimate?
All the psychiatry services featured in this article are provided by legitimate and provide licensed professionals with appropriate qualifications.
A person should always ensure that the company they choose works with licensed professionals who can legally operate in their state of operation.
Can online psychiatrists prescribe controlled substances?
These platforms do not permit their mental health professionals to prescribe controlled substances. This is in accordance with the Ryan Haight Act. This federal law prohibits psychiatrists from prescribing controlled substances to individuals they have never seen for an in-person visit.
What should I expect during an appointment?
During an initial consultation, a psychiatrist may ask about a person’s medical history and why they booked a psychiatry appointment. They can also help work toward creating a treatment plan, which may include prescribing medication if needed.
Follow-up appointments are usually shorter. Their purpose is monitoring a person’s progress, including discussing questions and needs around any medication a person is taking.
What are the differences between online therapy and online psychiatry?
Online therapists use talk therapy to help people manage their symptoms and discuss their feelings. Psychiatrists can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication.
Can an online psychiatrist diagnose you?
Yes, a board certified psychiatrist providing telepsychiatry services can diagnose a patient’s condition and prescribe medication if deemed appropriate.
Can I talk to a psychiatrist online for free?
No, online psychiatric care providers charge fees for their services. However, a person considering suicide or in a mental health crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988 and speak with someone who may help them.
Can Talkspace prescribe Xanax?
No. Xanax is a controlled substance. According to the Ryan Haight Act, a federal law, psychiatrists cannot prescribe controlled substances to people they have not met in face-to-face appointments.
Can online psychiatrists write prescriptions?
Yes. Board certified psychiatrists providing telehealth services can write prescriptions for their clients.
Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat mental health conditions. They may prescribe medication or recommend other treatments, such as psychotherapy.
Various online companies offer virtual appointments with a licensed psychiatrist. Many of these psychiatrists can also prescribe medication.
Companies either require payment for each appointment or offer a subscription service. However, in many cases, they accept health insurance to help cover the costs of their services.