We’re living in a digital world — but that’s not just limited to Zoom calls with coworkers and friends. With telepsychiatry, you can keep your mental health in check with a psychiatrist or psychotherapist who’s just one video chat away.
Face-to-face mental health care may be hard to access, especially in situations of heightened anxiety and isolation when you need them the most. That’s where telepsychiatry comes in. And, it has plenty of benefits when it comes to taking care of your mental health.
Telepsychiatry is a form of telemedicine that uses phone or video chat for mental health treatment. Telepsychiatry is offered by a psychiatrist (aka a medical doctor who basically specializes in mental health).
Telepsychiatry services can include:
- psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- family therapy
- substance abuse treatment
- medication management
Psychiatry is an important service if you have a mental health condition that you’re treating or managing with prescribed medication. Some mental health conditions you may consider telepsychiatry for include:
- bipolar disorder
- disordered eating
- substance abuse
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Telepsychiatry and teletherapy are similar in that they both use phone or video chat to treat patients. The biggest difference is that telepsychiatry is led by trained psychiatrists, who are medical doctors who can prescribe medication.
Teletherapy is often led by professionals such as therapists, psychologists, or counselors who are not medical doctors.
Bottom line: Teletherapy can be offered by a psychiatrist, but a therapist can not offer telepsychiatry. Here’s a snapshot of what to expect from each telehealth service:
|Uses phone or video chat sessions||✔️||✔️|
|Offered by psychiatrists||✔️||✔️|
|Offered by psychologists, therapists, or counselors||✔️|
|Private and confidential sessions||✔️||✔️|
|Can get prescriptions written or filled for mental health conditions||✔️|
|Offers psychological evaluations||✔️||✔️|
|Can diagnose mental health conditions||✔️||✔️|
|Offers individual and group therapy||✔️||✔️|
|Offers substance abuse treatment||✔️||✔️|
|Offers medication management||✔️|
1. You’re in a safe environment
Being able to video call from home (hopefully!) means you are in a safe and comfortable environment, and you can choose where the session takes place. This is especially beneficial for those who are isolated or who have anxiety around leaving the house.
2. More access, no matter where you are
Studies indicate online psychiatric services help increase access to mental health care providers. Sometimes it can be hard to find a psychiatrist in your area, so doing it virtually can be really helpful, as you don’t need to be close by, and you don’t need to travel.
This can be especially helpful for those with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Or if you live in the middle of nowhere.
3. It’s more cost effective
Research shows telepsychiatry not only offers more access to services, but it is often a more cost-efficient option compared to sessions at a clinic or office.
A 2015 study found telemedicine-based care was specifically more cost-effective for those seeking depression treatment in medically underserved areas.
4. You still get quality care
Telepsychiatry is usually equivalent to care in real life. You still have access to accuracy of diagnosis, treatment, and high quality care. A 2016 review reported both the patient and the provider were highly satisfied with telepsychiatry sessions.
5. It’s a flexible way to access psychiatry
Don’t worry about the long drive or getting off from work early. Having video calls means you can choose a time that suits you (dependent on the hours your psychiatrist works).
You still get to chat with your psychiatrist and get treatment, you just can do so from your phone or computer (homebodies rejoice!).
Before you chat with your psychiatrist, you should plan ahead and prepare just as you would before an in-person appointment. Bring any relevant information, including the medication you’re taking, and a list of things you want to address in the session.
Your mental health provider will set you up with a link to your video call or set up a time to call. They will also likely share details about payment.
A psychiatrist conducting telepsychiatry can do the following (just like an in-person appointment):
- diagnose mental health conditions
- give psychological evaluations
- create and carry out treatment plans
- prescribe you medication
- schedule follow-up appointments
- refer you to other services if needed
Your session is totally private and confidential, shared between just you and your psychiatrist. But, it is important to consider it is still on the internet and security breaches are possible.
Psychiatrists in private practices, outpatient clinics, and hospitals may offer telepsychiatry. This can be with your regular provider if they offer the service, or a number of companies offering telepsychiatry services online and through apps.
If you don’t already have a psychiatrist, you’ll need to contact your doctor for a referral. Telemedicine services can also offer you a doctor virtually to help refer you to the right psychiatrist.
It’s important to research the provider you’re using, to ensure you’re speaking to someone who can help you out. Some factors to consider when searching for a provider include:
- licensing and credentials (will vary by location)
- education and training
- if your insurance covers telepsychiatry
How do you even pay for telepsychiatry?
While costs of typically lower than an in-person setting, insurance still comes into play (and that can be confusing and just plain annoying to figure out).
Make sure you check with your insurance before scheduling an appointment so you know what’s covered. How much coverage you get for telepsychiatry really depends on your location and insurance provider.
Cost and insurance coverage can vary between professionals, services, and location. In the U.S., some states have legislation in place that includes telemedicine coverage under private insurance. Medicaid programs in some rural areas and states also offer reimbursement for some telepsychiatry services.
Telepsychiatry is a great way to look after your mental health when in-person sessions with a psychiatrist aren’t available or are inconvenient. The sessions can still remain personal, and you can get to know your professional over a number of sessions.
Unlike most teletherapy providers (who are therapists or counselors), telepsychiatry is also a handy way to stay on top of your medication and to review any medication changes.
If you’re in need of psychiatric sessions or treatment, telepsychiatry can often be a convenient and cost effective option, no matter where you live.