An online psychiatrist is a doctor who attends people with mental health problems via the internet using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This relatively new form of treatment is also known as telehealth or telepsychiatry. Consulting with a doctor online can have many benefits. It is more convenient, as you do not have to travel to an office and you can program an appointment at any time of the day or night that suits both.
It is also cheaper than a face to face encounter, and many people actually find it easier to communicate freely using video conferencing while in the security and comfort of their own home. Also, online appointments are completely private, so no one needs to know that you are consulting with a psychiatrist. This can be important to some people, as unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues and seeking help for them.
While this is a new field of investigation, studies have shown that treatment success rates are very similar for both online and face to face treatments, and effective for a wide range of mental illnesses and conditions. The price of telepsychiatry is much more accessible than a normal visit to a psychiatrist, and some state and private healthcare insurances may cover some or all of the cost.
What’s the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a qualified physician who is trained to diagnose and treat mental illness. Treatment is usually in the form of medication, although sometimes psychotherapy is also used. A psychiatrist holds a medical degree (M.D.) which requires four years of study at medical school. He then must fulfill an internship of one-year and finally receives specialist training for at least a further three years.
A psychiatrist will evaluate a person’s mental history and symptoms to make a diagnosis of the mental or emotional condition that is affecting them. He will then prescribe an appropriate medication and in the following sessions, he will evaluate the effectiveness of the drug administered.
As every person is different, it is sometimes necessary to try different medicines to find the best one suited to the person and their condition. A psychiatrist will make changes in the prescribed medication until the desired effect is achieved and the person’s mental illness symptoms diminish. A psychiatrist will also observe for undesirable side-effects which can be present with some types of medications.
A psychologist is a trained mental health professional who has a Doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.) followed by an internship of two or three years. A psychologist can evaluate mental illness and measure patients progress by using psychological testing. The treatment plan offered by a psychologist will include counseling and psychotherapy, and some psychologists specialize in treating particular conditions.
A psychologist does not typically prescribe medication for the treatment of mental illnesses (although there are a couple of states with specialized licenses that do allow them to prescribe).
How Do I Start Looking?
If you think that you may be suffering from a mental illness, you should first make an appointment to see your general practitioner. He will be able to evaluate your symptoms, and, if he feels that it is necessary, he will recommend that you see a psychiatrist. He will give you a referral which can be used to see a traditional psychiatrist or an online one. If you feel depressed, anxious, or are in any way concerned about your mental health, do not hesitate in seeing your doctor so that you can receive the appropriate treatment to restore your normal mental state.
There are many people who offer treatments and counseling online, and because of the difficulty of controlling what is offered on the internet, you should take care when choosing a psychiatrist. Make sure that the psychiatrist you choose is correctly trained and legally licensed in the state you live in. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), can help you to find a qualified psychiatrist, both traditional ones and those practicing online.
Your general practitioner or local health care provider will be able to give you a list of traditional psychiatrists who can help you with your mental health problem. Some psychiatrists work within state hospitals or clinics while many have private practices. Your doctor will give you a referral if he thinks you need to see a psychiatrist for a mental health issue.
Online psychiatrists also offer their services through mental health clinics and hospitals, so ask your doctor to recommend a telepsychiatrist if you feel that this would be a better way for you to receive treatment. Especially if you live in a remote region, it is very likely that your local healthcare provider will be able to provide you with a choice of online psychiatrists. You will still require a referral from your general practitioner to see an online psychiatrist.
Many online psychiatrists work through web-based companies which compile a directory of providers. By using one of these companies, when you contact the psychiatrist you can be secure in the knowledge that he has been investigated and approved and is qualified to offer telepsychiatry services. At Depression Alliance, you can find online psychiatrists who can treat all types of mental illness.
How Do I Assess Potential Psychiatrists?
First, check that the psychiatrist has current valid qualifications to practice in the state in which you live. This is important, as to prescribe medications online the psychiatrist must be located in your home state. Also, look for a psychiatrist with experience in the area of mental health that is affecting you. While psychiatrists are trained to diagnose and treat all forms of mental illness, some specialize in certain areas. This means that they may have additional training or experience in your particular problem, and so may be able to offer you more actualized or varied treatment options.
While medication is a normally a key part of treatment, a psychiatrist will not insist that you take medication if you do not want to, and you are free to stop treatment at any time. If you would prefer not to use medication you should look for a psychiatrist who offers other forms of treatment such as counseling. However, most psychiatrists will stress the need for medication, and you should be prepared to try different ones until the correct one is found.
It is important that you trust your psychiatrist, as sometimes it can take a while for benefits to be felt. You must believe in his ability to help you, to give you the patience to continue with the prescribed treatment until the desired benefits are obtained.
What Do I Do to Set Up the First Session?
When you have decided on a psychiatrist, simply get in touch with him by phone or email to set up an appointment. You will probably need to have a referral from your regular doctor or healthcare worker. Some people like to have a support person with them during the session, and you should make sure that the psychiatrist is OK with that.
Many telepsychiatrists use a special video conferencing program, like Skype, that maintains all conversations completely private. They may send you a link to install this program on your computer, tablet or smartphone ready for the first appointment. This download is completely free, and you will not need to purchase any software. If you are using a computer, you will need a webcam and a microphone, most modern laptops have these installed already.
To communicate with the psychiatrist, you will need a stable internet connection, and the faster the connection the better the sound and video will be. Prepare yourself a comfortable place to sit where you will converse and avoid any interruptions. Turn your phone off and arrange for your children to be elsewhere. Make sure that you don’t sit with your back to a window and that your face is well lit so that the psychiatrist will be able to see you clearly
The psychiatrist does not normally record the sessions, but some may ask your permission to do this. Just as with any doctor, your information will be stored safely, and your appointments will be totally private.
What Happens in the First Session?
During the initial session, the psychiatrist will ask you about your mental health history and that of your family. He will want to know what your symptoms are and the reason why you are seeking treatment. It can be helpful to note down a list of important things that you feel the psychiatrist should know, as it easy to forget to mention something and a list can jog your memory. He will want to know if you have received treatment for similar or different mental illnesses previously and how successful those treatments were. He will also ask about the mental health of your close family members as often mental illnesses can be present in various family members and this will aid his diagnosis.
The psychiatrist will ask you questions which will help him to determine what your condition is and to prescribe the correct treatment. He may also ask you about your medical history and if you are taking any medications for other health issues. Make sure that you have the details of other medicines that you are taking to hand as this can influence what medication the psychiatrist will choose to prescribe. Occasionally, your psychiatrist may need to ask you to visit your local clinic for blood tests or other testings before prescribing medication.
Try to give the psychiatrist as much information as possible and to be completely honest with him. This will assist him to make the correct diagnosis and find the right solution to your problem. Once he has made his diagnosis the psychiatrist will discuss a treatment plan with you. He will explain about the medication he is going to prescribe and advise you on what side-effects you may notice if any. He will then send the prescription for the required medication directly to your local pharmacy. Make sure that you have available the details of the pharmacy you use.
The psychiatrist will explain that at first, you may not notice much difference in your condition as it takes a while for the medication to take effect. It is very important that you take the medication exactly as prescribed and continue with the treatment. In your next session, you should report all the positive and negative effects that you have felt, and you should contact the psychiatrist immediately if you feel it necessary at any point. The number of appointments with the psychiatrist will depend largely on how quickly and how well you respond to the prescribed medication.
Questions to Ask a Potential Psychiatrist
How long does each session last?
Over what period will sessions be necessary?
How much does it cost?
Will my insurance cover the cost?
Will I have to take medication?
How soon will the medication work?
Will I need therapy?
Can someone else sit in on the session with me?
Are my details kept private?
Can I contact you at any time if I need to?
An online psychiatrist can offer private, personalized mental health care in a convenient and less expensive form. That means, that more people suffering from mental illnesses can seek and receive help and treatment. In 2012, it was estimated that 43.7-million adults in the US were suffering from some kind of mental illness, and that 9.6-million had a serious mental condition. Yet, in more than half of US counties there are no practicing psychiatrists, so many people are not receiving the care and treatment that they need. However, almost 75-percent of US households has access to the internet, so an online psychiatrist is a way that they can obtain professional help.
Telepsychiatry offers easy access to a specialized doctor, at any time, from anywhere, without stigma, at a fraction of the cost, and with an equal success rate as a face to face consultation. Online psychiatrists bring a mental health professional into your home to diagnose your condition and to prescribe the treatment necessary for your return to full mental health.