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The 3 Best Online Psychiatrist Options of 2023

Jan 18, 2023

By Savannah Bacon
Medically Reviewed by Marni Amsellem, PhD
Reviewed by Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, Senior Director, NCOA Center for Healthy Aging
Fact Checked

Key Takeaways

  • Online psychiatrists can diagnose mental health issues and formulate a treatment plan for you, including possible medication.
  • Online psychiatry can be an affordable and convenient alternative to in-person psychiatry.
  • Most insurance plans and Medicare cover online psychiatry, which is also covered by Medicaid in some states.

Online therapy websites can provide a convenient way to access mental health care for a variety of conditions, including anxiety and depression, among others. But when talk therapy isn’t enough to address your symptoms, your therapist or primary care doctor may recommend seeing a psychiatrist for a more specialized treatment plan. Several of the best online therapy websites also offer online psychiatry. Whether you live in a remote area with a lack of psychiatrists nearby, or simply prefer communicating virtually instead of in person, the American Psychiatric Association notes that online psychiatry can be a convenient and accessible option for getting a mental health evaluation, diagnosis, and organized treatment plan, including possible medication.1

Our Reviews Team mystery shopped and researched several of the top providers and found Brightside, Zocdoc, and Sesame to be the three best online psychiatry options for 2023.

The best online psychiatry platforms of 2023

  • Most Affordable: Brightside
  • Best for Using Insurance: Zocdoc
  • Best for Prescriptions Without Insurance: Sesame

Why you can trust our Reviews Team’s online therapy reviews

Our Reviews Team recommends products and services we believe provide value in the lives of our readers. We spent more than 1,000 hours carrying out in-depth research on mental health, online therapy, and psychiatry to give you the most accurate review. To make our selections, we:

  • Consulted with mental health experts to understand online and in-person therapy and psychiatry best practices
  • Reviewed and mystery shopped more than 40 online therapy and psychiatry platforms
  • Read real reviews from verified customers on trusted third party websites, including the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot to understand users’ experiences
  • Kept up to date on the latest academic research on therapy and mental health
  • Surveyed 1,000 online therapy users about their experiences with different online therapy and psychiatry platforms

Read more about our online therapy review methodology.

Compare the best online psychiatry platforms of 2023

Therapy platformCostAccepts insuranceOffers a first-time discount
Brightside$95–$349 per month YesYes
SesameVaries by providerNoYes
ZocdocVaries by providerYesNo

Most Affordable: Brightside

Pros

  • Accepts insurance
  • Offers both medication and therapy
  • Flat fee of $15 for all medications without using insurance
  • Subscription includes unlimited video follow-ups and medication shipped to your door

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept Medicaid or Medicare

Cost: $95–$349 per month

Payment options: Visa, Mastercard; HSA and FSA cards

Accepts insurance: Yes

Accepts Medicaid: No

Accepts Medicare: No

Customer service options:

  • Phone (1-415-360-3348) available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday
  • Email (support@brightside.com)
  • Members can get help through their account on Brightside

Session format options: Live video; unlimited messaging between appointments

Session length: 30–45 minutes

Extras: Self-care videos, anxiety and depression symptom tracking

Brightside is the most affordable online psychiatry platform on our list with plans starting at $95 per month. Every subscription includes a comprehensive initial video evaluation, personalized treatment plan, and unlimited messaging with your psychiatric provider.  You can also request video follow-up appointments at any time after the initial evaluation. Brightside Health also accepts insurance, including plans with Aetna and Humana, which may further reduce your cost. Brightside Health does not accept Medicare or Medicaid.

A screen showing a mobile phone with text messages sent between a patient and their Brightside psychiatric provider.

Brightside offers unlimited messaging, meaning there is no limit to the number of messages you can send to your Brightside provider if you have any questions during your course of treatment

Brightside’s psychiatric providers include psychiatrists, doctors, and psychiatric nurse practitioners. When you register, Brightside will assign you a provider who is licensed to practice in your state. You are matched with your provider based on your responses to the initial questionnaire and your specific needs. All providers have access to Brightfinder, a unique technology that recommends the most suitable medication to address your symptoms based on your overall mental health history.

If your psychiatric provider determines that medication is right for you, your cost for medication will be $15 or your pharmacy copay if using insurance. Brightside prescribes a 30-day supply of generic versions of anxiety and depression medications. Brightside can ship your medication to your door or send it to your local pharmacy for pickup for no additional charge.

Brightside lists some of its most commonly prescribed medications on its website. Its providers do not prescribe controlled substances, such as alprazolam (generic Xanax), clonazepam (generic Klonopin), or lorazepam (generic Ativan). Your provider will follow up with you as they deem necessary, as it depends on whether you’ve been on the medication before, how you’re feeling on the medication, and how you’re tolerating potential side effects. Since your subscription includes unlimited video follow-up appointments, you can request an appointment to talk about your treatment plan at any time.

Brightside may be able to help individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Bipolar II, phobias, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Brightside is not meant to treat individuals with substance use disorders, eating disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, ADHD, Bipolar I, schizophrenia, or those with a risk of self-harm.

Subscriptions offered

Brightside offers three subscription plans—one is only for medication, one is for therapy only, and one is for online therapy plus medication. If you use insurance, you will be responsible for paying any copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and prescription costs detailed by your plan, but your insurance will cover the rest as long as it considers Brightside an in-network provider.

Here are the details of each plan, with the prices reflecting the total monthly cost without using insurance:

  • Medication only $95
    • Includes unlimited messaging with your psychiatric provider
    • Includes an initial evaluation to determine if medication to treat mental illness is appropriate
    • Pay $15 or your pharmacy copay per medication
  • Online therapy $299
    • Includes four 30-minute video therapy sessions
    • Can message your therapist at any time
    • Can purchase additional 30-minute therapy sessions for $59
  • Online therapy and medication $349
    • Includes four 30-minute video therapy sessions
    • Can message your therapist and psychiatric provider at any time
    • Schedule follow-up video appointments with your psychiatric provider at any time
    • Pay $15 or your pharmacy copay per medication

Customer service

If you have questions about Brightside or problems with your account, you can call its customer service line at 1-415-360-3347, which is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

You can also send an email to support@brightside.com with questions. When our Reviews Team contacted support over email, we received a reply within one business day. If you have a Brightside account, you can also talk with its support team by logging into your account via the Brightside desktop app. You can also access its mobile app, which is available on the Apple app store. The app is not yet available on Google Play as of January 2023.

Payment options

Brightside accepts Visa and Mastercard, as well as FSA and HSA cards. You will be billed monthly on the day you registered for your plan. You can cancel at any time. Brightside determines whether users are eligible for refunds on a case-by-case basis.

Brightside accepts insurance from Cigna, Aetna, Allegiance, and Anthem California, and it is currently rolling out nationwide coverage for Optum/United Healthcare.

If you don’t use insurance, you can enter the code “NCOA60” at checkout for a $60 discount on your first month.

Customer reviews

Brightside is not accredited with the BBB. To be accredited, a business must apply for accreditation and meet BBB accreditation standards, which include making a good-faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. As of January 2023, Brightside has responded to 16 customer complaints in the last 12 months. It has a D- rating overall, with 1.38 out of 5 stars based on 13 reviews. On Trustpilot, Brightside Health has 1.7 out of 5 stars based on 20 reviews, a “Poor” rating. These low review scores are based on a small number of reviews and may not accurately reflect the experience of a majority of customers.

Positive reviews mention good experiences with individual providers and a good experience with the medication only plan. The negative reviews for Brightside mention problems with certain providers canceling or not showing up for appointments and issues with how the service was billed through their insurance.

Best for Using Insurance: Zocdoc

Pros

  • Search for in-network providers with your specific insurance plan
  • View appointment dates and times before choosing a provider
  • Provider profiles share patient reviews

Cons

  • Some reviews mention problems with Zocdoc double-booking appointments
  • Does not provide upfront pricing

Cost: Varies by provider and insurance plan

Payment options: Varies by provider

Accepts insurance: Yes

Accepts Medicaid: Varies by provider

Accepts Medicare: Varies by provider

Customer service options:

  • Phone (1-855-962-3621) available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, weekends and holidays
  • Email (service@zocdoc.com)
  • Contact form on website

Session format options: Live video

Session length: Varies

Extras: Free insurance checker

Zocdoc makes it easy to find online psychiatrists who accept your insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. According to Healthcare.gov, using in-network providers will save you the most money on your health care, especially for specialty services like psychiatry.2 Whenever you search for a provider on Zocdoc, your search results will prioritize those in-network options.

If you don’t know your exact insurance plan name, you can upload a photo of your insurance card to the Zocdoc insurance checker. Once it scans your card, it will help you understand your benefits and what’s covered under your plan.

As you narrow down your options, you can also look for psychiatrists available at certain dates and times that work with your schedule, including appointments before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. If you need specialty care, you can narrow your search by filtering for providers who specialize in certain conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and panic attacks. You can also search for the type of psychiatric provider you want, whether that’s a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or adult psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner. Finding the right mental health professional for your needs is very important to the success of your treatment.

As you view your Zocdoc search results, you will be able to see details such as whether the psychiatrist is accepting new patient appointments, their appointment slots for the next two weeks, and their average patient rating. You can read each individual review, too. If you see a label on a provider’s profile that says “Loyal patients,” that provider has at least four patients who have monthly recurring visits with them.

A Zocdoc search results page showing two in-network providers for Medicare in Washington state.

You can start your Zocdoc search by entering the type of service you need, where you live, and what insurance you have.

Customer service

To get help with your appointments or more information about Zocdoc, you can call its customer service line at 1-855-962-3621 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET during weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on weekends and holidays. When our Reviews Team called this number, we were connected within a minute to a helpful customer service representative.

If you submit a customer support ticket or send an email to service@zocdoc.com, you can expect a response within 24 hours.

Subscriptions offered

Zocdoc does not offer subscriptions.

Payment options

All billing is done through your selected psychiatrist’s office. After scheduling your appointment on Zocdoc, expect an email or phone call within one to two business days to confirm your appointment and get your payment information. Your payment options will be limited to what your provider’s office accepts.

Customer reviews

Zocdoc is a full-service telemedicine platform, so its reviews refer to mental health services as well as services such as urgent care and dermatology visits.

Zocdoc is an A+ accredited business with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It has a score of 4.15 out of 5 stars based on more than 200 reviews. On Trustpilot, Zocdoc is rated “Great,” with 4.2 out of 5 stars and more than 6,500 reviews.

Positive reviews mention the ease and efficiency of finding in-network psychiatrists and scheduling appointments. Negative reviews cite problems with Zocdoc overbooking appointment slots.

Best for Prescriptions Without Insurance: Sesame

Pros

  • Some providers can prescribe 30-day supply of medications that treat mental health conditions for $5
  • Option for same-day appointments, depending on provider
  • Upfront provider pricing

Cons

  • Prices vary by location and provider

Cost: Varies by provider

Payment options: Visa, Discover, Mastercard, and American Express; HSA and FSA cards

Accepts insurance: No

Accepts Medicaid: No

Accepts Medicare: No

Customer service options:

  • Phone (1-877-947-6411) available 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Saturday and Sunday
  • Email (support@sesamecare.com)
  • Online chat support on the Sesame website, available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday

Session format options: Live video appointments

Session length: Varies by provider

Extras: 30-day supply of anxiety and depression medications for $5; subscriptions to save on telehealth visits

Similar to Zocdoc, Sesame is a telehealth platform that offers a variety of virtual health care services that include psychiatry. Although the platform doesn’t accept insurance, it offers some benefits that Zocdoc doesn’t, including upfront pricing. And because of the option to get $5 generic medications with some providers, Sesame may be a good option for getting mental health medication without insurance.

To find a psychiatric provider on Sesame, you can either use the menu on the left-hand side of the home screen or use the search bar at the top of the screen. In the search bar, you can enter your symptoms, the type of care you’re looking for, or the name of any medication you need a prescription or refill for. Certain Sesame providers can prescribe a 30 day supply of medications that treat mental health conditions for $5, including shipping. These providers will have a “$5 MEDS” label on their profile. Sesame offers hundreds of generic medications for $5 for a 30-day supply, including medications prescribed to treat mental health conditions. Those medications include:

  • Bupropion SR (generic Wellbutrin SR)
  • Bupropion XL (generic Wellbutrin XL)
  • Citalopram (generic Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (generic Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (generic Prozac)
  • Lamotrigine (generic Lamictal)
  • Lithium (generic Lithobid)
  • Paroxetine (generic Paxil)
  • Sertraline (generic Zoloft)
  • Trazodone (generic Desyrel)

If you’re a new patient to Sesame, your psychiatric provider may want to meet with you after 30 days on the medication and before they authorize your next refill. These types of visits may be more affordable with a Sesame Plus membership, which gives you $20 off of every telehealth visit. A Sesame Plus membership costs $99 per year or $10.99 per month. The price you pay for Sesame Plus does not include the cost of medication.

A search results page on Sesame for a video psychiatry consultation in Florida, showing provider costs and available appointment times for new patients.

When you use the menu on the left side of the homepage, Sesame shows you providers who are licensed in your state, how much they charge, and their available appointment times.

Customer service

If you need to contact customer service, you can reach them at 1-877-947-6411 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

You can also email customer service at support@sesamecare.com. If you prefer live chat, go to the Sesame website and click the “S” icon in the bottom right-hand corner to start chatting with customer service. Chat is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Subscriptions offered

For $99 per year or $10.99 per month, you can join Sesame Plus to save on all of your telehealth visits. With this membership, you will receive:

  • $20 off every telehealth and primary care visit, typically $39 to $72 per visit
  • $30 off on every dentist appointment and in-person specialist appointment, typically $65 to $142 per visit
  • One free lab or blood test every year

Payment options

Sesame accepts Visa, Discover, Mastercard, and American Express credit cards, as well as HSA and FSA cards.

While Sesame does not accept insurance, you can submit your Sesame Care bill of services to your insurance for possible reimbursement. The exact amount of reimbursement will depend on your out-of-network insurance benefits.

If you’re new to Sesame, you can enter the promo code “BETTER50” for 50% off your first visit.

Customer reviews

Since Sesame is a telemedicine platform that offers services such as online therapy, dermatology, dentistry, primary care doctors, and prescription refills, its reviews cover more than online psychiatry and medication management services alone.

Sesame has a B+ rating on BBB and is not accredited. It has 2.27 out of 5 stars based on five reviews. On Trustpilot, Sesame has 4.3 out of 5 stars, with more than 700 reviews. Of these reviews, 79% of reviewers gave Sesame 5 stars, 3% gave it 4 stars, 1% gave it 3 stars, 2% gave it 2 stars, and 15% gave the platform 1 star.

Positive reviews mention great experiences with providers, quick and helpful customer service, easy-to-navigate technology, and affordable pricing. Negative reviews cite some providers not showing up for appointments or acting unprofessional. They also mention problems with billing.

You can learn more by reading our Reviews Team’s full Sesame review.

How does online psychiatry work?

Online psychiatrists offer the same care as in-person psychiatrists, aside from physical evaluations. According to the American Psychiatric Association, online psychiatrists can:

  • Evaluate you for mental health conditions
  • Diagnose you with issues such as depression or anxiety
  • Formulate a treatment plan
  • Perform therapy, where they counsel you through your problems and issues
  • Educate you on skills or tools that can help you manage your condition
  • Provide medication management, including mental health medication if it is deemed safe and appropriate1

When you see an online psychiatrist, most platforms require that you have a videoconference with them using your computer or smartphone. With Sesame and Brightside, you will log in to their platforms for your visit. With Zocdoc, your provider may choose to use the Zocdoc platform or a third-party tool like Zoom.

How to get online psychiatrist prescriptions

If you want to get an online psychiatric prescription, you will first need to see a psychiatric provider for an initial consultation. Just like they would during an in-person visit, they will only prescribe medication if it is deemed safe and appropriate for you.

If you’re prescribed medication, the online psychiatrist or psychiatry platform you choose will determine how you receive your prescriptions. They will either mail it to you directly or send it to your local pharmacy for fulfillment so you can pick it up in person.

Does insurance cover online psychiatry?

Some online psychiatry platforms accept health insurance, and some don’t. For example, Brightside and Zocdoc accept insurance, but Sesame doesn’t. Even if the platform does accept insurance, it may not be in-network with your insurance plan. If you plan on using insurance, check with your insurance carrier to verify coverage before you schedule an appointment with an online psychiatrist.

Do Medicare and Medicaid cover online psychiatry?

Some Medicaid programs cover telemedicine, but coverage varies by state.3 You can use the Medicaid website to check your state profile and see if you’re eligible for Medicaid and if it covers telemedicine, which includes online behavioral health services like telepsychiatry.4

Original Medicare, also called Medicare Part B, covers telehealth visits, including psychiatric evaluations and medication management.5 You will first need to meet the Part B deductible and then pay 20% of the Medicare-approved cost for telehealth service. If you want to use Medicare to pay for an online psychiatrist or psychiatry platform, always check with your Medicare program to confirm your final costs.

How to find an affordable online psychiatrist

To make online psychiatry as affordable as possible, consider following one of these three tips:

  1. Use your insurance benefits. Choosing an online psychiatry platform or provider who is in-network with your insurance can save you the most money, since you will only be responsible for paying the copays, coinsurance, and deductibles your plan requires. Brightside is in-network with a variety of insurance plans, and Zocdoc can help you find a provider who works with your specific insurance plan, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
  2. Find a psychiatrist or online psychiatry platform within your budget. Before deciding on a telepsychiatrist, look at your monthly budget to see how much you can afford for online psychiatry and potential medication. Brightside offers the most affordable psychiatry services, starting at $95 per month without using insurance. Your exact cost with insurance will depend on the details of your insurance plan.
  3. Look for low-cost prescription refill services. If you’ve been prescribed mental health medication before, Sesame may be your best option for online prescription renewals and refills. Some providers offer medications such as citalopram (generic Celexa), sertraline (generic Zoloft), and escitalopram (generic Lexapro) for $5 per prescription for a 30 day supply.

Bottom line

Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who perform mental health evaluations, make diagnoses, and formulate treatment plans, including prescribing medication if it’s safe and appropriate for you. Online psychiatry can be an affordable and convenient alternative to in-person psychiatry, especially if you do not live close to a provider or don’t have the time to commit to in-person appointments. If you want to try telepsychiatry, our Reviews Team’s top three recommendations are Brightside, Zocdoc, and Sesame.

What to do if you are in crisis

Online therapy is not right for those in crisis. Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm should call the 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) National Helpline to connect to more immediate help and then get connected to local mental health services.

Frequently asked questions

Have questions about this review? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Sources

  1. American Psychiatric Association. What is Telepsychiatry? Found on the internet at https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/telepsychiatry
  2. HealthCare.gov. Why health insurance is important. Found on the internet at https://www.healthcare.gov/why-coverage-is-important/pay-less-before-meeting-deductible/
  3. Medicaid.gov. Telemedicine. Found on the internet at https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/telemedicine/index.html
  4. Medicaid.gov. State Profiles. Found on the internet at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-overviews/state-profiles/index.html
  5. Medicare.gov. Telehealth. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth
  6. Drug Enforcement Agency. The Controlled Substances Act. Found on the internet at https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/csa

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