5 Best Online Psychiatrist Options of 2024 | Tested & Reviewed

Jul 03, 2024
Fact Checked
Our Reviews Team consulted mental health experts, mystery shopped more than 60 platforms, and held focus groups to review the best online psychiatrists.

Key Takeaways

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, we know the best online psychiatry platform can meet your needs right where you are. 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.American Psychiatric Association. What is Telepsychiatry? Found on the internet at https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/telepsychiatry

Our Reviews Team mystery shopped and researched several of the top providers and found Brightside, Talkspace,Talkiatry, Zocdoc, and Sesame to be the best online psychiatry options for 2024.

Most Affordable
$15 flat fee for medications
Accepts insurance
Now accepts Medicare and Medicaid
$60 off with promo code “NCOA60”
Our Top Pick
Best for Accessibility
Very Good
Easy sign-up process
Accepts insurance
Discounts available when you bundle
$85 off your first month with code: NCOA85
Best for Personalized Care
Very Good
Accepts insurance and Medicare
Treats patients as young as 5 years old
Charges by session, no subscription required

Our top online psychiatrist picks of 2024

  1. Brightside: Most Affordable Online Psychiatrist
  2. Talkspace: Best Online Psychiatrist for Accessibility
  3. Talkiatry: Best Online Psychiatrist for Personalized Care
  4. Zocdoc: Best Online Psychiatrist for Using Insurance
  5. Sesame: Best Online Psychiatrist for Prescriptions Without Insurance

Table 1, Compare the best online psychiatry platforms of July 2024

Cost $95–$349 per month $299 for initial visit, $175 for follow-ups $30 average copay per session; varies by provider Varies by provider Varies by provider
Accepts insurance Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offers a first-time discount Yes Yes No No No

Best online psychiatry platforms

Most Affordable
9.2 Excellent
Cost: $95–$349 per month
Session format options: Live video; unlimited messaging between appointments
Accepts insurance: Yes, including Medicare and Medicaid
Session length: 30–45 minutes
9.2 Excellent
Why we chose this platform

Brightside is our Reviews Team’s pick for “Most Affordable” because of its comprehensive psychiatric care and flat fee of $15 for medications. The platform accepts insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, which can help users save money.

Pros & Cons
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 Can get expensive to add therapy to psychiatry plan
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:

  • Psychiatry 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
  • Therapy only $299
    • Includes four 30-minute video therapy sessions
    • Can message your therapist at any time
    • Can purchase additional 30-minute therapy sessions for $59
  • Psychiatry + Therapy $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
Additional details

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, Cigna, and United Healthcare, which may further reduce your cost. You can use its coverage checker to determine whether Brightside is in-network with your insurance. In October of 2023, the platform announced that it would begin accepting Medicare and 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.

Customer service

You can get in touch with Brightside customer service via:

  • Phone: (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

When our Reviews Team contacted support over email, we received a reply within one business day.

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, United Healthcare, and certain regional insurance carriers. Use its coverage checker or call your insurance carrier to verify coverage. 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 December 2023, Brightside has responded to 45 customer complaints in the last 12 months. It has an A- rating overall, with 1.29 out of 5 stars based on 28 reviews. On Trustpilot, Brightside Health has 1.5 out of 5 stars based on 82 reviews, a “Bad” rating. These low review scores 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. Our Reviews Team contacted Brightside directly to ask how the company responds to customer complaints and negative online reviews. Brightside stated that they “welcome feedback across these platforms and also encourage our clinicians and members to share feedback with us directly. We take all online reviews of our company very seriously and address each one individually—as well as seek out any patterns to improve our processes. While we strive to offer the highest quality care and experience, we recognize there is always room for improvement.”

Our Top Pick
Best for Accessibility
8.9 Very Good
Cost: $299 for initial consultation, $175 per follow-up session
Session format options: Live video
Accepts insurance: Yes, but not Medicare or Medicaid
Session length: 20–90 minutes
$85 off your first month with code: NCOA85
8.9 Very Good
Why we chose this platform

The quick, easy onboarding process and straightforward pricing make Talkspace an accessible platform for those new to telehealth. Plus, there are discounts available when you bundle your sessions.

Pros & Cons
Pros Fast, easy onboarding process Straightforward pricing plans Accepts insurance Bundle discounts available Cons More expensive than some platforms No subscriptions offered for psychiatry
Subscriptions offered

Talkspace psychiatry sessions aren’t offered in a subscription. Instead, payments are session-based. Bundle discounts are available for new clients when they sign up:

  • Initial psychiatric evaluation and first follow-up session: $435
  • Initial psychiatric evaluation and three follow-up sessions: $725

There are also bundle discounts available for people who have already paid and completed a first session:

  • Three follow-up sessions: $475
  • Six follow-up sessions: $890
  • Nine follow-up sessions: $1,260
Additional details

Talkspace is a comprehensive telehealth platform that offers both therapy and psychiatric care. Licensed psychiatrists and nurse practitioners are available in all 50 states, and the platform has a mobile app, making it one of the most accessible online psychiatry services. Talkspace has partnered with most major U.S. insurers and offers out-of-network reimbursement claims. You can check coverage options on its website.

Psychiatry sessions at Talkspace can be a good option for people 18 and older who are seeking a diagnosis, prescription, and medication management. Providers can diagnose mental health conditions—including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, and PTSD, among others—and prescribe medications. Psychiatrists on Talkspace don’t prescribe controlled substances, stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin, or sedatives such as Valium or Xanax.

Talkspace is designed to be quick and easy. After answering a brief questionnaire online, you’ll schedule a video appointment with a psychiatric provider in your state. During the appointment, your provider will evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medication if medically appropriate. Then, your prescription will be sent to a local pharmacy of your choice. Follow-up video appointments will be scheduled every three months, but you can message your provider anytime.

Talkspace also has extra features users may find useful on their mental health journey. Self-help tools and guided exercises, like deep breathing, focusing, sensory awareness, journaling, and more, are available on the app.

Customer service

You can contact Talkspace customer service via:

Payment options

You can pay for Talkspace psychiatry through your insurance, an employee assistance program (EAP), or out-of-pocket with a major credit or debit card. Talkspace also accepts FSA and HSA cards.

Customer reviews

Talkspace has a B rating from BBB and 1.1 out of 5 stars based on 99 customer reviews. On Trustpilot, there are 267 reviews with an average of 2.8 out of 5 stars. Many negative reviews mention issues with billing, insurance, and customer service.

Best for Personalized Care
8.6 Very Good
Cost: $30 average copay; varies depending on insurance coverage
Accepts insurance: Yes, and Medicare, but it doesn’t accept Medicaid
Session format options: Live video, unlimited messaging
Session length: 60 minutes for initial consultation, 30 minutes for follow-ups
8.6 Very Good
Why we chose this platform

Talkiatry can treat patients as young as five years old, and it’s easy to find a provider with specialties like support for LGBTQ+ issues or perinatal mental health care. Unlike most online psychiatric platforms, this platform can prescribe some controlled substances.

Pros & Cons
Pros Comprehensive initial consultation Accepts many major U.S. insurance companies Prescriptions available for some controlled substances Cons Not available for patients on Medicaid or without insurance Doesn’t provide care for some mental health conditions Must contact customer service to switch providers
Subscriptions offered

Talkiatry doesn’t offer subscriptions—the platform charges by the session for its psychiatric care. According to the Talkiatry website, the average copay is $30. But, some customer reviews note that their charges were much higher, so it’s important to contact your insurance company for information about psychiatric service rates. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of prescription medications.

Additional details

Talkiatry is a national mental health practice offering in-network psychiatry and therapy that focuses on personalized care. Providers on Talkiatry can treat patients as young as five years old and specialize in a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, OCD, PTSD, and substance abuse disorder. Unlike many other online psychiatric platforms, Talkiatry providers can also prescribe some controlled substances according to established care standards. Talkiatry providers cannot treat conditions that require in-person care, including eating disorders or schizophrenia.

Talkiatry is currently available in 43 states. While all visits are virtual, your psychiatrist must be licensed to practice and prescribe medicine in your state. You’ll be matched to a local provider who meets your needs and schedule following a short online assessment. You’ll be able to specify whether you want a provider who offers specialized care, such as support for LGBTQ+ issues or perinatal mental health care. Within a few days, you can expect to have your initial consultation. These 60-minute sessions are designed to give your provider time to assess your needs, and they’re longer than the intake appointments on many other platforms. Afterward, you can use the Healow app to schedule 30-minute follow-up sessions or message your provider anytime.

Insurance is required for Talkiatry psychiatric care. The platform accepts many major insurance plans and offers a search tool to see whether your provider and plan are included. Talkiatry doesn’t accept Medicaid.

Customer service

For assistance with scheduling, refills, or technical issues, you can contact Talkiatry by:

You can also message your psychiatrist any time through the Healow app for a response within three business days.

Payment options

Talkiatry bills your insurance company directly after a session. You can expect a statement within 30–45 days and pay with a credit card on the platform’s secure online payment site.

Talkiatry also offers payment plans for balances over $250. You can schedule automatic payments to be charged monthly or every two weeks. Payment plans require a minimum payment of $50 and have a six-month repayment window with 0% interest.

If you have questions about your bill, you can call the customer support number or email billing@talkiatry.com.

Customer reviews

Talkiatry isn’t accredited at the BBB and currently has an F rating. It has 1 out of 5 stars from an average of 38 customer reviews. On Trustpilot, there are 148 reviews with an average of 1.4 stars out of 5. Negative reviews on both platforms mention communication issues, cancellations, and problems with billing. Positive reviews are generally specific to the provider.

Best for Using Insurance
8.7 Very Good
Cost: Varies by provider and insurance plan
Accepts insurance: Yes, but Medicare and Medicaid acceptance varies by provider
Session format options: Live video
Session length: Varies
8.7 Very Good
Why we chose this platform

Zocdoc accepts insurance, and most providers also accept Medicare and Medicaid. If you aren’t sure they’ll take your plan, you can use the platform’s insurance checker, making it our pick for “Best for Using Insurance.”

Pros & Cons
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
Subscriptions offered

Zocdoc does not offer subscriptions.

Additional details

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. 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 do so via:

  • Phone: (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

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.

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 4.76 out of 5 stars based on more than 1,600 reviews. On Trustpilot, Zocdoc is rated “Excellent,” with 4.6 out of 5 stars and more than 9,000 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
8.9 Very Good
Cost: Varies by provider
Accepts insurance: No, and doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid
Session format options: Live video appointments
Session length: Varies by provider
8.9 Very Good
Why we chose this platform

Sesame doesn’t accept insurance, so the pricing is straightforward, and you know what you’ll be paying from the start. And with a Sesame Plus membership, users can get more savings and free lab work every year.

Pros & Cons
Pros Option for a one-time visit or monthly membership Option for same-day appointments, depending on provider Upfront provider pricing Cons Prices vary by location and provider
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:

  • $10 off every telehealth and primary care visit, typically $39–$72 per visit
  • $30 off on every dentist appointment and in-person specialist appointment, typically $65–$142 per visit
  • One free lab or blood test every year
Additional details

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.

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. The left-hand menu also lets you search by common life situations like, “I am traveling,” “I just moved,” or “My job status has changed.”

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 $10 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 via:

  • Phone: (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

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.

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 3.84 out of 5 stars based on 90 reviews. On Trustpilot, Sesame has 4.3 out of 5 stars, with more than 1,200 reviews.

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.

What is online psychiatry?

Online psychiatry, or telepsychiatry, aims to mimic in-person psychiatry by meeting the same needs for mental health treatment in a more accessible way. Telehealth uses video, messaging, or audio formats to meet with patients online through a web browser or app. Whether they’re online or in person, psychiatrists can diagnose and treat mental health conditions by prescribing and managing medications. In the case of telepsychiatry, some platforms may deliver prescription medications to a patient’s home while others deliver to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.

Online psychiatrists may not be able to prescribe mental health medications that are classified as controlled substances. However, some platforms are authorized to prescribe from a limited list of controlled mental health medications, like stimulants for ADHD.

Telepsychiatry can help fill the gaps in mental health treatment In the United States, where health care worker shortages exist in counties in every state. Often called mental health deserts, the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, has identified shortages where the mental health needs of the population cannot be met, meaning there are no providers within a reasonable driving distance, existing providers have no availability for new patients, or the available services are not affordable. In rural areas, these shortages are more pronounced, and the HRSA has identified 3,426 rural areas with mental health care provider shortages in the United States.

Telepsychiatry can help fill those gaps, allowing individuals without adequate access to psychiatry to meet with a provider online. In addition to addressing shortages, online psychiatry is a good option for those who struggle with in-person visits or need the scheduling flexibility that online mental health treatment can provide. In some cases, underinsured or uninsured patients will find online psychiatry options to be more affordable than what is available in person.

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:

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.

Do Medicare and Medicaid cover online psychiatry?

Some Medicaid programs cover telemedicine, but coverage varies by state. Medicaid.gov. Telemedicine. Found on the internet at https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/telemedicine/index.html 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.Medicaid.gov. State Profiles. Found on the internet at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-overviews/state-profiles/index.html

Original Medicare, also called Medicare Part B, covers telehealth visits, including psychiatric evaluations and medication management. Medicare.gov. Telehealth. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealthYou 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.

Does insurance cover online psychiatry?

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

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. Participating Sesame providers can send prescriptions to your local pharmacy.

Is online psychiatry effective?

There is evidence that online psychiatry is just as effective as in-person treatment. According to the APA, both online therapy and online psychiatry can be an effective way to receive care while also increasing access to treatment.

A 2020 review of 14 studies looked at the efficacy of telepsychiatry in the treatment of major depressive disorder, with a majority of the studies finding telepsychiatry to be as effective or more effective than in-person treatment. Participants in these studies also reported no difference in satisfaction between online and in-person treatment or greater satisfaction with telepsychiatry.

Variables—like the mental health condition being treated, the number and frequency of sessions, and the relationship that develops between a patient and the psychiatrist—can also dictate the efficacy of online psychiatry.

Pros of online psychiatry

Cons of online psychiatry

Who should use online psychiatry?

As an accessible option offering flexible mental health treatment, online psychiatry is a great fit for many people with mental health conditions. The online treatment format works well for people with busy schedules or limited access to mental health care where they live. Uninsured or underinsured patients may find telehealth more affordable than in-person options in their area.

Telepsychiatry is typically a good treatment option for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. Online care for ADHD is more limited since not all platforms are authorized to prescribe stimulants.

More severe mental health conditions requiring intensive or crisis-focused care, including addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation, are better treated with in-person psychiatry.

How to choose an online psychiatrist

Choosing an online psychiatrist requires careful consideration to ensure you find the right fit for your mental health needs. 

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an online psychiatrist:

Do online psychiatrists prescribe medication?

Online psychiatrists licensed in your state can diagnose mental health conditions—including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety—and prescribe medications for treatment. There are restrictions for online prescriptions in some states. It can be helpful to check with your state medical board to learn more about online prescription requirements and restrictions.

Types of medication online psychiatrists prescribe

Common medications prescribed through online psychiatry platforms include SSRIs, anti-anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers.

Most online psychiatrists cannot prescribe controlled substances such as Xanax or Adderall. The Drug Enforcement Administration strictly regulates controlled substances because of their potential for abuse.

The process of getting medication from an online psychiatrist

To get an online prescription, you must first have an initial telehealth consultation with a psychiatric provider. You can have this first session as soon as you complete the sign-up and scheduling with your respective platform. Just like during an in-person visit, providers 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.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and therapist?

While these titles are often confused, the biggest difference between psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists is that psychiatrists can prescribe medication. That’s because these professionals are doctors with medical degrees and have at least 12 years of post-secondary education and training, according to the American Psychiatric Association. They tend to focus on the kind of mental health conditions that require a more involved treatment plan.

Psychologists have a doctoral degree and must complete both national and state exams following at least a year in supervised practice to become licensed. These professionals, which include licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists, offer therapy and treatments designed to address mental health issues, according to the American Psychological Association. In certain states, psychologists who have specialized training may also prescribe medications.

Like psychologists, therapists are licensed professionals who use therapy to treat mental health conditions. Before becoming licensed to practice, they must earn a master’s degree and complete supervision training.

How to prepare for your first meeting with an online psychiatrist

Before your first session with an online psychiatrist, ensure that you have a quiet, private place to sit and that all of your equipment, such as your camera, microphone, and internet connection, are in working order. Make a list of questions you have for your psychiatrist, as well as any topics you’d like to discuss, including your goals for your treatment. It may also be helpful to track potential triggers and emotions you’re experiencing so that you can share them with your psychiatrist. If you’ve taken or are currently taking medications, add that to your list as well.

Keep a pen and notebook close by so that you can take notes about any homework your psychiatrist may assign between sessions. Remember to be honest and open about what you’re feeling, and don’t expect improvement overnight. Your treatment is a process that takes time, so make an effort to stick with it.

How we chose the best online psychiatry platforms

Based on our independent research and consultations with mental health experts, our Reviews Team determined the following factors to be important when looking for online psychiatry:

We also consulted with independent mental health professionals for their insights into the benefits and drawbacks of online psychiatry to aid our reviews.

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 find the best online psychiatrist for you, our Reviews Team’s top recommendations are Brightside, Talkspace, Talkiatry, 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

Yes, online psychiatry can be just as effective as in-person psychiatry for mental health care. The effectiveness of online psychiatry depends on several factors, including the condition being treated, the frequency of sessions, and the quality of the patient-psychiatrist relationship. One advantage of online psychiatry is its convenience, allowing patients to access care from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, online platforms often provide greater accessibility at a lower price point, which may allow users to have an easier time keeping up with appointments. 

No. At this time, Talkspace doesn’t prescribe sedatives, including Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin.

Based on our research, Talkiatry is a good place to receive online psychiatric care for ADHD. In fact, Talkiatry specializes in ADHD, as well as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, insomnia, and PTSD.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists are all health care professionals trained and certified to treat mental health conditions, but there are distinct differences between their roles. A therapist can provide treatment through the use of talk therapy, and they may be a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional counselor, or a licensed mental health counselor with a master’s level education. Some therapists are psychologists, who have a doctorate level education, and they can both diagnose mental health conditions and treat them using psychotherapy. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can diagnose mental health conditions and prescribe medication for treatment. Psychiatrists do not offer therapy services, but may recommend them as part of a treatment plan.

Online psychiatrists can prescribe medications if they diagnose you with a mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Keep in mind that some states have restrictions for online prescriptions, so it’s a good idea to check with your state’s medical board to learn more about online prescription requirements.

Whether or not you need a referral to see an online psychiatrist depends on the platform you choose, your location, and your insurance coverage. Many online platforms offer direct access to psychiatrists and therapists without requiring a referral from a primary care physician or another health care provider. For example, you do not need a referral to see a psychiatrist on Talkspace, Brightside, and Sesame, but Zocdoc and Talkiatry may ask for a referring physician in some cases. 

Referral requirements may vary, so check with the platform directly or review their policies to confirm whether a referral is necessary. 

Online psychiatrists are medical doctors, which means they have the experience and authority necessary to diagnose mental health conditions. According to the American Psychiatry Association, in-person psychiatry and telepsychiatry have similar rates of diagnostic accuracy.

Online psychiatrists can subscribe to many anxiety medications, but most online psychiatry services do not offer prescriptions for controlled substances because of FDA regulations.

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


  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
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Savannah Bacon is a writer and mental health advocate living in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a BA from Emory University. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand their health, both at Emory’s School of Medicine and WebMD. She’s always been a proponent for the healing power of therapy (and also chocolate).
Jessica Timmons is a freelance writer who has written extensively about health, wellness, fitness, sleep, beauty, and parenting, among other topics. Her work has appeared on Forbes, Healthline, mindbodygreen, Everyday Health, and more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and four active kids, lifting weights, and getting better at rock climbing one route at a time.
Marni Amsellem Headshot
Marni Amsellem Medical Reviewer
Marni Amsellem, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, consultant, and writer. Her areas of specialty include health and health behavior, mental health, stress and coping, and the practice of therapy across diverse settings in health and wellness. Her clinical practice centers around helping individuals and groups navigate change and other challenges, modify behaviors, and build resilience and form healthier relationships. She has honed her expertise in teletherapy and blended modalities of clinical care over the course of many years as a practitioner and consultant. She completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University and doctorate work in clinical psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Kathleen Cameron
Kathleen Cameron Reviewer
Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher, and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. Cameron is Senior Director of the NCOA Center for Healthy Aging, where she provides subject matter expertise on health care programmatic and policy related issues and oversees the Modernizing Senior Center Resource Center.
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