Finding A Licensed Psychiatrist Online

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you’re looking for personalized support that combines medicine and psychology for your mental health symptoms or to treat/diagnose mental health conditions, an in-person or online psychiatrist has the knowledge and expertise to help. Licensed psychiatrists are trained physicians who specialize in the treatment of mental, behavioral, and personality disorders. These medical professionals are highly trained and equipped to treat a diverse array of mental illness through psychiatry sessions. If you want to see a psychiatrist, you have options. In addition to being available for an in-person visit, there are many platforms that can match a patient with an web-based psychiatrist, so you can enlist their help without compromising your schedule.

Below, we’ll explore your options for psychiatric care, reasons why you might choose psychiatry, and how online therapy can enhance your psychiatric treatment plan.

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What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Both of these professionals work in mental health, but prior to entering the field, they undergo different types of training. Unlike psychologists, who are primarily trained to provide psychotherapy and talk therapy, both in-person and web-based psychiatrists have graduated from medical school and have a deep understanding of human biology and psychological concepts of human behavior, development, and personality.

Educational and training requirements

Both in-person and online psychiatrists are uniquely trained to work within the framework of a mind-body connection. Due to their understanding of human biology, they can prescribe medications and provide you with a medication management plan. Qualifications in psychiatry usually mean that practitioners can prescribe controlled substances such as anti-anxiety medications. They can also order medical procedures, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which can treat concerns like major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Because they are also trained in psychology, they understand how psychotherapy and psychological tests can complement these medical treatments.

If you believe that you need a mental health treatment plan with a combined approach of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatments, an in-person or web-based psychiatrist may be the best option for you.

Finding mental health care with an online psychiatrist

In many cases, you can begin your search by asking close friends and family, browsing through web-based therapy platforms, or asking your primary care doctor and nurse practitioners for psychiatrist recommendations. Your primary care physician may write you a referral so that you can schedule an appointment with a psychiatric provider more quickly. If you feel more comfortable starting your search discreetly, an online platform can allow prospective patients to connect with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. 

Online psychiatry platforms: What are a few options to explore?

You might also pay attention to their diverse range of subspecialties, which are specialty certifications within the mental health field. For example, in-person or web-based practitioners may specialize in child psychiatry, couples and family psychiatric concerns, or specific mental health conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or eating disorders. It can be helpful to choose an online mental health professional based on your specific mental health challenges and goals.

How do I choose the right platform for me?

As you search, you might begin to compile a list of potential mental health services, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychiatrists that you would like to start collaborating with. Depending on your preferred contact mode, you can email or call their office to schedule a consultation. Before attending your first appointment, the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends screening the practitioner for the following considerations:

  • Compatibility with your insurance company, if they accept insurance
  • Education, which includes board-certified subspecialties and areas of expertise (You can check their credentials at the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.)
  • Teaching experience 
  • Scientific publications that they have written
  • Years of experience
  • The website and description of their medical approach
  • Other patients’ reviews

What to expect at your first psychiatry appointment 

Most in-person or web-based mental health professionals begin with an initial consultation, submitting a mental health evaluation before a treatment plan is made. This first appointment gives psychiatric patients an opportunity to discuss their concerns and mental health history with an experienced provider while assessing the psychiatric nurse or doctor’s personality and treatment approach. You might prepare a list of questions as well as a list of any current medications or testing records. During your consultation, you can also ask about any sliding scale fee plans and the predicted length of the treatment plan.

Are there any cons to seeing a psychiatrist? 

If you’re curious about medication, note that psychiatrists usually only prescribe medication after a psychological evaluation. This includes a thorough review of your medical history, health records, and goals. Depending on your symptoms, they may also order psychological and medical tests, such as brain imaging or blood tests, to rule out any underlying causes of your concerns.

With this information and your consent to pursue psychiatric treatment, the practitioner will likely develop a personalized treatment plan. Although they may decide to add or alter your medications as part of your treatment, mental health conditions do not always require medication. In these cases, a psychiatrist may recommend therapy or another non-medicinal treatment to improve and manage a patient’s symptoms. Online therapy can be a convenient way to receive mental health care.

Differences between psychiatry and therapy

At BetterHelp, board-certified therapists can provide therapeutic treatment for ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. At this time, BetterHelp does not include online psychiatrists. However, after you meet with an in-person or web-based psychiatrist, they may suggest that you connect with a therapist whose specialty or approach aligns with your needs, and BetterHelp can assist with this part of your care.


Exploring online options for mental health conditions

When it comes to mental health, it can be difficult to find the time—let alone the words—to ask for help. However, many psychiatrists offer virtual mental health care to make services available to a wider variety of patients. Online care can provide the same professional insight and treatment through virtual visits as you’d receive in person. In some cases, you may meet with your psychiatrist in person during your first consultation and then continue treatment via video chat or another digital platform. Whatever your preference, it’s possible to find web-based help and receive a thorough assessment without leaving home. Often times health insurance providers like united healthcare can support you financially to see a practitioner. 

Online psychiatry support options

Both therapeutic and psychiatric services are expanding rapidly to meet the needs of mental health patients. While many studies focus on the benefits of online therapy, many researchers point toward the potential of digital solutions in psychiatric treatment, such as virtual reality to facilitate exposure therapy for phobias, chatbots to deliver CBT, and even voice and facial recognition software to support diagnoses.

If you want to work with an online psychiatrist, some directories (such as the APA Finder tool) allow you to filter the results. As you explore options, it is important to remember that it can be vital to form a healthy therapeutic relationship with your practitioner, as medication management is usually a collaborative process.

If you’re ready to begin your mental health journey but unsure if psychiatry is right for you, online therapy can be an effective stepping stone to other treatments. Online therapy provides benefits such as flexible scheduling and offers a wider range of mental health professionals. Read on for reviews from BetterHelp clients who have worked with our board-certified online therapists toward their mental health goals.

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Therapist reviews from BetterHelp clients

"I have not been working with Andrea for long, but I have found her to be compassionate and adaptable. She helped me realize that if a medical doctor or therapist isn't able to empathize and they are approaching my problems cynically and with indiscriminate doubt, they cannot help me. Andrea is the first person in a long time that inspired me to hope they can help and trust that they will at the very least try."

"I love working with Nancy! She's been very empowering, compassionate, and understanding. Whenever I text or call, I know she'll be there for me and that she'll provide me with an insight that will help me find my way. I've been really appreciative of these counseling services, and I am so very glad I decided to do counseling. It's an investment in one's health. I've been on psychotic meds for a whole decade and while medications numb the pain, they do not resolve it. Counseling does! I am definitely continuing to work with Nancy."


No matter what mental health concerns you’re experiencing, you don’t have to try to navigate them alone. There are mental health professionals who can help, including online psychiatrists, behavioral health counselors, and therapists. With BetterHelp, you can start your search by getting matched with a licensed therapist with experience treating your specific concerns. Take the first step to a healthier you and reach out to BetterHelp today.
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