Imagine a time in the distant future. Try to picture someone talking to a therapist on a screen that is set up in their home. Think of how they could be lying down on their own personal therapy couch, discussing their most intimate fears and concerns with a qualified mental health professional.
This sounds a bit futuristic, doesn’t it? Guess what! The future is here.
Online therapy which is also known as teletherapy, e-therapy or cyber-counseling is a relatively new and surprising development in the field of mental health. With online therapy, an online psychiatrist provides psychological support and advice over the internet.
Patients are connected with mental health professionals via email, online chat, video conferencing or internet phone. Online therapy can be done in real time, for instance, through phone conversations or video conferencing. It may also be done in a time-delayed format through email messages.
Online mental healthcare is becoming more and more popular with a growing number of users. Many people prefer seeing an online psychiatrist as a convenient alternative to traditional therapy or they may choose this option out of concern for the stigma sometimes associated with psychiatric care. The advantages and disadvantages of this novel concept should be carefully considered. As with any form of treatment for mental health issues, it may not be for everyone.
What’s the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?
People often get psychologists and psychiatrists confused with each other. This is understandable because their job descriptions may overlap as they often work together.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have an understanding of how our brains work and both of these professions are involved in the identification of problems that may affect our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. The fact is, however, that there are fundamental differences between the two professions.
Psychiatrists attend medical school and they become medical doctors before they receive specialized training in mental health. Seeing as psychiatrists are doctors, they understand the links that exist between physical and mental problems. Furthermore, they are licensed to not only provide psychotherapy but also prescribe medications.
Psychologists focus on psychotherapy and using behavioral intervention to treat difficult emotional and mental problems. They are capable of conducting psychological testing, which is an essential part of the assessment of a patient’s mental state, in order to determine the best course of treatment.
Psychiatrists and psychologists are also schooled differently. Psychiatrists attend 4 years of medical school, an internship that lasts 1 year and 3 years of specialist training. Psychologists generally have doctoral degrees in psychology and they have to complete a 2-3 year internship. Students of both these professions also have the option of extending their studies.
How Do I Start Looking?
An online psychiatrist can be found within minutes and online therapy gives you access to knowledgeable and sympathetic professionals at any time and from anywhere.
Online consultations may not be suitable for everyone. While it certainly has many favorable aspects, some people simply prefer person to person therapy. Face-to-face care may be needed for physical check-ups or for medication prescriptions.
In some cases a mix of traditional psychiatric therapy and online consultations can be the most beneficial course of action for optimal results.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have extensive knowledge regarding their specialty. They are licensed practitioners who diagnose and treat mental illness.
People who have mental health issues that they are concerned about are often referred to a psychiatrist by their primary health care physician or by a psychologist. This is usually done to ensure that they get the right medications and the correct dosages thereof. Some psychiatrists also provide psychotherapy.
You may find the thought of seeing a psychiatrist a bit daunting. It is entirely normal to have fears about this big step. However, to make the most of this opportunity, you need to embrace your fears. Remember that a psychiatrist can prescribe the medication that could potentially change your mental health for the better. Also, keep in mind that you maintain the right to refuse any medications that you are uncomfortable with.
It is important to have confidence in the fact that psychiatrists are medical doctors who know what they are doing. Finding the correct medication for your particular needs can be frustrating; it is most commonly done on a trial and error basis. If you are dedicated to finding the right medications, you will find that all the effort is worth it in the end.
An online psychiatrist conducts consultations over the internet, generally, with the use of video conference software. During one of these online sessions, you will be able to communicate with the psychiatrist using a smartphone, tablet or a computer. You will be able to see each other on the screens and you can talk in real time.
Distance communication for therapeutic purposes is not an unfamiliar concept. Sigmund Freud made considerable use of letters for communicating with his clients. In our modern world, numerous sites offer information on mental health along with private e-therapy clinics.
While many mental health professionals may view online mental healthcare with skepticism, many people who have used these services support the use of an online psychiatrist. Moreover, research has shown that online consultations may be as effective as face-to-face consultations.
The training and educational requirements for becoming an online psychiatrist are identical to those of a psychiatrist who practices in the traditional setting. These online practitioners also work according to an ethical framework.
Online consultations are quite convenient. Many people can’t find the time to get away from work or their other obligations to see a psychiatrist in a traditional setting. With online therapy, you have the options of communicating with a mental health practitioner by email, through a video or phone call or over text chat. This is less time-consuming than having to take a day off from your life to see a therapist.
Being able to get in touch with an online psychiatrist from nearly anywhere is another wonderful benefit of this service that you can make use of while you are traveling. This technological development also offers a unique opportunity for individuals who live in rural areas or areas with limited mental health care providers to connect with qualified psychiatrists.
The main tools for communicating with an online psychiatrist are:
- Real-Time Chat
- Internet Phone
- Instant Messaging (IM)
You can connect with a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home or from anywhere that suits you best. Online directories provide a simple solution to finding an online psychiatrist.
Online psychiatrists can work alongside hospitals and mental health clinics to expand the outreach of these institutions. Alternatively, they can contract with web-based companies that provide directories of providers who can be directly contacted by patients with mental health issues.
Online psychiatrists can also be found through a variety of online mental healthcare platforms, including here at ThriveTalk.
How Do I Assess Potential Psychiatrists?
In the same way that psychiatrists in “real-world” settings have various qualifications and licenses, online therapists can also come from different educational backgrounds and have different credentials.
There are no quick and easy paths to becoming an online psychiatrist. In fact, the educational and training requirements for online therapists are the same as for those who practice in a face-to-face setting. An online psychiatrist also needs to be licensed to practice in the field of mental health.
To ensure the ethical practice of online therapy, certain standards have to be upheld. The guidelines for online consultations include these minimum standards and practices:
- Psychiatrists are only allowed to work within their scope of practice.
- An online psychiatrist has to adhere to the guidelines and laws specified by their location.
- Therapists need to gain knowledge about online therapy and they have to be trained and supervised for these purposes.
- As an online psychiatrist, the practitioner has to have a strong understanding of technology. They should know how to utilize the tools required for delivering psychotherapy online and to ensure the privacy and security of patient information.
What Do I Do to Set Up the First Session?
If your online consultation is at a hospital or a clinic, everything should be ready for you when you get there.
If you decide to do the online session at home, you will need:
- A private room that is well-lit and quiet enough
- A fast and reliable internet connection
- A smartphone, tablet or computer
Take some time before the appointment to get everything in order. Make sure that your internet speeds are at least 0.8 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 0.25 megabits per second for uploads. Faster internet speeds will provide better video quality.
If you choose to use a computer, it should have a webcam and a microphone. Luckily, most new computers have these technologies built in. Make sure that your camera is fully functional and that your microphone works properly by testing them beforehand.
Your psychiatrist will provide you with instructions about downloading any necessary software. You don’t have to purchase any additional software.
Once you have everything set up, you are ready to start your first online psychotherapy session.
What Happens in the First Session?
During your appointment, your online psychiatrist will have a conversation with you and ask you specific questions just like they would in a traditional face-to-face consultation.
The first session includes an opportunity for consent and orientation. Your psychiatrist will listen as you talk about any troubling mental or physical symptoms you have been experiencing. They will also want to learn about your concerns.
At the end of the session, the psychiatrist will share their general impressions about your situation with you and they may discuss certain requirements for the next session. They’ll also send any medications they prescribed out to the pharmacy of your choice.
Questions to Ask a Potential Psychiatrist
If you are considering working with an online psychiatrist you may be wondering what questions you could ask ahead of time before you take this big step. After all, psychotherapy is not something that you enter into without careful consideration.
The following questions should provide you with the answers that you need to get things in motion:
- Will my personal information remain confidential?
- Are online consultations private?
- What do I need for the first consultation?
- Can I someone sit in with me for a consultation?
- What are the costs involved?
Your Online Psychiatrist is Only a Click Away!
Online psychotherapy is becoming very popular these days with rising numbers of consumers. As with everything else it is always important to think about the pros as well as the cons of consulting with an online psychiatrist.
You may be afraid that you will experience uncomfortable side-effects from using psychiatric medications. Or perhaps you are concerned about the social stigma connected to seeing a psychiatrist. The best advice would be to not let your fears get in the way of you living a happy and fulfilling life.
Consider seeing an online therapist who will be able to help you. With this new development in psychiatric care, you can have access to mental health treatment in the comfort of your home with the click of a mouse.