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online-psychology

Blog Mental Health

Online Psychologist

writtenByWritten by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

Read more posts by this author.

December 3, 2020 Read Time - 11 minutes

Please note, PlushCare does not have online psychologists at this time but our therapists and PCPs can help with mental health concerns.

All You Need to Know About Online Psychologists

Is there an online psychologist? If so, what can they help with? What’s the difference between an online psychologist and online psychiatrist? And what about an online therapist?

There is a lot to know about online psychologists and online therapy, it can feel overwhelming. We want you to find exactly the type of help you need, so here’s all the information you need about online psychology. 

What Is an Online Psychologist?

An online psychologist is a regular psychologist who offers their services online. Psychologists have a PhD in psychology and specialize in diagnosing mental illnesses and providing different types of therapy.

Psychologists have more professional education than therapists or counselors and tend to be more versatile in the types of mental illnesses they can treat. 

Difference Between an Online Psychologist and an Online Psychiatrist

While online psychologists can provide therapy, they can’t prescribe medications.

Medication management must be handled by an online psychiatrist or an online primary care physician.

Psychiatrists have been to medical school and are doctors that specialize in psychiatry. Primary care physicians (PCPs) are also doctors that specialize in a wide range of treatment, including mental health concerns.

Psychiatrists typically only handle medication management. So, in short, you may see a therapist or an online psychologist for therapy and an online psychiatrist or PCP for medication. While some people may benefit from one or the other, many people need both.  

At PlushCare we offer medication services and therapy. 

PlushCare’s primary care physicians can help diagnose and treat your mental health concerns all from your phone or computer. You can book a same-day appointment and receive a comprehensive treatment plan, including prescription medication not classified as a controlled substance.

PlushCare’s online therapists make getting emotional support and development simpler than ever. Click here to set up an appointment with one of our trusted online therapists. Online therapy is currently only available in California, more states coming soon! 



What Can an Online Psychologist Treat?

While online psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they can treat a variety of mental health issues with different types of therapy.

Online psychologist offer many different types of therapy, including:

Through therapy, an online psychiatrist can help treat a variety of issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Grief/loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Personality disorders
  • Behavioral health issues
  • Addiction
  • Anger issues

Related: Get Anxiety Treatment Online


Difference Between Online and In-Person Psychologists

Online psychologists are required to have all the same credentials and experience as in-person psychologists. Studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy. 

An online psychologist appointment may be cheaper than an in-person appointment, and you may have more ways to communicate with your psychologist if they’re online, such as through in-app or text messaging. 

An appointment with an online psychologist also tends to be more convenient than an in-person appointment. You don’t need to figure out how to get to the appointment or carve out extra time for a commute. Online therapy may even happen over a series of messages rather than one long appointment, making it even more flexible for your schedule.

What Are the Benefits of Online Therapy?

Online therapy offers a wide variety of benefits for providers and patients. Some benefits of seeing an online psychologist include:

  • Reduced mental health stigma    
  • Access from anywhere
  • More convenient
  • Cheaper
  • More ways to communicate (including messaging, phone, and video)
  • More anonymous – no chance of running into someone you know in the waiting room

According to a 2016 study in the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health, “Effective approaches to the long-term management of mental illness include monitoring, surveillance, mental health promotion, mental illness prevention, and biopsychosocial treatment programs. The empirical evidence presented in this article demonstrates the capability of TMH to perform these functions more efficiently and as well as or more effectively than in-person care.”

Should I See an Online Psychologist?

An online psychologist could be a great choice for you. Whether you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one, have symptoms of depression or anxiety, are having trouble in a relationship, or are having just about any other mental health struggles, an online psychologist can likely help. 

If you’ve been considering going to therapy, but you’re reluctant to go to an in-person appointment for any reason, an online psychologist may be a great way to take the first step. 

If an online psychologist is out of your price range, online therapists can help with the same conditions as online psychologists but are a more affordable option.



Who Is Online Therapy Not Right For?

While online therapy is an excellent option for many people, it isn’t right for everybody. Those who have serious psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or severe depression may need the oversight of in-person therapy. 

An online therapist is rarely equipped for or available in the case of an emergency. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, a local therapist who is on-call in case of emergencies is a good option.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide this is an emergency condition and you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

How to Choose the Right Online Psychologist

Finding the right online psychologist can be tricky. It’s important to find somebody you feel like you connect with, and it’s impossible to know whether you will click with somebody before you talk to them. 

Fortunately, changing online therapists is somewhat easier than changing in-person therapists. You can talk to several different therapists from the comfort of your home until you find the right one. 

Keep in mind, there are many benefits of sticking with one therapist once you’ve found a good fit. 

Click here to meet PlushCare’s own therapists and see if our services can help you.

Note, PlushCare has therapists, not psychologists. That said, our therapists are highly trained to treat a wide variety of mental health conditions and will work with you to improve your mental health. 

What to Ask Your Online Psychologist Before Starting Treatment

There are several things you should ask your online psychologist before starting treatment. Here are a few examples of things you should discuss:

  • What are your credentials? Do you have proof? If you find an online psychologist outside the most popular apps and websites, it can be hard to be sure whether you’re talking to somebody who is actually qualified to treat you. Make sure they have the necessary qualifications first. The big sites, like PlushCare, all vet their psychologists and therapists, saving you this step. 
  • Is your website/app HIPAA compliant? The health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) requires all your personal health information to be kept safe and private. How does this online psychologist guarantee that your data won’t get hacked? PlushCare is proud to be HIPAA compliant. 
  • What types of therapy do you specialize in? There are many different types of therapy, and most psychologists specialize in a few rather than practicing them all. Find out what type of therapy the online psychologist offers and if it may be right for your situation. 
  • How much experience do you have with my issue? The more experience the psychologist has with treating issues like yours, the more likely you are to have a successful outcome yourself. 

What to Expect From an Online Psychologist

Whether you’re looking for depression treatment online, anxiety treatment online, or other mental health help, there are a few things to expect from an online psychologist.

First, you will need to provide some information to book an appointment. You might be able to pick a username and remain anonymous. However, you will need to give your email address, and you may need to provide insurance information or the name and phone number of an emergency contact. 

Next, you should expect to spend some time talking to your online psychologist about what your hopes and goals are for therapy. Everybody goes to therapy for different reasons, so it’s important for your online psychologist to keep your personal goals in mind when crafting a treatment plan. 

Count on sharing a lot of information with your online psychologist. The more open you are during therapy, the better results you will tend to experience. Hiding your thoughts or emotions from your psychologist only slows down your treatment in the long run. 


Related Quiz: Do I Need Therapy?


Is Online Therapy Secure and Confidential?

Generally, yes, online therapy is secure and confidential. Your privacy is guaranteed by HIPAA laws. However, it’s important to note that nothing on the internet is ever completely free of risk from hackers. Ask your online psychologist what they’re doing to keep your health information safe.

Online therapy is very secure, and your therapist is required to keep your sessions confidential (with very few exceptions, like if you announce intent to hurt yourself or others).

How Much Does Online Counseling Cost?

Online counseling is usually cheaper than in-person counseling. Online therapy typically costs in the range of $60 to $100 a week. If it’s covered by your health insurance plan, online counseling may be even cheaper than that.

At PlushCare you pay just $65 a session to meet weekly with your dedicated therapist via video chat. This fee also gives you unlimited access to your care team to help with anything you need between therapy appointments as well as our primary care physicians for your general health needs. 



Does Health Insurance Cover Online Therapy?

Some health insurance plans cover online counseling, while others don’t. You will need to check the details of your plan. Some health insurance doesn’t cover any therapy, some only covers in-person appointments, and other plans may cover both. 

Can Primary Care Physicians Treat Depression?

Online therapy is great, but for some, therapy alone can only do so much. Sometimes, antidepressants or anxiety medication are required to really help you feel better. That’s where primary care doctors come into play. If you don’t want to go to your doctor’s office, PlushCare may be able to help.

Do you think online therapy alone isn’t enough for you? One of our licensed doctors can prescribe mental health medication. If they think you would benefit from it, they can electronically send a prescription to your local pharmacy. 

To talk to one of our trusted doctors and find out whether an antidepressant or anxiety medication might improve your quality of life, click here, or download the PlushCare Mobile App to schedule an appointment.

If you want to set up an appointment with one of our therapists instead of a physician, click here.

Help is out there. You don’t need to feel like this forever. With the help of a therapist, primary care physician, or both, you can start feeling better. You just have to reach out for help. The first step is the hardest, but the end result is worth it. 

Book a same day appointment and get the help you need from our board certified doctors. 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.



Read More About Online Psychology


Article Sources

onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Primary‐care patients’ expectations and experiences of online cognitive behavioural therapy for depression: a qualitative study. Accessed on November 10, 2020. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1369-7625.2008.00531.x

tandfonline.com. Best Practice in Online Therapy. Accessed on November 10, 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15228830802097257?casa_token7zencare.co. BetterHelp vs Talkspace: The In-Depth Review of Pros, Cons & Cost. Accessed on July 26, 2020. https://blog.zencare.co/betterhelp-vs-talkspace/

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Accessed on July 26, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5659300/

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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