According to research, yes. In a study on 119 depressed veterans who were randomly assigned to telepsychiatry or in-person treatment, outcomes were comparable. The veterans were also equally satisfied with their treatment, regardless if they did sessions using technology or in person.
In many ways, it is the same as a regular, in-person psychiatry session. You show up on time, your psychiatrist welcomes you, and you start to talk. At the end you agree on your next appointment.
But there are quite a few differences.
How is an online psychiatry session different than an in-person one?
With an online session, there might be times you arrive just in the nick of time. And it’s fine.
With an online session, this isn’t recommended. It’s essential tobe at your computer at least a few minutes in advance, simply as there are more variables and you need leeway to troubleshoot.
This could look like a low battery and needing to find the power cable, a login issue, a modem that needs restarting, or a sound issue. It might be that you need more lighting. So yes, troubleshooting your technology and setup each time is crucial.
And you need to make sure you have privacy and quiet. There is no point doing a session if there is someone who can overhear you and you can’t be honest enough for the session to be valuable.
Even during your session you need to stay aware that you are speaking clearly, aren’t obstructing your microphone, and are staying in frame where your psychiatrist can see you.
So to summarise:
make sure you have privacy and quiet for the duration of your session
arrive a few minutes in advance in case there are technology issues
but also ensure your technology is working in advance
be sure you understand the login process
know the software you are using to connect on
have enough lighting your psychiatrist can see you
frame yourself so your head and shoulders are visible.
Yes, an online psychiatrist can prescribe medication.
If you booked your psychiatrist privately, they might be affiliated with a pharmacy where you can pick your meds up or have them mailed to you. If you are able to get your medication through the NHS, other arrangements can of course be made.
But do I really need to see a psychiatrist?
If you feel your mental health is at the point you need medication, or that you have a disorder such as a personality disorder, then a psychiatrist would be a good choice. Again, they are the only practitioners in the mental health field who can properly diagnose and prescribe meds.
But they do tend to be more expensive than psychotherapists, and have longer waiting lists and therefore wait times. So if you aren’t sure if you need medication, or if you are suffering something like typical anxiety or depression and don’t think you have further issues? It might be an idea to see a psychotherapist first.
A psychotherapist or counselling psychologist can work with you for a few sessions to get to the root of your issues. And if they think you would benefit from medication or a full diagnosis, they can refer you on to a psychiatrist.