Mental Health

Can Virtual Psychiatrists Prescribe Medication?

Ashley Brooks17 Nov 2021

Virtual psychiatrists can prescribe medications to patients. However, if you are getting care from a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist who is not licensed in your state, you will not receive a prescription from this provider. Virtual psychiatry can help you access mental health treatment in the comfort of your home or on the go.

Beginning in Fall 2021, Mira will be offering access to telebehavioral health and virtual primary care. Mira also provides access to affordable urgent care visits throughout the United States, highly discounted lab tests, and thousands of prescriptions. Sign up and start seeking care today! 

Medications Commonly Prescribed By Virtual Psychiatrists 

According to psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. David Puder, psychiatrists operating in a virtual capacity can prescribe medications, including controlled substances. Some of the most commonly prescribed types of drugs for treating mental health disorders are the following:

  • Antidepressants: The most commonly prescribed medications for depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs treat depression by increasing levels of serotonin, which helps stabilize mood and happiness.
  • Anti-Anxiety: Benzodiazepines are a type of medication commonly used to treat anxiety and a range of other mental health conditions. Benzodiazepines treat overstimulation in the brain that is associated with anxiety.
  • Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics can be prescribed to treat mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. There are two classes of antipsychotics: typical and atypical. These types of antipsychotics differ in how they work, their side effects, and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Stimulants: Prescription stimulants are medicines generally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and uncontrollable episodes of sleep (narcolepsy). Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy levels by increasing the activity of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine.

Below we outline some brand name and generic antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, and stimulants that a virtual psychiatrist may prescribe.  

Medications To Treat Mental Health Disorders

AntidepressantsAnti-AnxietyAntipsychoticStimulant
Prozac (fluoxetine)Xanax (alprazolam)Abilify (aripiprazole)Adderall (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine)
Celexa (citalopram)Klonopin (clonazepam)Zyprexa (olanzapine)Concerta (methylphenidate hydrochloride)
Zoloft (sertraline)Valium (diazepam)Clozaril (clozapine)Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride)
Paxil (paroxetine)Ativan (lorazepam)Haldol (haloperidol)Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)

Sources: MedlinePlus, MayoClinic, Good Therapy, Cleveland Clinic

When To See a Virtual Psychiatrist

Seeing a virtual psychiatrist is a great way to promote mental health. While it might not always be clear to you whether you have a mental health condition or what type of treatment you need, consider the following signs to get you thinking about seeking mental health treatment: 

  1. Feelings of overwhelm
  2. Recurring fatigue
  3. Disproportionate rage, anger, or feelings of resentment
  4. Inability to leave home
  5. Anxious or intrusive thoughts
  6. Loss of interest in usual activities
  7. Feelings of hopelessness
  8. Social withdrawal

Psychiatry does not need to be in-person or require a patient to undergo a physical exam, making virtual care a great option. Telepsychiatry can provide psychiatric evaluations, as well as individual, group, or family therapy sessions. If your doctor prescribes you medication, you can receive counseling about the medication virtually. Virtual psychiatry can also: 

  • Improve access to mental health specialty care
  • Reduce delays in care
  • Improve continuity of care and follow-ups
  • Reduce the need for time off from work
  • Reduce barriers due to a lack of transportation

Most states have expanded their Medicaid and Private Payer Covered reimbursement policies to ensure coverage of telemedicine options. Virtual psychiatry may be a great option for you if you do not want to take off from work to see a psychiatrist, do not have transportation to a psychiatrist, or would like more flexibility in when you can talk to a psychiatrist. 

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The Cost of Virtual Psychiatry

Online consultation with a psychiatrist typically costs between $200 and $300. Follow-up visits usually cost $75 to $200 per session. The cost of therapy can vary based on several factors, including: 

  • Where you live
  • If you see a sliding scale provider
  • The type of specialist you see
  • What kind of therapy you need

However, Mira will soon be offering telebehavioral health services, which include appointments with virtual psychiatrists. With Mira, you can significantly lower the cost of care and get access to thousands of urgent care centers across the United States, as well as highly discounted lab tests and prescriptions. 

Virtual Psychiatry Options

Many online therapy options have recently taken over the healthcare space, but they do not all provide virtual psychiatry options. Many of the virtual psychiatrists operate through programs that also provide additional healthcare services such as primary and urgent care services, and even some specialty care. Below are some online platforms that you can use to get connected with a virtual psychiatrist. 

  1. Talkspace
  2. MDLive
  3. Teladoc
  4. Amwell
  5. LiveHealth Online

Mental Health Professionals Qualified to Prescribe Medication 

When considering mental health treatment, it is important to understand the many types of licensed professionals that can offer services. Below we describe some types of mental health providers, treatments they can offer, and whether they can prescribe medications. 

Mental Health Professions

ProfessionCan DiagnoseCan CounselCan Prescribe
Psychiatrist
Psychologist 
Psychiatric Mental Health NurseVaries by state
Physician Assistant
Licensed Clinical Social Worker 
Licensed Professional Counselor 

Source: Mayo Clinic

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a physician, also known as a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.), who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists may also specialize in children and adolescents, geriatrics, or addiction psychiatry. A psychiatrist is qualified to:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Provide psychological counseling, also called psychotherapy
  • Prescribe medication

Psychologist

A psychologist has training in psychology and typically holds a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.). Psychology is a science that deals with thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. A psychologist is qualified to:

  • Diagnose and treat many mental health disorders and provide psychological counseling, in one-on-one or group settings
  • Cannot prescribe medication unless they are licensed to do so
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse

A psychiatric-mental health nurse (P.M.H.N.) is a registered nurse with training specifically in mental health conditions. Psychiatric mental health nurses may have other titles or advanced degrees such as psychiatric-mental health advanced practice registered nurse (P.M.H.-A.P.R.N.), clinical nurse specialist (C.N.S.), a certified nurse practitioner (C.N.P), or a doctorate of nursing practice (D.N.P.).

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Mental health nurses are qualified to:

  • Vary in the services they can offer, depending on their education, level of training, experience, and state law
  • Can assess, diagnose and treat mental illnesses, depending on their education, training, and experience
  • If state law allows, prescribe medication if they're an advanced practice nurse

Physician Assistant

A certified physician assistant (P.A.-C.) practices medicine as a primary care provider or collaborates with a physician in other specialties, such as psychiatry. Physician assistants are qualified to:

  • Diagnose and treat mental health disorders
  • Counsel on diagnoses, treatments, and prognosis
  • Prescribe medication

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Social workers are also able to provide mental health services. Look for titles such as licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) or a licensed independent clinical social worker (L.I.C.S.W.) specializing in mental health. A licensed clinical social worker must have advanced degrees, such as a master's in social work (M.S.W.), and may even have a doctorate in social work (D.S.W. or Ph.D.). Social workers are qualified to:

  • Provide assessment, diagnosis, counseling, and a range of other services, depending on their licensing and training
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Licensed Professional Counselor 

The title and training for a licensed professional counselor vary by state, but often have at least a master's degree with clinical experience in the field. Such professionals may go by licensed professional counselor (L.P.C.) or a licensed clinical professional counselor (L.C.P.C.). These licensed counselors are qualified to:

  • Provide diagnosis and counseling for a range of concerns
  • Are not licensed to prescribe medication
  • May work with another provider who can prescribe medication if needed

Virtual Psychiatry Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Review the following answers to commonly asked questions when evaluating whether virtual psychiatry is right for you.

What are controlled substances and can they be prescribed by a virtual psychiatrist?

Controlled substances are highly regulated and controlled by the government because they can easily be abused or cause addiction. Controlled drugs are classified in schedules, where the drugs with the highest potential for abuse are schedule I drugs, and the lowest potential for abuse are schedule V. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual psychiatrists are able to prescribe controlled substances if they are deemed appropriate to treat your health condition. 

What mental health conditions are treated with medication?

Many different types of medications exist to help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. In addition, panic disorders or sleep conditions may be treated with medication. Manic and depressive disorders can also be treated using mood stabilizers and antidepressants. Finally, individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders can be prescribed medications, such as antipsychotics. 

How can I save money on virtual psychiatry? 

Oftentimes, psychiatrists and therapists may be out-of-network or do not accept insurance. In this case, you could pay upwards of $200 just for a consultation, or for any follow-up appointments thereafter. Some ways that you can save money on virtual psychiatry include: 

  • If paying with insurance, try to find a psychiatrist that accepts your plan.
  • If paying without insurance, see if you can find a sliding scale psychiatrist, who may adjust their rate based on income.
  • Look into apps or online platforms that may offer virtual therapy at a lower rate.
  • Pay for virtual psychiatry using an HSA or FSA, which lets you use tax-free money to pay for medical expenses.

What is a Sliding Scale Provider?

A sliding fee scale is a model for payments intended for individuals who cannot afford to pay for the full price of care. The sliding scale takes into account your income and adjusts the amount you need to pay to see a provider accordingly. 

Bottom Line

Many psychiatrists are currently working virtually to treat their patients due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you do not need medication prescribed, getting therapy from a psychologist or social worker may be a great option as well. 

In fall 2021, Mira will begin providing affordable access to virtual psychiatry for an affordable price. In addition, Mira members get access to low-cost urgent care visits, prescriptions, land lab tests. Sign up today!