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Telepsychiatry Vs. Teletherapy. What's The Difference?

December 16, 2022

Previously carried out primarily through in-person appointments where both practitioners and patients interacted in the same physical space, psychiatry and therapy visits increasingly began to take place through digital mediums (e.g., phone calls or video chats). According to UnitedHealth Group, there were 14 million telemental health visits in 2022 alone


Therapy and psychiatry are different but collaborative disciplines.


Like other areas of health different providers have different functions.  While teletherapy and telepsychiatry may accidentally be used in conversation interchangeably, what they are and what they do for their patients is different. Understanding how a therapist and psychiatrist differ and understanding how they operate in telemedicine may help you chose the best service for you.

What Is Teletherapy

In online therapy, patients meet remotely with a licensed mental health professional to talk through their emotions, thoughts, and feelings, receive a diagnosis if necessary, and treat their ailment with a non-medical or behavioral approach.

Some of the more common types of therapy include:

What Is Telepsychiatry

Just like teletherapy, telepsychiatry is also conducted digitally.

However, the goals and strategies of these appointments are different. While psychiatrists may incorporate behavioral techniques, they also focus on the biological causes of behavioral health issues. Utilizing their medical training, professional experience, and the latest academic research, psychiatrists attempt to determine whether a patient would benefit from medical treatment or intervention, and prescribe the most effective one based on the patient’s needs.

Advantages of Telemental Health Care

Though telepsychiatry and teletherapy arose primarily out of necessity, mental health professionals and their clients have found several advantages associated with virtual mental health care, including:

  • Cost: While the cost of mental health services varies, virtual appointments are generally cheaper than in-person ones.
  • Accessibility: To see a telemental health provider, you don’t need to travel far or even have access to transportation of any kind. You only need access to the internet or phone service and a quiet place to talk.
  • Time: Since there is no need to drive anywhere or sit in a waiting room, telemental health services take up much less time than in-person alternatives.
  • Selection of practitioners: With in-person appointments, your choice of practitioner is limited both by what you can afford and how far you can drive. With virtual care, your menu of offerings expands beyond your physical and financial constraints, meaning you can pick a professional who better suits your needs.
  • Less perceived stigma: Some people struggle to let go of the stigma associated with mental health care and may believe others will judge them for getting help. Virtual sessions allow patients to receive care with greater anonymity.
Considerations When Seeking Telemental Health Care

As telemedicine has become more mainstream provider’s skills in offering digital care has improved. However there are a few obstacles to keep in mind when seeking telehealth providers:

  • Nonverbal communication: Fcial expressions and body language often say as much about how we are feeling as our words. Studies have found that our ability to pick up on these nonverbal cues can be compromised in virtual settings, meaning practitioners can’t use them as easily to guide or inform their treatment. Providers may overcome this by tuning in to the changes they can see on camera, and also asking additional questions. Patients may want to consider how they can continue to interpret their nonverbal responses and verbalize them if possible.
  • Privacy: Because we share personal information in therapy, we typically prefer to keep what is said private or confidential. Privacy in virtual appointments depends on the patient’s ability to find a space away from other people where they can’t be heard. When considering telemedicine consider your privacy, and also discuss any privacy concerns that may come up with your teletherapist or telepsychiatrist. They may have insight and offer suggestions.
  • Sense of connection: For some, part of the benefit of therapy comes from voicing their concerns to someone they have developed a relationship with. Without face-to-face interactions, these connections can be harder to build and sustain. If physical proximity feels like a meaningful aspect of care for you and you find it difficult to overcome with other strategies, be open with your teleprovider and ask if referring to a provider that offers in-person care may be best for you.
Embarking on Treatment

Telepsychiatry and teletherapy are critical resources in our mental health toolkits. Though they share many similarities, they utilize significantly different approaches to treatment. While therapists emphasize talk and behavioral strategies, psychiatrists prescribe medication and medical treatments.


Therapy and psychiatry often go hand in hand for a patient’s care, and it can be tricky to go between providers employed through different companies.


At Heading we have found it beneficial to provide patients access to both therapists and psychiatrist so that care is collaborative between the patient and their team of providers. With many services like medication management for traditionally prescribed oral antidepressants (i.e. Celexa, Paxil etc.), or talk therapy (i.e. cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, trauma therapies, and psychodynamic therapies etc.) these services can be offered via telehealth. However we also acknowledge that not all treatments are best done from home, and also offer transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and IM Ketamine and Spravato® treatments in our Austin and Dallas Centers. Our fully remote and hybrid dynamics of care require that all providers involved in patient care stay in collaboration with one another. Our team-based approach allows for more ease in the process. 


It is important to feel good about both the relationship you personally have with your therapist and psychiatrist. Also consider the relationship and communication between these two key members of the mental healthcare team.



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