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Telepsychiatry Vs. Teletherapy. What's The DIfference?

September 13, 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


While teletherapy and telepsychiatry may be used interchangeably, their treatment strategies are importantly different. Understanding how they differ and their relative advantages and disadvantages over in-person care is essential for deciding which service is right 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:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Exposure-response therapy (ERP)
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
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 generally focus on the biological causes of behavioral health issues. Utilizing their training, professional experience, and the latest academic research, psychiatrists attempt to determine whether a patient would benefit from medical treatment 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.
Limitations of Telemental Health Care

While telemental health has its benefits, there are a few drawbacks.

  • Nonverbal communication: Our facial expressions and body language say just as much about how we are feeling as our words do. 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. 
  • 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.  
  • 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.

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 medical treatments.

If you feel you need to see a mental health professional or could use help deciding which service is right for you, please give us a call at 805-204-2502 or fill out an appointment request here. We have a wide variety of providers including therapists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and nutritional therapists who can see you in as little as 1 day via teletherapy. 


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