Are Online Mental Health Providers Legit?

Online Doctors
Patient looking at a computer monitor that has a doctor holding a RX pill.

Teletherapy and telemedicine seem like such convenient options, but are you worried they might be a scam?

Albert Hernandez

September 20, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 19, 2022
  6 min read

September 20, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 19, 2022
  6 min read


Over the past few years, many of us have experienced an increased awareness of telemedicine, in which patients and their healthcare providers interact through an electronic device. Although many patients might have used a patient portal to send messages to their healthcare provider or to view parts of their medical records, improved technology in the last several years has allowed patients and their doctors to interact in real-time.

If you had a phone or video chat with your provider using your laptop or smartphone, you are part of a trending group. In a 2021 survey of 2000 adult Americans, almost 80% of respondents said that “it is possible to receive quality care through a telehealth/telemedicine appointment.” For many busy professionals, being able to access care without having to physically leave work can make participation in mental health treatment possible for them. Parents without the ability to leave their children and patients with transportation issues can benefit from the convenience of telemedicine, as well.

Although you might feel comfortable having a video visit with a provider you already know, what if your telemedicine or teletherapy experience is not the continuation of treatment from a provider you know from meeting in person?  What if the experience begins entirely electronically? You might be asking yourself, “Can I trust an online doctor?” or “Are online doctors a scam?”

Most of the time, the answer is that you can trust a provider who practices telemedicine.

However, you should thoroughly read online reviews and check for certain quality indicators on the practice’s website. Read on for some of the things you should consider before booking your first consultation with an online mental health provider.

Licensing Requirements

If you are seeing your mental health provider through a telemedicine visit, you may not think the state they are licensed in matters. However, it’s very important for your provider to be licensed to practice in the state you are located. The provider can’t just be licensed in California and see someone in Texas or New Mexico. In order for the provider to have a telemedicine visit with a patient in New Mexico, the provider must be licensed in New Mexico. To see a patient in El Paso, the provider must be licensed in Texas.

Payment Options

Before you schedule an initial consultation with a new online doctor, you need to understand how you will pay for your visits. Do they accept insurance or do they just have monthly payment plans? If you are doing a payment plan, you’ll need to ask about what services come with the plan. Can they see you outside of regular visits to address your concerns? Does this incur additional costs? A monthly payment plan may sound convenient, but will you end up paying even if you do not have a scheduled visit one month? If your mental health provider accepts your insurance, the process is more regimented. The provider can only bill your insurance if your telemedicine visit actually takes place.

It’s also important to be wary of online services that offer “specials” or one month free. Most times, free is not free, and you may end up wasting time and money. A reputable mental health provider will be able to help you determine if their services are a good fit and bill your insurance for your telemedicine visit without the need for an elaborate trial period.

Type of Mental Health Providers You Will See

Is the practice transparent about the type of professional you will be seeing for your telemedicine visit? For example, does the website promote visits with a board-certified physician but have job openings for nurse practitioners? One type of mental health professional is not necessarily better than the other; it’s more that it’s important to feel the practice you are checking out is straightforward and honest with their patients.

A patient holds a cell phone in their hand and is calling their doctor.

When all of your interactions happen digitally, be it over the phone, over a video visit, or over a secure message, it’s crucial that you feel comfortable with the information that you’re getting from your provider.

Another way to determine what type of provider you may be seeing is to check the provider biographies on the practice’s site. Do they have a list of providers on their website, with their credentials and areas of specialty? If not, this may indicate high turnover.

Communication With the Office

Even if your visits with your mental health provider are telemedicine visits and not in-person appointments, the way you communicate your needs to your provider doesn’t have to be confusing or mired in technology. Before you schedule an appointment with a telemedicine provider, find out how you will communicate questions or needs once you are an established patient.

Will the practice offer live telephone support for near-instant interaction?

Or do they only communicate through secure messages that may sit for days without response? If the answer isn’t on the website, try to determine how you communicate with your provider prior to any appointments. The ease with which you can find out this answer will probably also help you see how easy or difficult it is to contact the office in general.

Reviews and Certifications

Another way to help ensure the online doctor you are looking into is legit is to see if they are registered to a specific location. Are they certified by the Better Business Bureau? Do they have a Google account where people can leave honest reviews? Can you easily locate their phone number or physical mailing address? All of these are good signs of a transparent business.

For busy professionals, parents, and other adults, telemedicine visits can be a convenient way to help manage their depression, anxiety, or other behavioral health disorders. Most online mental health practitioners offer dependable and high-quality services; just make sure to ask questions about where your provider is licensed, how you will communicate with your online doctor, and how your payment for services works. At Upper Valley Behavioral Health, we are licensed to see patients in El Paso, TX and the State of New Mexico. We welcome your questions and would love to be your mental health provider. Please fill out our application for treatment today so you can connect with a telemedicine provider you can trust.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

Tags: mental health

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