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What are the benefits of seeing a mental health professional?

If you’re feeling down or more anxious than usual lately, you may benefit from seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. Here’s how they can help.

Feeling unhappy or down? There’s plenty you can do to start feeling better, and seeing a mental health professional can be the first step toward positive change.

When you feel down for long periods of time (at least 2 weeks) and lose interest in everyday activities, it may be a sign of depression. Depression can affect both men and women. And an estimated 31% of American adults say they’ve experienced an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

If this sounds like you, you may want to make an in-person or telehealth appointment with your primary care doctor to talk about mental health care. Let’s talk about some of the types of professional they may recommend to you, as well as some big questions about mental health care.

Telehealth is one way to get in touch with a mental health professional. Explore your telehealth options now, or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

What is a mental health professional?

A mental health professional is a health care provider who diagnoses and treats mental health conditions, says Christine Possemato, a psychiatric nurse practitioner in Long Branch, New Jersey. Mental health professionals fall into several different categories, including psychiatrists and psychologists.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? Find out below:

A psychologist is trained in psychology, or the science of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. They usually have a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree. They can identify and treat many types of mental health conditions and offer various forms of therapy, like cognitive or dialectal behavioral therapy. They can prescribe medication in some states but not all. And even if yours can’t prescribe prescription medication, they can work with other experts, such as a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, who can prescribe medication if you need it.

A psychiatrist is a physician — either an M.D. or a D.O. — who specializes in mental health. They may specialize even further, such as in child and adolescent, geriatric, or addiction psychiatry. A psychiatrist can diagnose you with mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. They can also prescribe you medications if necessary.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners also provide mental health treatment. They are advanced-practice registered nurses who have education and experience in mental health conditions. They can also diagnose, create treatment plans, provide therapy and, in most states, prescribe and monitor medications.

Can you use telehealth to talk to a mental health therapist?

The simple answer is yes; you can use telehealth to talk to mental health professionals. Virtual therapy, also known as teletherapy or online therapy, is any sort of therapy where you see a provider online. The most common way to do virtual therapy is through video visits. But you can also do it over the phone or via text messaging.

“There was an increase in virtual mental health services … and basically, it seems like it’s here to stay,” says Possemato. “About 90% of my practice is virtual now.”

Have questions about telehealth? Explore your options now, or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

What are the benefits of virtual therapy?

There are a few benefits of virtual therapy. These include:

  • You have more options for therapists. “With virtual appointments, it’s been easier for patients to find a provider in network with their insurance. It may be also easier to find a provider with a particular specialty you’re looking for,” explains Possemato. “You’re not limited to a certain geographical area.”
  • It’s less time consuming. Mental health treatments usually involve weekly or monthly visits, says Possemato. “Some people don’t want to drive that frequently for a 20- to 60-minute appointment,” she says.
  • You may feel more at ease. “People often feel more comfortable discussing things that seem taboo virtually rather than in person,” says Possemato. These include topics such as depression, substance use disorders and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • It’s convenient. You don’t have to drive to the doctor’s office or clinic. That’s why virtual visits may be easier to fit into your schedule. You may not even have to take time away from work or arrange for childcare. “It’s an easy way to see a provider. It doesn’t take up hours, since you don’t have to drive to the office, sit in a waiting room, have the visit and then travel back home,” says Possemato.
  • You may be more likely to stick with it. People with substance use disorders who utilized telehealth in the initial 14 days after diagnosis were more likely to stick to virtual therapy than those who sought solely in-person treatment.
  • You can do it anywhere. “I’ve had clients attend sessions outside in a park or sitting in their parked car or at their parents’ house when they’re home for the holidays. I’ve also had clients attend sessions from their bed while they recover from sickness,” says Meg Mattingly, M.A., L.P.C. She’s a licensed professional counselor in Austin, Texas. “It has opened so many doors for having consistent support,” she says.

What are some drawbacks of using telehealth for therapy?

Like any sort of treatment, virtual therapy may not be right for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You may find it harder to connect. This is true for both patients and therapists, notes Mattingly. “As a therapist, it can be hard sometimes to read the client’s body language,” she explains. “You miss subtle clues when you aren’t sitting in the same room with someone.” As a result, it may take longer to build a sense of trust or connection.
  • There can be access problems. You can run into internet connectivity issues and other technical glitches, says Possemato. It can also be tough if you don’t have a private place to talk, such as an office or a separate room.
  • It may be challenging for certain age groups. This is especially so for younger children and teenagers, says Mattingly. But there are creative ways to engage these age groups. “We sometimes incorporate virtual games, draw or share funny memes,” she says.

Where can you get access to telehealth for mental health care?

Just as many doctors now offer telehealth services as part of their practice, so do many mental health professionals. So, it might be as easy as calling ahead or talking to your therapist at your first visit about whether they offer telehealth.

Also, some insurance plans may offer virtual visits for mental health, but coverage will depend on your plan and its benefits. For example, there are some telehealth services where you can speak with board-certified psychiatrists, licensed psychologists or therapists by phone or video chat. It’s worth noting that visit fees apply and aren’t included in the monthly fee.

Whether you prefer to talk to someone virtually or in person, there are plenty of mental health options available to you. These professionals have 1 goal in mind: to help you feel better so you can get back to enjoying your life fully.

Still have questions about telehealth? Explore your options now, or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

For informational purposes only. This information is compiled by UnitedHealthcare and does not diagnose problems or recommend specific treatment. Services and medical technologies referenced herein may not be covered under your plan. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


American Psychological Association. “Prescriptive authority gains new momentum.” June 1, 2023. Retrieved from

National Institute of Mental Health. “Any anxiety disorder.” Retrieved from Accessed March 12, 2024

National Institute of Mental Health. “Major depression.” July 2023. Retrieved from

Substance Use & Misuse. “Effects of telehealth on dropout and retention in care among treatment-seeking individuals with substance use disorder: a retrospective cohort study.” January 29, 2023. Retrieved from

UCLA: David Geffen School of Medicine. “Psychologist vs. psychiatrist — what is the difference?” May 22, 2023. Retrieved from

Western Governors University. “What is a psychiatric nurse practitioner?” Retrieved from Accessed March 12, 2024

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