Frequently Asked Questions

A New Generation of Modernized Online Psychiatric Care That Is Energetic, Professional, And Brings A Refreshing Approach To Telehealth.

Aura MD FAQ

We’ve streamlined the process for requesting and scheduling an appointment! ✔

Please submit your information here and we will promptly reach out to you (typically the same business day👍) to schedule.

Alternatively, you can call us at +1-866-306-2108 to speak to our staff (with the highest patient satisfaction ratings!) to book directly.

Once you are a current patient at Aura MD, you can conveniently book your follow-up appointments directly on your provider’s schedule through your online portal account.

 

The first visit is typically an online visit with a board-certified mental health expert, which usually lasts 45-60 minutes. Your provider will perform a full initial evaluation likely with a much better patient experience than what you’ve received from other providers. 🙌

We do not cut corners or skip any important aspects of a full initial evaluation. We are concise and create individualized treatment plans to help you meet your goals. That being said, we also do not perform excessive evaluation steps such as requiring all patients to come to multiple visits before making a diagnosis, performing neuropsychiatric evaluations (except in some specific cases that is indicated) or use computer-based tests as they are often costly and provide not greatly accuracy in appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

All visits with your Aura MD provider are currently performed through a secure online video visit currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aura MD sincerely hopes everyone reading this is staying safe and well both mentally and physically. Currently, all appointments at Aura MD are through telehealth services (online from your computer, tablet, or phone). All of our offices throughout Texas are closed currently to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We do not currently have a specific end date for providing online-only care but will keep this updated regularly to keep our patients up to date on any changes.  

We will continue to offer virtual appointments for patients who prefer that option. Our goal is to provide you with the highest quality care in the setting that you are most comfortable.

No, not at all 👌

We often see patients who haven’t seen a mental health provider previously.  We also accept patients who are wanting to transfer care from their current psychiatrist or mental health provider or patients that have a prior history of seeing a mental health professional consistently in the past.

We can diagnose and treat your current issues without any history of prior treatment.  

Life happens, we get it.✌ We are happy to reschedule you when needed.

We never overbook and truly value your time and appreciate that courtesy reciprocated for our provider’s time as well.

You will be responsible for the entire out-of-pocket appointment fee if you do not notify us within the designated time frame.

New Patient Appointments:

Please remember to cancel or reschedule at least 48 business hours in advance.

Follow Up Appointments: 

Please be mindful to cancel or reschedule at least  1 full business day in advance.

We accept Cigna and Magellan (Blue Advantage HMO) plans only.

If you are out of network or do not have insurance, we are happy to provide you a superbill that you can present to your insurance carrier for out-of-network reimbursement. This percentage varies by your insurance carrier but typically is around 50-70% reimbursement you can expect your insurance company to reimburse you directly for expenses paid for office visits.

We do accept HSA/FSA as forms of payment.

For self-pay or out-of-network patients, there are standard rates depending on the provider of whom you choose to see.

Dr. Ashley Toutounchi: Initial consultation: $450
Medication management follow-ups: $159.

Brandon Provost, NP:  Initial Consultation: $350
Follow-up appointments: $129.

Taeler Morris, PA-C:  Initial Consultation: $350
Follow-up appointments: $129.

We typically see patients monthly initially only until your treatment plan is stabilized and then as soon as possible will continue your care typically with visits once every 3 months.  Of course, you can always move up your appointment when needed.

For self pay or out of network patients, we are happy to provide you a superbill that you can submit to your insurance provider for out of network reimbursement.  This is when your insurance plan will reimburse you directly a portion of your out of pocket fees paid for your appointment.

You can find your specific insurance plan out of network benefit information typically in the Summary of Benefits in your information packet or your insurance company’s website. The best way to be absolutely sure of your benefits is to clarify with your insurance company member services line. You can find this phone number on the back of your insurance card.

We are always available in between appointments if you need to contact us.  You can access your Elation patient portal account here: https://www.app.elationpassport.com/passport/login

No worries!  It happens to all of us. 😊

You can easily reset your  Elation portal password here: https://www.app.elationpassport.com/passport/password/reset

It is unusually user-friendly!  And by far the fastest and easiest way to contact your provider between visits.  You can see details about Elation passport and how to download the app for easy access here: https://www.elationhealth.com/patient-passport/#passport-page-faqs-section

Your safety is very important to us.

If you are having a medical or mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your local emergency department
Text Contact:   The Crisis Text Line provides 24 hour assistance and confidential. Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with someone immediately
Call Contact:  You can always reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK to reach a live mental health professional 24/7 

There is always help available. We recommend also reaching out to a supportive family member or friend to let them know that you are having these thoughts and ask for their assistance and support.

Aura MD offers a modernized approach focused on flexibility for patients, many of who often have busy work schedules, frequently travel, or live outside of the Houston area making travel to the office in person inconvenient.

Using our online psychiatry services, we can diagnose your symptoms and prescribe treatment options for your specific needs.

We love to see our patients but realize you aren’t always able to make it to our office in person.

Now, our patients can book an appointment online, meet with their provider and receive their prescriptions seamlessly.

Most laptops, tablets, and smartphones will have the equipment you need for your online visit.

Only things needed for your appointment:

Good Internet Connection
Camera accessible on you phone, tablet or computer
Headphones or speakers on your device

We take all of our patient’s security very seriously.  AuraMD is fully HIPAA compliant, and all information is 100% private.

Questions About Psychiatrists

From your undergraduate career to medical school and residency, it can take 12 years or more to become a psychiatrist.

If you feel that you are struggling with your mental health and you are interested in medication or treatment regimens, it may be beneficial to speak with a psychiatrist. As always, a psychiatrist will work to find a specific treatment plan that works for you as an individual.

It is very difficult to become a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are clinical doctors which means they must complete a bachelor’s degree, a four year medical degree, and at least 4 years of specialized residency training before they can practice as a psychiatrist.

After an initial evaluation, your psychiatric clinician will determine how often it is recommended for you to follow up. This may range from every few weeks to once every 3 months depending on your treatment plan and progress.  At Aura MD, we typically will see you once every 3 months once your treatment plan is stabilized.

Depending on what treatment options you are interested in, a psychiatrist may be the right choice for you. A psychologist can be helpful in creating coping mechanisms and helping in other ways to deal with anxiety, however, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help with anxiety and oftentimes will be recommended medication in combination with therapy with a psychologist.

Yes, psychiatrists can do therapy and will often use many kinds of psychotherapy alongside medication management in treatment regimens depending on the patient.

Questions About ADHD

The exact cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not fully understood and is complex.  A combination of factors is thought to be responsible with no single identifiable cause.

  • Genetics- Research shows that ADHD does tend to be more common in individuals that have close family members that also have been diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Anatomical/Biological- Research has shown there are differences typically found when looking at the anatomy, structure and function of neurotransmitters in the brains of people with ADHD compared to those without.
  • Medical History- you may be more prone to experience ADHD symptoms or be diagnosed with ADHD if you have a history of head trauma, premature at birth or seizures

Common triggers include: stress, poor sleep, certain foods and additives, overstimulation, and technology. You can identify the triggers for ADHD symptoms and make lifestyle changes to improve your control.

The single most important part of an accurate ADHD diagnosis is a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed professional where they will ask questions in a conversational, yet structured, manner about your symptoms and how these symptoms interfere with daily life.

Your provider will ask questions about various issues such as ongoing daily life stressors, any specific issues with focus or attention you are noticing, along with questions related to your mood or any current anxiety issues that could also be present.

An ADHD evaluation typically takes 45 minutes to an hour with your provider who will ask you symptoms and your clinical history.

While there are many treatment options available for ADHD in adults that include medication management, there are some non-medication options available as well. These can include therapy or working with an ADHD coach to promote healthy habits and coping mechanisms. 

Some individuals can better manage their ADHD symptoms as they age or, more oftentimes, become less severe with time.  Some patients show enough improvement after puberty that medication is no longer needed for them in order to manage their day-to-day routine.

However, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of children with ADHD continue to deal with symptoms associated with ADHD throughout adulthood.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Adults with ADHD can get help managing their symptoms in many different ways!  Most commonly they receive treatment from their doctor for ADHD with medication management however there are other additional options such as ADHD coaching or therapy.

Currently, there are quite a few effective and FDA-approved medication options for adults with ADHD. There is no one specific medication that is deemed the “best” for adults.

However, research has shown that adults usually respond best to a class of medications called stimulants. Even with this in mind, ultimately, the best medication for someone can vary widely based on their personal needs, health status, and daily schedule.

It is important to find an ADHD specialist to help you find the best medication treatment regimen to best suit your specific needs. 

While there are many different medications available for ADHD, some of the newest options include medications like Vyvanse, Mydayis, Jornay PM, Adzenys, and Adhansia XR.

Some of the longest-lasting ADHD medications include options such as Adderall XR, Adzenys, Concerta, and Vyvanse which can last between 8-12 hours.

Mydayis typically lasts 12-16 hours and Adhansia XR can typically last up to 16 hours after taking the medication.

While there are quite a few medications available on the market to treat ADHD, some of the most commonly prescribed include Adderall, Adderall XR, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, and Dexedrine.

Leaving ADHD untreated can have long-term lasting effects on many aspects of someone’s life depending on how ADHD impacts you as an individual. It may affect your job performance or even personal relationships.

Both disorders cause mood problems, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, and other symptoms. However, there are some differences. Emotions: ADHD moods are transient, precipitated by a setback. Depression is a common and persistent condition. Motivation: Individuals with ADHD are overwhelmed by deciding what to do first.

What is the worst age for ADHD symptoms? The symptoms of hyperactivity are typically most severe at age 7 to 8, gradually declining thereafter. Peak severity of impulsive behavior is usually at age 7 or 8.

Is it too early to determine if your preschooler or toddler has ADHD? Most children don’t get ADHD tested until they reach school age. However, AAP guidelines state that ADHD can be diagnosed as early as 4 years old. Many children are active and impulsive at this age.

Is ADHD worsened with age? ADHD does not usually get worse with age, if the person is aware of the symptoms and knows how they can be managed.

While ADHD has been linked to a somewhat increased incidence of other common mental health issues, it is not directly related to anger.  However, untreated ADHD symptoms often can lead to frustration and irritability that can lead to a lower frustration tolerance.  ADHD has been associated with higher rates of impulsivity which could possibly, at times, be displayed as anger in certain instances- however, anger is generally not a trait typically directly associated with ADHD.

Under the ADA, for some patients if determined by your psychiatrist you are an appropriate candidate, you do have certain rights that allows for reasonable accommodations to be requested from your employer or academic institution. These often can include extended time for test taking or work tasks, having a designated area that has minimal external distractions to help you perform at your best.

If your employer fails to cooperate or denies an accommodation request, you have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

ADHD is not considered any type of a learning disability and there have been shown no consistent lower scores in IQ for patients that have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Many children (perhaps as many as half) will outgrow their symptoms but others do not, so ADHD can affect a person into adulthood.

Undiagnosed ADHD symptoms are commonly reported as failing to pay attention to details, making careless mistakes, or having difficulty organizing tasks and activities. Ongoing issues with procrastination and prioritization are common such as avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort. 

Other commonly reported ADHD symptoms are forgetfulness, being easily distracted by your surroundings, restlessness, or feeling fidgety.

ADHD adults may have difficulty focusing and prioritizing, which can lead to missed deadlines, forgotten meetings, or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Your provider will typically ask a series of questions related to the symptoms you are experiencing as well as how long they have occurred.  Typical questions include your ability to focus and follow through with tasks along with any issues with sleep, mood, anxiety, or any medical issues. 

The evaluation is performed in a conversational way so that your provider can get a better idea of your symptoms and the best treatment options to recommend.

Research suggests that there is no connection between ADHD and intelligence levels. However, ADHD can affect an individual’s ability to perform at their best due to issues with sustained focus, forgetfulness, or disorganization. 

Questions About Anxiety

Psychiatrists treat anxiety by determining a successful treatment plan that is unique to each patient. This can include recommending therapy, medications, or a combination of both.

Anxiety and stress are a part of life and having anxiety does not mean you are mentally ill. Occasional stress and anxiety are okay, however excessive worry and stress can negatively impact your day-to-day life. Excessive stress and anxiety can make work near impossible and can be set off by events like family gatherings, social scenarios, and even everyday tasks.

Anxiety can manifest in many ways depending on the person, however some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety include feeling a sense of restlessness, upset stomach, feeling tense, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, headaches, feeling sweaty/shaky, and nervousness.

It is common for many individuals to have anxiety prior to a stressful event, one of which is commonly taking an exam. There are various medications that can be prescribed to help minimize the physical effects of anxiety. These medications are called beta-blockers and they typically work to decrease common anxiety symptoms such as rapid heart rate, feeling shaky, or sweaty. The most common beta-blockers used include propranolol, atenolol, or metoprolol.

Test anxiety and stress is a sense of distress or anxiousness that is associated with taking an exam. It can impact your ability to carry out the examination and perform to your full ability, even if you felt prepared beforehand. Some anxiousness is natural and can help keep you alert, however too much may can result in symptoms of anxiety and even affect concentration

There are a few ways to work to train your brain to stop anxiety. For some, it can help to list out your concerns out loud or on paper to help clear your mind, hoping to help you feel less stressed. It may also be beneficial to think about what is worrying you can try to understand where that anxiety comes from. However, sometimes even if you work to train your brain to stop anxiety, it is possible you may still experience it.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can last a variable amount of time depending on the person, ranging from minutes to hours. It is very common to experience physical symptoms associated with anxiety, and while these symptoms can be distressing, they are typically not related to any serious medical condition and can be alleviated with an appropriate treatment plan that is unique to you.

Just as physical anxiety symptoms can last a variable amount of time which is unique from person to person, anxiety itself is very similar. How long anxiety can last can also range from minutes to hours to even days for some depending on the situation.

You can feel anxiety in your body in many different places. This can include feeling tense or feeling a sense of tightness in some muscles, most commonly in your shoulders or back. It is also possible to feel tense in your neck or jaw, and you can even experience an upset stomach. Even though these are some of the most common locations to feel anxiety in your body, there is no specific location it may strike as it can occur anywhere the brain sends nerve signals.

An anxiety attack can feel like quite a few different things including feeling a sense of “impending doom”, experience shortness of breath or hyperventilation, chest tightness or a racing heart. While these are common symptoms of an anxiety attack, these can also vary from person to person, and experiencing an anxiety attack can even result in you feeling as if you are anxious about having another attack or avoiding certain circumstances in which they have happened in the past.

Questions About Depression

A “cure” for depression does not currently exist, however it is very possible to minimize symptoms with an appropriate treatment plan with the goal of reaching remission. As remission can vary widely from individual to induvial, overall, the goal is to reach a point where depression no longer affects your daily life, work, or relationships.

What happens in the brain during depression can sound somewhat complicated, but in the end, it can come down to a few factors. There is evidence showing that depression can sometimes be associated with how the brain functions and shows that someone experiencing depression may produce more cortisol, a specific hormone in the brain triggered by stress, at a higher rate than others. It has also been shown that depression is correlated with diminished amounts of neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin and norepinephrine.

What actually causes depression can depend on the person as there can be many factors at play. It is possible that a chemical imbalance may be causing depression, but it is also possible for other aspects of life to impact mental health. Some of these can include genetics, stressful life events, medications, and health concerns

The new treatments for depression include medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and many other medications including some like Wellbutrin, Viibryd, or Trintellix. These medications can be used in conjunction with therapy and other treatment modalities to determine the best care plan for everyone.

There is hope for treatment-resistant depression. There are many treatment options available that work for different individuals, it may just take time to reach the ideal regimen. Treatment-resistant depression may also be related to genetics, which is why genetic testing for treatment-resistant depression can be so helpful.

There is no specific “cure” for depression, however, it is very possible to minimize symptoms with an appropriate treatment plan with the goal of reaching remission. As remission can vary widely from individual to induvial, overall, the goal is to reach a point where depression no longer affects your daily life, work, or relationships

There’s no single cause of depression. It can take place for a variety of reasons as well as it has several triggers. For some people, upsetting or demanding life occasions, such as grief, separation, illness, redundancy, and also job or cash fears, can be the cause. Different reasons can often combine to trigger depression.

Questions About Bipolar Disorder

While neither bipolar 1 or 2 is considered “worse” than the other, bipolar 1 can often cause manic episodes which are more severe and last longer than hypomanic episodes that are common in bipolar 2.

Bipolar disorder can be triggered by multiple things, some of which include having a first-degree relative with a history of bipolar disorder as well as instances of high stress and anxiety.

Bipolar disorder can be genetically linked. Bipolar is regularly inherited, with hereditary aspects accounting for a large cause of the condition. Bipolar disorder is one of the most common psychological conditions to be passed down from a family member. If one parent has bipolar disorder, there is usually about a 10% chance that a child may be later diagnosed with bipolar.

Bipolar 1 can be serious, especially if left untreated.

While the symptoms of bipolar 1 and 2 can be managed and minimized with appropriate treatment, it will never “go away”. However, it is very possible to reach remission with bipolar disorder where symptoms are minimal and do not interfere with everyday life.

Bipolar might worsen with age over time if left untreated. As time passes, it is possible to experience episodes that increase in severity or become more regular than when symptoms were first identified.

Bipolar can manifest in different ways based on the individual, however, most often a person with bipolar will experience depressive episodes along with episodes of mania or hypomania which can look like overwhelming energy, excitement, a decreased need for sleep, changes in social patterns, and impulsivity.

Questions About Insomnia

The three types of insomnia include transient insomnia, acute or short-term insomnia, and chronic insomnia. Transient insomnia is usually fleeting and may last a week or less while acute or short-term insomnia usually lasts less than one month but maybe longer than one week. Chronic insomnia usually lasts over one month.

Sleep anxiety is when you become stressed or anxious about going to sleep. This means you can become anxious about whether you will fall asleep, or if you will stay asleep as well.

While insomnia can go away on its own, it is still important to talk to your psychiatrist about your sleep, as poor sleep can affect almost every aspect of your life and there are many safe and effective treatment options available to help with insomnia.

Insomnia can last for a varying amount of time depending on the individual and can range from a one-night occurrence to last for months or more.

There can be many reasons behind why someone may be experiencing insomnia. Some of these can include stress, anxiety, an irregular sleep schedule, poor sleep hygiene, and even certain medications.

While insomnia can be considered a mental illness, insomnia usually is related to an underlying cause, such as a different mental or physical illness.

Behavioral insomnia of childhood refers to behaviorally based sleep disorders in children which usually involve resistance to going to bed or sleeping, a prolonged start to rest, and evening or nighttime awakenings. It is also possible for a child to experience multiple of these issues at once.

Yes, studies show that kids can take melatonin, however, it is important to always consult your child’s pediatrician before starting any supplements.

According to certain studies, it is possible that there may be a correlation between red light therapy and improvement in insomnia.

Questions About Wellness & Weight

Nutrition is important for wellness to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and nutrients through your food and to make sure that you are getting the proper fuel to help you get through your day. A healthy diet can positively impact many things including your physical and mental health.

The best method for non-surgical weight loss is to utilize both diet and exercise in conjunction for healthy and successful weight loss. There are also many medications and supplements that may be beneficial in addition to regular diet and exercise that can aid in a weight loss journey as well.

While it may be possible to lose 20 pounds in a single month, this is not generally a healthy goal for weight loss. The recommended safe amount of weight loss to aim for each week is around 1-2 pounds, so a maximum of 8 pounds per month.

While the first-line recommendation for weight loss is diet and exercise, some patients have found great success in weight-loss surgeries. If you feel this is a good fit for you, it may be a good idea to start the conversation with your doctor.

Generally, there is no proven safe and effective way to lose one pound each day. On average, the healthiest amount of weight loss each week is between 1-2 pounds which would be comparable to about 0.15-0.25 pounds each day.

There may be several factors impacting your ability to lose weight which can vary between individuals. Lack of weight loss may stem from a high caloric diet, a lack of exercise, and even some health conditions. These may include hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or sleep apnea to name a few. Specific medications may also make it more difficult to lose weight or even trigger weight gain.

The first place you may lose weight or notice weight loss can depend on the individual, however, targeted weight loss is generally not possible. Weight loss occurs gradually all over the body and may be noticeable more over time, especially to ones around you before you notice it yourself.

Questions About Women’s Health Issues

Women’s health is so important because often times, women may feel that physicians or medical providers overlook their concerns or dismiss their symptoms. Here at Aura MD, we will make sure that your thoughts and concerns are listened to and addressed so that we may find a successful treatment regimen to help you feel better overall.

Here at Aura MD, we believe that psychological and mental health are some of the most important factors in a woman’s overall wellbeing. A healthy state of mind can positively impact almost all aspects of your life including work, personal relationships, and self-esteem.

Recognizing that you may be struggling with your physical or mental health may be difficult on your own. However, some signs to look out for include increased fatigue, lack of motivation, feeling disinterested in things you normally enjoy, and feeling overall unlike yourself. Friends or family may also be able to recognize you are struggling before you can yourself.

Five health concerns that women face often include cardiovascular disease, fatigue, stress or anxiety, osteoporosis, and hypothyroidism.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common age-related diseases in the adult population. Hypertension is also closely related to heart disease which is one of the most common causes of death in the United States.

Many things may trigger mental health issues which can vary widely from person to person. Some examples may include stressful life events or a big change in your life as well as health conditions, daily stress/anxiety, and many others.

A mental breakdown can mean many different things to many different people. Most frequently a mental breakdown may be described as a panic attack which can feel like quite a few different things including feeling a sense of “impending doom”, experience shortness of breath or hyperventilation, chest tightness, or a racing heart.

Poor mental health may mean something different depending on who you are. Generally, if you personally feel that your mental health is not where you would like it to be, let us know and we can get working on a treatment plan designed to get you back to feeling like the best version of yourself.

Payment Policy

Medical services are provided by AuraMD.

We currently accept health insurance plans on a limited basis and those are Cigna and Magellan Behavioral Health Plans.

Accepted insurance plans are applicable to psychiatric services.  We do accept HSA/FSA cards as a method of payment.

If your plan is not listed, we are more than happy to provide you with a form/superbill to submit to your insurance company.

Your insurance provider will then reimburse you directly for compensation for services provided by Aura MD as an out-of-network provider, per the details of your insurance contract.  Out-of-network reimbursement percentages vary and advise that you call your insured provider directly to confirm your benefits. 

Why does Aura MD only take a limited number of insurance plans?

Insurance companies can require detailed information about a patient’s psychiatric and medical history as a condition of payment. One method to circumvent this process is to see a physician that is not contracted with your insurance company.

We realize the challenges with the increasing cost of health care to patients.  Safety and confidentiality are crucial for successful treatment- principles we never compromise.  Our office is straightforward, accommodating and designed to allow our time to be spent with patients.

These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind when initiating care with our practice and understand the true value of the principles we align our practice with- quality healthcare that is individualized for you!

As the highest rated psychiatrist office in Houston, we look forward with providing you an unparalleled and renewed approach to managing your health.

Highest Rated Psychiatrist in Texas

An Elevated Level of Modernized and Élite Psychiatric Care.

Experience For Yourself the Difference.
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Welcome to Aura MD! 

Dr. Ashley Toutounchi and her board certified team are excited to help you start on the path to mental wellness.