Why Being Anti-psychiatrist Can Be Harmful: Addressing Common Concerns

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

How do you feel about going to see a psychiatrist? Do you find yourself thinking about it negatively? Maybe you feel like a psychiatrist isn't going to be able to do anything or that they aren't going to know how to help you. Maybe you have had bad experiences with psychiatrists in the past. Your feelings are valid, and it can be scary to think about seeing a psychiatrist when you’re going through life challenges—especially if your past experiences haven’t been positive. Although it can be intimidating, there are plenty of great reasons to see a psychiatrist. The best thing you can do may be to go into it with an open mind and be willing to change your opinion once you see the benefits a psychiatrist can bring to your life. It can be easy to connect with a licensed mental health professional through an online therapy platform.

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is generally a doctor who diagnoses and treats mental health disorders. These could include eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, to name a few. They may perform different types of therapy, depending on what they’re treating, and can prescribe medication as well. Psychiatrists often work closely with therapists and counselors since those types of mental health professionals are often not able to prescribe medication when treating clients.

How can a psychiatrist help?

Psychiatrists are experts in human behavior and emotion who can help a person in a lot of different ways. They might work with an individual, a couple, or an entire family to address a variety of issues. Psychiatrists can diagnose and provide treatment for several types of mental illness. They can prescribe medications and administer therapy (though most psychiatrists do not provide therapeutic services). 

Psychiatrists generally give their opinions to doctors, therapists, and other medical professionals. They can assist in mental health crises and admit patients to the hospital if that is what’s best for that person. Some people live with long-term or chronic mental health conditions that need the regular attention of a psychiatrist to manage and treat. When people have a complex or otherwise difficult mental health disorder, they are often referred to a psychiatrist for specialized care. A patient might also see a psychiatrist if they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available to you 24/7.

What are the benefits of seeing a psychiatrist?

Some of the benefits of seeing a psychiatrist can include:

  • Receiving tools and tips for coping with concerns in your life
  • Receiving a diagnosis for a mental health condition so it can be better managed 
  • Pinpointing the causes of issues that you might be experiencing
  • Feeling seen and heard
  • Becoming a healthier version of yourself
  • Having an unbiased source of advice and guidance in your life
  • Confronting any fears that you might be having a hard time facing
  • Addressing personal and professional problems
  • Improving your communication skills
  • Receiving medication for a mental health disorder
  • Learning new skills to help you manage symptoms

Part of finding a good psychiatrist can be considering your wants, needs, and concerns. The process is generally about you, and there is likely a mental health professional out there who is the right fit for you. The benefits of seeing a psychiatrist often outweigh any costs. This is because prioritizing one’s mental health can be so crucial for overall well-being. 

Still, you might feel hesitant to visit a psychiatrist for a number of reasons. Below are some of those reasons. These fears may be valid, but they do not have to be a reality in your life. You’re not alone in feeling this way; working through your concerns before you start seeing a psychiatrist can ensure that your experience is a positive one.

Addressing common concerns of seeing a psychiatrist

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Are you concerned about your mental health care?

Concern: My psychiatrist will push psychiatric medications on me

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists generally prescribe medication when they know that it can help you, in conjunction with the guidance that they give you. Medication is not usually required, even though your psychiatrist may recommend it. Ultimately, the decision to take medicine is up to you. You may be able to see some dramatic results and improvement just by talking with a psychiatrist. Effective psychiatrists will likely be more focused on how they can talk to you than on providing you with medication.

The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have. Never start or stop a medication without the guidance of a licensed medical professional.

Concern: My primary care doctor can take care of me just fine

A Different Perspective: If you're experiencing a mental health disorder, your regular doctor might not be equipped to handle that. They usually won’t have the advanced training that it can take to address mental health concerns. Rather, because they don't have the training, they might refer you to someone who does have the expertise necessary, and that usually means a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. You’ll likely want someone who has experience helping people who are going through similar things. Your primary care doctor normally takes care of your physical well-being, while a psychiatrist is typically trained to help heal your mind.

Concern: Psychiatrists make you lie on a couch and talk about your feelings

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists generally want you to be as comfortable as possible during sessions. Whether that means lying down or standing up, they usually will not care. While you might talk about your feelings and childhood during some sessions, every session can be different. Sometimes you may sit in silence or cry if that is what you need that day. Other times you may do activities that can help your mental state. Psychiatrists can work with you to uncover what's going on in your life and why. Yes, that may include talking about your childhood and feelings, but that's usually not all that it's about. Therapy is largely about your needs; as such, sessions may be tailored toward you.

Concern: Going to a psychiatrist carries a stigma

A Different Perspective: There’s no shame in seeing a psychiatrist. Although it might be intimidating, especially the first time, it can be an incredibly enriching experience. Going to a psychiatrist generally means that you're going to have the opportunity to address a variety of concerns in a safe environment. You may have the opportunity to understand your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings about things. You may receive a diagnosis, but that's not necessarily a label. Rather, that can be a tool that you may use to help you work toward a solution and a better life for yourself. You may have people in your life who don’t understand therapy, or you might be worried about being judged. However, your mental health should come first. Seeing a psychiatrist can be something you keep to yourself; if you don’t want to tell someone that you’re going to see one, you don’t have to. You should do what is best for you.


Concern: I can address a mental illness on my own

A Different Perspective: Asking for help is not a weakness. Asking for help can make you strong. It can be all about helping you feel better and letting you get on with the life that you want to live. Going to see a psychiatrist may bring change to your life, which isn’t always easy but is almost always worth it. It can take people a very long time to seek treatment for their mental health. If you’ve taken that step, you should recognize the power in it. As you begin to see positive changes in your life, you’ll likely be grateful you were brave enough to reach out for help.

Concern: I might end up working with a “bad” psychiatrist

A Different Perspective: While there is much debate on the qualities that make up a “bad” psychiatrist, it is possible that you will match with a professional who is not a good match for you. Your psychiatrist will be a human being just like you, which means that the two of you may struggle to communicate, agree on a course of treatment, or develop an understanding. This can damage the positive therapeutic relationship that is supposed to exist between psychiatrist and client. In an article published in the journal Psychiatry, psychiatrist David Roy posited that a psychiatrist may reach a point when they do not listen or tend to the patient enough, or when their personal characteristics conflict with the individual’s goals

A small percentage of professionals end up providing insufficient care or causing harm due to negligence or mistreatment. Rates of malpractice in psychiatry have been reported at 2-3% in the US, a prevalence that is considered low for specialists—but that still might be concerning for some. An example of a professional engaging in such misconduct is Dr. William Belfar, a psychiatrist who was charged with illegally distributing prescription drugs—and who once inadvertently described himself as a “drug dealer”. 

Most individuals who work in the field of psychiatry, however, want to help their patients and are able to do so effectively. If you feel that your psychiatrist is wrong for you, you can always choose to work with another professional. Doing plenty of research ahead of time can help you find a psychiatrist who will understand you and effectively address your specific mental health challenges. Often, directories of mental health providers allow you to search within certain parameters. For example, if you’re looking for a female psychiatrist who primarily treats ADHD, you can limit your results to professionals who fit those criteria.  

Concern: Medication for mental disorders may change me

A Different Perspective: If you choose to take certain medications, there is a chance they will make you feel differently; however, note that these changes in yourself can be positive. Instead of looking at yourself as a new person, you might think of it as stepping more into who you are. The medication that your psychiatrist recommends can help you feel more like yourself again. Many people with mental disorders may not need to take psychiatric medications while they're going through therapy, so you can speak with your psychiatrist to figure out the best option for you. Whether you take medication or not, the treatment plan chosen for you is generally intended to help, not to harm. If your medication does affect you in a way you don’t like, there’s always the possibility of switching to a new kind.

Concern: I can’t talk about myself for an entire hour

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists are typically trained to talk with their clients, and you don’t usually need to worry about carrying the conversation. They may ask you good questions that prompt detailed answers while guiding you toward productive conversation. They can pinpoint specific issues that are bothering you and prompt you to talk about whatever is going on at the moment. Usually, you won’t even notice how much time has passed. If you don’t want to talk about a certain area, you generally don’t have to in that session. 

Concern: I had a great childhood; I don’t need help

A Different Perspective: It’s great that you had a great childhood, as one’s upbringing can affect many aspects of adulthood. However, it’s possible you could still benefit from the help of a psychiatrist. Maybe you’ve recently gone through something or don’t know how to handle an upcoming situation on your own. Talking to a psychiatrist doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental health disorder. There can be plenty of benefits to seeing one, even if you’re experiencing small changes or problems in your life. Just having the opportunity to open up to someone who has no bias or vested interest in your decisions can be very useful.

Concern: I don’t want people I know to see me going into a psychiatrist’s office

A Different Perspective: Many people feel that way, and that's often why a lot of offices try to be discreet. But there may be another option, too. You can see a psychiatrist entirely online, and then you don't have to worry about walking into an office or anyone being able to see you. If you’d prefer to meet in person, then know that what matters most is that you’re seeking help for your mental health. Even if someone does see you, they will probably feel proud of you for doing what is best for you.

Concern: I don't like talking to people about my feelings

A Different Perspective: Opening up to other people about your feelings can be difficult, especially if you’re not used to it. This can be particularly true when you see a psychiatrist for the first time, since they’ll likely be a complete stranger. However, know that with the right psychiatrist, you can feel comfortable talking with them about anything. It is generally their job and goal to make you feel at ease so you can discuss whatever is on your mind. If you wind up with someone who you feel doesn’t understand you or who you aren’t comfortable around, don’t be afraid to switch. You are not necessarily tied to any one person, and therapy can be all about your experience. Although the first few times might be scary, it’s likely to get easier and easier over time. Talking about your feelings can help you to live a happier, healthier life and give you tools for coping with anything you’re going through.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Are you concerned about your mental health care?

Concern: I can’t afford to see a psychiatrist

A Different Perspective: Everyone deserves to see a mental health professional when they need it, no matter their financial situation. Often, psychiatric services like appointments and prescription meds will be covered by insurance plans. If this is not the case for you, or you feel that you don’t have the money or resources currently, there may be different options you can pursue. Plenty of programs that you can go through to find a pro bono professional or a discounted program. Schools often offer psychiatric help at little or no cost. There are also free hotlines and numbers that you can call that may connect you with someone. Although you may have to put in some effort to find a reduced-cost or free program, your mental health is worth it.

Concern: I’ve seen a psychiatrist before, and it didn’t work

A Different Perspective: It’s often unfortunate when you have a bad experience with something because it can make you reluctant to try again. However, keep in mind there may be lots of reasons it may not have gone well those other times. It can be possible that the psychiatrist you saw just wasn't the right match for you. Maybe you didn't feel comfortable opening up to them the way you needed to. Perhaps you weren't ready to take that step into psychiatric help and weren’t in a place to be completely open about your feelings yet. If you’re comfortable enough to tell your psychiatrist that you don’t feel like the sessions are making any difference, they may be able to switch up their therapy methods. They can try something new that may work better for your needs, but this usually requires you to be open and honest with them. There may be several different reasons that you might not have clicked with a psychiatrist before, but you can find someone else and see great results and improvements in your life.

Navigating symptoms of mental disorders with online therapy

If you’ve decided that it’s time to see a mental health professional, online therapy platforms can be very useful. You’ll generally work one-on-one with a therapist to address any and all concerns you might be having in life. Since online therapy is usually entirely virtual, you generally just need a phone, laptop, or tablet to connect with your therapist.

Research has shown that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for a range of concerns, so either option may provide you with the results and improvement you’re looking for.


There may be plenty of reasons you might feel unsure, fearful, or skeptical about seeing a psychiatrist. This can be especially true if you’ve never seen one before or if you had a bad experience in the past. However, if you find yourself going through something difficult in life, reaching out for help can make a huge difference. You might recognize that there could be a number of reasons you may not have had the best experience before, but that doesn’t mean this next time around can’t be beneficial for you. Sometimes, prioritizing yourself can mean stepping out of your comfort zone. It can be intimidating, but it’s often worth it. Online therapy can be an easy first step if you feel hesitant to meet with a mental health professional in person.
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