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

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated July 9, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What do you think about going to see a psychiatrist? Do you find yourself thinking about it negatively? Maybe you believe a psychiatrist isn't going to be able 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 often positive reasons to see a psychiatrist. You may find it helpful to go into an appointment with an open mind and be willing to change your opinion. Psychiatrists can often offer quality care and insight and are helpful for thousands of clients. However, not everyone connects with a psychiatrist or wants to take medication, which can also be valid. Even those who do not wish to see a psychiatrist may benefit from taking a neutral or positive stance to reduce the community stigma of seeking help that may impact others who do want to take medication.

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats mental health disorders, including but not limited to eating disorders, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, to name a few. Depending on what they're treating, they may offer different types of therapy and prescribe medications. Psychiatrists often work closely with therapists and counselors since those types of mental health professionals are not able to prescribe medication when treating clients.

How can a psychiatrist help?

Psychiatrists are experts in human behavior and emotion who may help a person in various ways. They might work with an individual, a couple, or an entire family and can diagnose and provide treatment for several types of mental illness. They can prescribe medications and administer therapy. However, some psychiatrists choose not to offer therapy.

Psychiatrists may work in a treatment team with other doctors, therapists, and other medical professionals. They can assist in mental health crises and admit patients to the hospital for crises. Some people live with long-term or chronic mental health conditions that benefit from 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. However, one does not have to have a severe mental illness or diagnosis to see a psychiatrist. 

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7.

The BetterHelp platform is not intended to provide any information regarding which drugs, medication, or medical treatment may be appropriate for you. The content provides generalized information that is not specific to one individual. You should not take any action without consulting a qualified medical professional.

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
  • Being 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 often focused on your individuality, so finding a mental health professional is a personal journey that differs for each person. The benefits of seeing a psychiatrist often outweigh any costs because prioritizing one’s mental health can improve all aspects of well-being.  

Addressing common concerns about seeing a psychiatrist

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Are you concerned about your mental health care?

You might be hesitant to visit a psychiatrist for several reasons, including the following. 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 your experience is positive.

Concern: My psychiatrist will push psychiatric medications on me

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists generally prescribe medication when they believe it will help you based on their knowledge, education, and research. Medication is not a requirement to support people with a mental illness, even if your psychiatrist recommends it. Ultimately, the decision to take medicine is up to you. You may also see results and improvement just by talking with a psychiatrist. Effective psychiatrists may be more focused on your personal needs than on providing you with medication.

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 have the advanced training to address mental health concerns. Rather, they might refer you to someone with the necessary expertise, usually a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. Your primary care doctor normally cares for physical well-being, while a psychiatrist is typically trained to heal the mind.

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

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists may want you to be as comfortable as possible during sessions. Whether you are lying down or standing up, the session can be tailored to you. While you might talk about your feelings and childhood during some sessions, every session can differ. In some sessions, you might sit silently or cry if that is what you need that day. In others, you may do mental health activities. Psychiatrists can work with you to uncover what's going on in your life and why. The process may include talking about your childhood and feelings, but you are in charge of what you want to talk about and how, as you are the client. 

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, talking to a provider can be an incredibly enriching experience for some people. Going to a psychiatrist allows you to address your concerns in a safe environment. You may have the opportunity to understand your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings. You may receive a diagnosis in an appointment, but that's not necessarily a label. Rather, a diagnosis can be a tool that you use to help you work toward a solution and a better life. 

You may have people in your life who don’t understand therapy, or you might be worried about being judged. However, try to put your mental health first. If you’re embarrassed or ashamed, seeing a psychiatrist can be a choice you keep to yourself; if you don’t want to tell someone that you’re going to see one, you don’t have to.


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, help you feel better, and let you get on with the life that you want to live. Seeing a psychiatrist may change your life, which may not always be easy but can be worth it. Some people take a long time to seek treatment for their mental health. If you’ve taken that step, you can recognize its power. As you begin seeing positive changes in your life, you may be grateful you were brave and sought support. 

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

A Different Perspective: While there can be 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 is 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 difference 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% to 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 medications—and who once inadvertently described himself as a “dealer.” 

Despite these low statistics, many professionals in psychiatry want to help their patients and are able to do so effectively. If you believe your psychiatrist is wrong for you, you can choose to work with another professional. Doing research ahead of time may 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 you will have new or different feelings or sensations. However, you might find that these changes are 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 may help you feel authentic and safe in your expression. 

Some people with mental disorders may choose not to take psychiatric medications while they're going through therapy. However, they can be taken in conjunction with therapy to make the process smoother. Talk with your psychiatrist to figure out the best option for you. Whether you take medication or not, the treatment plan chosen is often intended to help, not harm. If your medication affects you in a way you don’t like, you might try switching to a new kind.

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

A Different Perspective: Psychiatrists are trained to talk with their clients. If you’re worried about carrying the conversation, let them know you might want prompting.  They can ask questions that prompt detailed answers while guiding you toward productive conversation. Psychiatrists can also pinpoint specific issues that are bothering you and prompt you to talk about them. You might not notice how much time has passed in session. You don’t have to talk about a certain area if you don’t want to. 

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

A Different Perspective: Having a positive childhood can be helpful, as one’s upbringing can affect many aspects of adulthood. However, it’s possible you could still benefit from the help of a psychiatrist. People often face challenges in life, and even positive transitions, such as a move or a new child, can cause significant stress. In addition, mental illnesses can develop at any time in life, regardless of one’s past. Having the opportunity to open up to someone with no bias or vested interest in your decisions can be comforting for some people. 

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

A Different Perspective: You’re not alone in being wary about seeing a provider, so offices often tend to be discreet. However, if you’re worried about seeing a psychiatrist in person, you might also choose to see one online. That way, 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 may be 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 others about your feelings can be difficult, especially if you’re not used to it. You might struggle when you see a psychiatrist for the first time since they’re a complete stranger. However, with the right psychiatrist, you may become comfortable talking with them about anything. The provider’s job and goal is to help you be at ease so you can discuss whatever is on your mind. 

If you are seeing a psychiatrist who doesn’t understand you or who you aren’t comfortable around, don’t be afraid to switch. You are not necessarily tied to one person, and therapy is based on your unique experience. Although the first few times might be scary, appointments may get easier over time. Talking about your feelings can help you live a happier, healthier life and give you tools for coping with anything you’re going through.

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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 medications are covered by insurance plans. If your insurance plan doesn’t offer coverage or you don’t have the money or resources currently, there may be different options you can pursue. You may be able to find programs 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: Having a bad experience can make some people reluctant to try again. However, there are often many reasons for a situation not to have worked out. For example, perhaps the psychiatrist you saw wasn't the right match for you. Maybe you weren’t comfortable opening up to them how you wanted 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 believe the sessions are making any difference, they may be able to switch up their therapy methods. They can try a new approach that may work better for your needs. There may be several reasons you might not have clicked with a psychiatrist before, but you may be able to find someone else and see more effective results and improvements in your life.

Navigating symptoms of mental disorders with online therapy

If you’ve decided you want to see a mental health professional, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp may be more accessible than in-person options. Through these platforms, you can work one-on-one with a therapist to address any concerns you might have in life. Since online therapy is entirely virtual, you can connect from any location with an internet connection. In addition, online therapy may be more cost-effective than other options. 

Research has shown that online therapy can be 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. Online therapy platforms do not offer psychiatric services like prescription, medical care, or medication management. 


Some people are unsure, fearful, or skeptical about seeing a psychiatrist, especially if they’ve never seen one before or had a bad experience in the past. However, if you are going through something difficult in life, reaching out for help can make a significant difference. In some cases, prioritizing yourself might mean stepping out of your comfort zone. This new step might be intimidating, but it may be worth it. If you’re not looking for medication, you might also consider talking to a counselor. To learn more about your treatment options, consider reaching out to a therapist online or in your area.
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