How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost?
Updated November 05, 2019
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
It's not uncommon for people to use the labels "psychiatrist" and "psychologist" interchangeably, but these are two very different jobs with different responsibilities, educations, and professional scope. Understanding the difference between the two can help you know which professional may be right for you.
Psychiatrist Vs. Psychologist
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychiatrists complete medical school, residency, and their area of special focus is psychiatry. For this reason, a psychiatrist will have an "M.D." behind their name, and typically be addressed as "doctor". They have learned the same things in medical school that your general practitioner has learned including how to do examinations, all the body systems, and their functions.
Psychiatrists may have even further specialized areas of focus, and this will indicate additional training. The exact areas of study a psychiatrist will have in addition to their medical training will differ based on any specializations that they choose. The biggest factor of note is that psychiatrists can prescribe medications to treat conditions.
Psychologists aren't medical doctors. Psychologists have advanced degrees, and typically obtain a PhD or PsyD in psychology.
Because they are not medical doctors, they are not able to prescribe medication. They approach mental health challenges in the treatment setting with psychotherapy and various theories. Psychologists can evaluate, assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions, but without the addition of medication.
Why Would Psychiatry Be the Best Fit?
Since a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, they are a good fit when a prescription is needed. Many people think of antidepressants, but there are many other types of medications that could be prescribed for based diagnosis and presenting symptoms.
Psychiatrists can eliminate potential underlying medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms. A psychologist may refer you to a psychiatrist for medication or to eliminate potential underlying medical conditions. The psychiatrist will prescribe medication to treat issues that you may have and will refer you to a therapist or psychologist in cases where therapy is helpful.
A psychologist can provide you with an evaluation and assessment, therapy, and can work with your psychiatrist as a team. Working together they can use both perspectives to create a plan that leads someone to recovery.
How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost?
The exact cost for seeing a psychiatrist will depend on your geographical location, whether or not you have insurance, how frequently you need to be seen, and what sort of tests (if any) your psychiatrist orders. An appointment that requires lab work may cost more, for example. Averages range from $100-$200 per visit but can be higher.
You can talk with the psychiatrist or their staff to determine the cost of your initial appointment and any tests the doctor typically orders. Some providers may discount services for those without insurance, or they may be willing to cut back on testing in order to help you afford the appointment. Talk to your doctor to see what options are available to save money and what tests are necessary for your treatment.
Use Your Health Insurance
This is the easiest way to mitigate the cost associated with a psychiatrist. It's not a guarantee, but if you have health insurance coverage, there is a chance that you also have some type of coverage for mental health services. They usually come with requirements for coverage such as having a referral from your doctor. Coverage may be limited to a certain number of appointments in a year.
It's worth mentioning that when using your health insurance, you'll need to make sure that you choose a psychiatrist that will be covered by your insurance. If you accidentally choose the wrong one, then you will end up with bills that you did not expect.
Ask About Sliding Scales
Some psychiatrists and community mental health clinics offer a sliding scale. This means that the price of your appointment will depend on your income. This can be a good option for finding better pricing.
Look for A Reduced Cost Mental Health Clinic for A Reduced Cost Mental Health Clinic in Your Area
Many counties throughout the country have a mental health clinic that works at reduced costs. These are designed to help those that have low income or no insurance coverage. You can often get low-cost appointments; however, it can involve a long wait period. It might take you longer to get into an appointment, or the office might work on a first come first served basis. Either way, it can be frustrating, but a good way to save on costs.
Try to Save On Your Prescriptions
Saving on your psychiatry appointments isn't the only way to save money when getting the mental health help you need. You can also save on your prescriptions. There are a few ways to do this. The first is to ask for generic forms of the name brand medication, which you should do when you first receive your prescription, as any minute change in medication can make a difference.
You can also try using an app like GoodRx which can show you the cheapest place near you to find your medication and often offers discounts that you don't need insurance for.
Don't Let Price Stop You from Getting Help
When it comes to your mental health, costs shouldn't stop you from getting the help that you need. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to fit all the services you need into your budget. With a little work and willingness to discuss options with your chosen psychiatrist and to research local low-cost options, you can save money while still addressing your mental health needs. Since a psychiatrist often recommends therapy, it's helpful to know about low-cost therapy options as well. The psychiatrist may refer you to someone local who offers a sliding scale, or they may just recommend you give therapy a try. BetterHelp offers low-cost options for seeing licensed professional therapists from the comfort of your own home.