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 if you're considering therapy or online therapy.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. For all intents and purposes, they have the same training and knowledge as your general doctor, but they chose psychiatry as their specialty. Because of their training and background, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to treat your condition. They may include medication as part of your treatment plan, and they may refer you to another professional like a psychologist for talk therapy. Although medication is necessary in some instances, talk therapy offers more long-term treatments; this is why a psychiatrist often works alongside a psychologist or therapist.
Psychologists typically obtain their Ph.D. or PsyD in psychology. In general, psychologists approach mental health treatment with psychotherapy and theories, so they can evaluate, assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists are not able to prescribe medication.
If you’re struggling with mental health concerns, a psychiatrist will assess you for an underlying medical condition that could be causing your symptoms. They may prescribe medication, and they may refer you to a therapist or psychologist if they believe therapy will be helpful. They will work with you to create a comprehensive plan for recovery.
The cost of working with a psychiatrist will depend on where you live, your insurance, and your treatment requirements. In addition to their fee, certain treatments, tests, and lab work all have various costs to consider. The average psychiatrist’s fee generally falls somewhere between $100 and $300 per appointment. You should expect to pay up to $500 for the initial consultation and roughly $100 an hour thereafter for follow-ups.
If you want to work with a psychiatrist, be sure to visit or call them and have a talk with their staff to figure out what your costs could be, including any tests you might need. In some cases, a psychiatrist may be able to work with you to make your visits more affordable. Speaking to your doctor ahead of time can also help you identify cost-saving treatment alternatives where possible. If you’re well-prepared, you can find ways to save.
While quality treatment won’t come cheap, there are options to help you make it more affordable for you. You can find a way to afford the care you need.
Your insurance is the easiest way to reduce the costs associated with getting treatment. Make sure you check to see if your coverage includes a form of mental health coverage. In most cases, your insurance will require you to get a doctor’s recommendation for treatment from a psychiatrist. Also know that your plan may only cover a certain number of visits per year, and certain psychiatrists may not be covered under your plan. If you wish to mitigate costs via insurance, ensure the psychiatrist you choose is in your insurance network before scheduling an appointment.
Some community mental health clinics and the occasional psychiatrist will offer to price on a sliding scale. This means that the amount you are charged will depend on your income. Those who make more will pay more, so to speak. If you’re worried that your income may not be adequate to afford services, ask your doctor about this option.
In many places, there are clinics that operate at an overall reduced cost, so people with low incomes or no insurance can afford their services. Though they may offer low-cost appointments, you might have to wait for a while to get on their schedule.
If your treatment turns out to require a prescription, this can be another area where you can cut costs. Some people opt for generic versions of the popular name brand medications. If you’re interested, make sure to ask for this at the outset if possible; you don’t want to switch medication during treatment unless you’re told to do so. There are also sites like GoodRx, which can show you the cheapest place to find your medication in your area. They’ll also offer discounts that aren’t connected with your insurance.
There is nothing more important than your health. You shouldn’t let cost stop you from getting the treatment you need, but it’s true that it can be challenging to work these costs into your budget. Luckily, there is hope. With a little research, you can find ways to reduce costs. Sometimes a psychiatrist can recommend an affordable clinic or will suggest a therapist with a lower hourly rate.
Dealing with mental illness can be stressful and isolating, especially when you don’t know where or how to get help. It can also be challenging to find transportation to a medical office or time for an appointment. For this reason, online counseling is an increasingly popular option. BetterHelp was designed to take advantage of the best aspects of online counseling and to provide an experience tailored to your needs.
Learn More About Online Therapy
Online platforms like BetterHelp provide you with plenty of choices to help you find the best possible therapist for you. You don’t need to worry about sitting in traffic or taking time out of your day to drive to an appointment — you may meet with BetterHelp’s network of licensed counselors from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). It’s affordable, flexible, and puts the power of wellness back into your hands. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing different life challenges.
“I have not been working with Andrea for long but I have found her to be compassionate and adaptable. I would recommend her to people who need help processing complex trauma and have found other talk therapy approaches unhelpful. She understands that while I practice and find merit in CBT type thought therapy, doing thought exercises while in the middle of a PTSD episode is unlikely to be possible. A person having flashbacks during an acute crisis is unlikely to be capable of doing thought exercises. Andrea seems to naturally understand something important that most medical professionals, in my extensive experience as both a worker and a patient, seem to miss these days: telling a person who is literally dying slowly and painfully that they should be able to meditate away that pain and carry on as normal without any medication or outside emotional support, is ridiculous. Andrea has been a breath of fresh air in that regard. She helped me realize that if a doctor or therapist isn’t able to empathize and they are approaching my problems cynically and with indiscriminate doubt, they cannot help me. Andrea is the first person in a long time that inspired me to hope they can help and trust that they will at the very least try.”
“I love working with Nancy! She’s been very empowering, very compassionate and very understanding. Whenever I text or even video call, I know she’ll be there for me and that she’ll provide me with an insight that will help me find my way. I’ve been really appreciative of this counseling services and I am so very glad I made the decision to do counseling. It’s an investment in ones health. I’ve been on psychotic meds for a whole decade and while medications numb the pain, they do not resolve it. Counseling does! I am definitely continuing to work with Nancy.”
The first step in dealing with mental health issues is acknowledging they exist. Then you can seek help. If that’s why you’re here, you’re already on the right path. Millions of others just like you have found effective treatments to heal from mental health issues. You can, too. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. If you’re having mental health concerns and you would like to see a psychiatrist you don’t need a referral. Many people do end up getting referrals from their primary care doctors when mental health challenges are discovered during routine visits or checkups.
Can a psychiatrist prescribe medication on first visit?
Yes. A psychiatrist is a licensed medical professional that can prescribe medication. If your psychiatrist feels you need medication based on your session they will prescribe the best medication for you. This process is the same — even if this is your first visit.
What medications do psychiatrists prescribe for anxiety?
Psychiatrists and medical professionals prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to treat anxiety and its related conditions. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed medications for anxiety. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are another example of a class of drugs prescribed to treat anxiety and depression.
What would you see a psychiatrist for?
People visit psychiatrists for a variety of issues with moderate to severe mental illness. Psychiatrists prescribe medication for people who require it and make referrals for counseling and therapy as an extension of treatment.
What happens at your first psychiatrist appointment?
When you visit your psychiatric for the first time, your doctor will provide psychiatric support and advice in the form of a treatment plan. Your treatment plan outlines what methods, medications, and psychotherapy techniques will be used during the course of mental health treatment.
What does a psychiatrist do for anxiety?
When you visit a psychiatrist for anxiety, you can expect to receive a diagnosis, a recommendation for psychotherapy services, and medication if your condition is moderate or severe. Your psychiatrist will likely recommend therapy sessions with a licensed provider to help mitigate anxiety symptoms.
What happens during a psychological evaluation?
During a psychological evaluation, your mental health provider will ask you a series of questions about your history. Based on how you answer the questions about your life, history, experiences, and events, your provider will make an assessment or diagnosis.
Can a psychiatrist diagnose?
Yes. A psychiatrist is a licensed medical professional like a primary care physician who can diagnose and treat mental illness and other mental health related issues. A psychiatrist is also licensed to write prescriptions for mental health medications.
Commonly Asked Questions About This Topic
How much does it cost to be evaluated by a psychiatrist?
Is a therapist cheaper than a psychiatrist?
Are psychiatrists worth it?
What should I not tell a psychiatrist?
How do I know if I need a psychiatrist?