What Is A Psychiatrist And How Much Does One Cost?

Medically reviewed by Aaron Dutil, LMHC, LPC
Updated February 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether you’re seeking help for a mental health condition or are trying to find the best care for your loved one, you may be wondering how much you can expect to pay for certain care and services. The mental health world involves a variety of professionals, one of whom is a psychiatrist. We’re going to cover what type of care psychiatrists provide as well as what you can expect to pay.

What Is A Psychiatrist?

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A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. They have the same training and knowledge as your general practitioner, but they chose psychiatry as their specialty. This means they focus on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

Because of their training and background, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat conditions. They may include medication as part of treatment plans, and they may refer you to another professional like a psychologist or licensed counselor for talk therapy.

While psychologists can also diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, they cannot prescribe medications in most states in the U.S.

Why Would Psychiatry Be My Best Option?

If you’re struggling with mental health concerns, a psychiatrist can assess your symptoms and potentially diagnose you with an underlying medical condition. 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 treatment and recovery.

It’s important to note that different mental illnesses require different treatment plans. After a psychiatrist diagnoses a mental illness, they can help come up with the best treatment plan, whether that’s medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Since medication isn’t always the best treatment option, a psychiatrist may also refer the patient’s care to another type of licensed mental health professional.

How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost?

The cost of working with a psychiatrist will depend on where you live, your insurance, and your treatment requirements. In addition to an appointment fee, you may also need to pay for specific types of treatments, tests, and/or lab work. 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. This is the out-of-pocket fee, without insurance.

If you want to work with a psychiatrist, you can call them beforehand and 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 potential cost-saving treatment alternatives and/or develop a payment plan. If you’re well-prepared, you can find ways to save.

How Can I Afford a Psychiatrist?

When you decide to visit a psychiatrist, remember the time and education they put into obtaining their professional license. Most psychiatrists spend four years completing a bachelor's degree, four years in medical school, and four years in a residency program. That means obtaining this care won’t be cheap. However, you can find ways to make visiting a psychiatrist more affordable.

Use Your Health Insurance For A Psychiatrist

If you have health insurance, 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 referral 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. If you need help finding an in-network psychiatrist, you can contact your insurance company.

Ask About Sliding Scales To Reduce Psychiatry Costs

Some community mental health clinics and the occasional psychiatrist will offer sliding scale fees. This means that the amount you are charged will depend on your income. Those with a higher income will pay a higher fee, and those with a lower income will pay a lower fee. If you’re worried that your income may not be adequate to afford services, ask your doctor about this option.

Look for A Reduced Cost Mental Health Clinic in Your Area

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 to get on their schedule.

How You Can Save On Your Prescriptions

If your treatment plan requires a prescription, this can be another area where you can look to cut costs. Some people opt for less expensive generic versions of name brand medications. If you’re interested in opting for a generic version, make sure to talk to your doctor about this. 

There are also sites like GoodRx, which can show you how much your medication will cost at different area pharmacies, so you can compare costs and select an appropriate option. They also offer prescription discounts that aren’t connected with your insurance.

Consider Working With Other Professionals

While you may want to work with a psychiatrist to diagnose your condition and prescribe any necessary medication, you may consider working with other professionals after you receive your treatment plan. If psychotherapy is part of the plan, you can explore working with a licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, or other appropriately trained professional. You can also explore online options to find a more affordable option.

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Receive The Help You Deserve

Working through a mental health challenge and living with mental illness can be challenging. It’s important to recognize there is help out there, even if it takes some time to find a treatment option that’s right for you.

While working with a psychiatrist can be helpful, it’s not the only way to treat or manage mental illness. Online therapy could be a good option if the hassle of or cost of attending in-person appointments prohibits you from getting the help you need.

Research suggests that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be just as effective as in-person therapy for helping manage symptoms of depression. Additional studies suggest that therapy combined with medication is often a more effective treatment method for anxiety and depressive disorders than medication alone.

Takeaway

A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor who specializes in treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. The cost to see a psychiatrist varies depending on location, insurance, and your exact needs, but you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars per appointment. Sliding scale payment structures, insurance, and low-cost clinics may help reduce these costs.

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