What Is A Psychiatrist And How Much Does One Cost?

Medically reviewed by Aaron Dutil, LMHC, LPC
Updated April 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether you’re seeking mental health services 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. Below, we’re going to cover what type of care psychiatrists provide and answer the question How much does a psychiatrist cost?

What is a psychiatrist?

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A psychiatrist is a healthcare provider who is both a medical doctor and a mental health professional. 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.

For certain symptoms, your primary care doctor or other healthcare may refer you to a psychiatrist. Because of their training and background, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat conditions. They may include medication alongside psychiatric visits 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, you may be referred to inpatient or outpatient mental health services where a psychiatrist can assess your symptoms and potentially diagnose you with an underlying medical condition. In addition to challenges associated with mental health, problems related to your physical well-being can arise out of a mental or behavioral disorder. Because of their training and expertise, psychiatrists can assess and treat both mental and physical health concerns, though they may work with other physicians to address the latter. 

After a psychiatric evaluation, a psychiatrist 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.

Psychiatric care may be appropriate for any number of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, and behavioral disorders (as well as helping to address physical symptoms related to these). 

It’s important to note that different mental illnesses require different treatment plans. After a psychiatrist completes psychological testing and 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. 

If you’ve decided to pursue psychiatric services, you may be wondering, How much does a psychiatrist cost? In the next section, we’re discussing the potential cost of a psychiatrist visit. 

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 cost without insurance 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. Again, 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. Referral costs are a common part of the healthcare continuum in the U.S. 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 your health insurance plan covers psychiatric visits, 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 provider.

Ask about sliding scales to reduce psychiatry costs

Unfortunately, not all health insurance plans cover psychiatric treatment. If your insurance coverage does not offer robust mental health care coverage, there are other options you can take to get the psychiatrist visits you need. 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 reduced-cost mental health services 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 mental health 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. For example, if you’re living with a behavioral disorder like ADHD, a psychiatric nurse practitioner may provide more affordable—though no less comprehensive—services than a psychiatrist. 

Many psychiatrists will refer you to other mental healthcare providers, and often work with them by continuing to prescribe medication. 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.


A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor who specializes in treating mental health conditions such as mental or behavioral disorders. Treatment costs with 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. If you do not need medication, you may also choose to save money by working with other behavioral health services or mental health professionals either in-person or online.
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