What Should I Look For In A Local Psychiatrist Near Me?
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated October 19, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
If you have been considering going to counseling or therapy, you may be wondering about the options that are available. Licensed mental health professionals can be psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, or therapists. Do they all do the same thing? No, but they all do provide mental health care. It's important to find a licensed mental health professional who is a good fit for you.
What Is A Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists graduated from medical school and completed training to specialize in psychiatry. (Sometimes this is confused with psychology, which is also focused on mental health. A psychologist also has an advanced, graduate degree and specialized training, but is not a medical doctor.)
Psychiatrists focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral health disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess the physical and mental components of mental health. Psychiatrists can perform lab and diagnostic tests and analyze genetic and physical attributes that may affect mental health. Psychiatrists may treat patients with psychotherapy (sometimes called talk therapy), medication, other interventions, or a combination of treatments to meet an individual’s needs.
Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can write prescriptions for medication. (Other licensed mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, or therapists, cannot prescribe medication. However, they may collaborate or consult with their client’s psychiatrist or primary care physician about medication options for an individual’s treatment.) Sometimes treatment involves working with a physician and another licensed mental health professional.
What to Look For In A Psychiatrist
You may have questions about what to look for when choosing a psychiatrist. There are steps you can take when looking for a psychiatrist:
- Ask for a referral from your primary care physician, a community health center, or insurance company. You might also ask trusted friends who are familiar with mental health care in your community.
- Research the doctor’s credentials. Finding a board certified physician can be an important step in your search.
- Consider the psychiatrist’s background and how their professional experience, education, and training will align with your needs.
- Look for a psychiatrist who specializes in your concern or condition. Many mental health professionals are qualified to treat a range of mental health disorders. However, finding one with a specialized focus could be a good step depending on your individual case. (For instance, certain psychiatrists may specialize in treating eating disorders, substance abuse concerns, or children’s conditions.)
- Ask what treatments the psychiatrist provides. Some psychiatrists might focus primarily on medication management; others might focus on other forms of therapy; some might do both.
- Meet with the psychiatrist to see if you think they’ll be a good fit for you and your needs. Considerations include whether you feel you can trust them, how comfortable you’ll be talking openly to them, and whether you feel they are listening to your concerns. These factors can be important for your treatment.
- If you have insurance, you might want to look for psychiatrists who are on your insurance plan (as well as meeting the considerations above).
- Consider logistical issues. How soon can you get an appointment? How accessible is the psychiatrist? Is the location convenient? Are appointments available during times when you can go?
How Much Does A Psychiatrist Cost?
There is no one certain answer to this question. When it comes to how much psychiatric treatment costs, there are a lot of things that come into play. For instance, the initial appointment may be charged at a higher price than subsequent appointments. Geographic location can also make a difference in cost. If you have an insurance plan and whether the psychiatrist is on it or not can make a difference in cost. One psychiatrist’s office may cost more than others. Calling and asking for rates and payment options is a smart way to find out the cost of potential treatment.
There are options for affordable mental health services. Some psychiatrists may work on a sliding scale, which means they might charge each patient based on their income. Community health centers and medical schools can also be good resources for finding affordable psychiatric care.
What If I Can’t Find A Psychiatrist In My Area?
If you can’t find a psychiatrist in your area, speaking to your primary care physician or reaching out to a community health center can help. They may be knowledgeable about psychiatrists who are in the area or who you can consult with virtually. They may also have other suggestions for treatment. An example might be seeing a licensed mental health professional who is not a psychiatrist and also consulting with a medical doctor who is nearby.
Continue Seeking The Help That You Need
If you find that you work with a psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional and things aren't improving the way that you had hoped for, don't give up. You may not see progress right away, but it's important that you stick with treatment. You can give the process some time, but if you feel that your mental health care provider is not a good fit for you, it might be time to look for someone else. There are likely other good options, and having a good connection with your mental health care provider is important for your treatment. (However, if you are on medication for your mental health treatment, make sure that you do not stop taking it without speaking to the doctor who prescribed it or to your primary care physician.)
Connecting with a Licensed Mental Health Professional
If you or a loved one has mental health concerns, your primary care physician or community health center can offer good resources for finding help. There is also a free, confidential Helpline that can help you find healthcare providers: call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) any time, day or night. The Helpline is staffed by speakers of both English and Spanish. There is also a treatment service locator option online to help you find a mental healthcare provider. You can enter your address, city, or zip code to search for treatment services near you.
Connecting online with a licensed mental health professional can also be a great way to find help. At BetterHelp, online options for therapy are convenient, accessible, and affordable, and you can connect with culturally competent, licensed mental health professionals.
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