Anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues affect millions of people in the U.S. For many of them, talking to a psychiatrist can be a life-changer — it can help them manage uncomfortable symptoms, cope with difficult situations, and regain control over their lives.

But one question often precedes treatment: How do I find a psychiatrist? Choosing the right provider requires an understanding of a psychiatrist’s role, some knowledge of their specialty areas, and patience with the process. 

Finding the right psychiatrist doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are some points to consider, questions to ask, and steps to take in choosing a psychiatrist who is right for you.

Why It’s Important To Pick the Right Psychiatrist

Choosing the right psychiatrist is a uniquely personal decision. A great therapeutic relationship is one based on trust, honesty, and commitment to the process. You are seeking help for your mental health, a precious resource. In turn, you must be assured that the psychiatrist is attuned to your issues, symptoms, and treatment needs.

Ultimately, psychiatrists will share some common skills and training. As medical doctors, they have completed a four-year residency treating clients in hospital and clinical settings. They can conduct medical exams and are licensed to prescribe medications. Those are important factors in choosing a psychiatrist over another mental health professional.

But the “right” psychiatrist is different for each person.

Perhaps you are looking for a provider who specializes in treating a specific mental illness, or who works primarily with children, or who has experience treating clients facing substance abuse.

The right psychiatrist could be one covered through your health insurance, thus reducing the cost of treatment. You might prefer a psychiatrist who is board-certified, which means they passed a standardized exam demonstrating their skill and training.

Location might be a factor if you want to make scheduling an appointment more manageable. Or maybe you would feel more comfortable with online psychiatry and want a provider who offers that option.  

Choosing the right psychiatrist means finding the right fit. That can take time. But by asking how to find the right psychiatrist, you have started the process properly. Let’s explore some ways to make that choice.

How To Find a Good Psychiatrist

The field of psychiatry has many great providers, but not all of them will be right for you — and that’s okay. Finding the right psychiatrist requires research, a clear understanding of your goals, and a willingness to assess multiple providers, if necessary.

This checklist can help get you started in choosing the right psychiatrist.

Seek Referrals

Healthcare practitioners offer a good first step toward choosing the right psychiatrist. You can start by consulting with your primary care physician, who understands your health situation and can offer recommendations. Primary care physicians also can conduct tests to determine whether your symptoms may be related to physical or mental issues. 

Other places to seek referrals are your insurance company and local healthcare clinics. States and communities often provide resource centers with provider listings; check for these locally. National agencies and non-profit organizations offer listings as well.  

Family and friends also might be helpful in finding the right psychiatrist, though these recommendations should be weighed carefully. Those whom you trust can be valuable guides in the process, but their psychiatrist might not be right for you. The provider might have a conflict of interest by treating two people who are closely related but they might be willing to offer a referral to someone in the same practice.

Screen the Providers

Once you have selected psychiatrists to consider, research their credentials. Psychiatrists typically require at least eight years of post-graduate training and study, including a four-year medical residency. Read about their history to determine whether you feel comfortable with their training and experience.

Online medical directories, including those operated by states and medical centers, can provide background information on psychiatrists. It’s important to check for instances of malpractice or disciplinary actions involving the providers. Websites of individual psychiatrists and private practices are helpful sources as well. 

Board certification is another credential to consider. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology administers voluntary exams to psychiatrists. Those who pass the exam become board-certified to practice. That means they have met a national standard for education and skills. Certification requires passing the exam every 10 years.

Some psychiatrists teach, so consider searching for any relevant research material or content they might have written. That could offer a glimpse into their style of practice and treatment methods they prefer. 

Read Reviews From Clients

Client reviews can be instructive, as they provide insight into providers from people they have treated. As with any reviews, though, these should be considered carefully and shouldn’t form the sole basis for choosing a psychiatrist.

Consider Your Insurance Coverage

Check with your insurance carrier to determine whether the psychiatrist you are considering is an in-network provider. It’s also important to know what percentage of treatment is covered, whether a co-pay is required, and whether you need a referral.

If you can’t afford a psychiatrist, some community agencies can provide references to low-cost providers. In addition, some providers might offer scaled rates or waive their membership fees for those needing assistance.

Weigh Other Factors That Will Make You Comfortable

Experience may be a key factor to consider when choosing a psychiatrist. Perhaps you are more comfortable with a provider who has been practicing for many years. Others might feel better speaking to a younger practitioner who might bring fresh insight to their treatment plan.

In addition, gender might be a matter to consider. Are you more comfortable speaking with a male or female psychiatrist? Or does that not matter to you? It’s worth thinking through the factors that are likely to make you feel most at ease once you start your therapeutic relationship.

Be Prepared for the First Appointment

The first visit to a psychiatrist is known as the initial consultation. During this process, the psychiatrist may conduct a series of medical, psychological, and behavioral evaluations to determine the reason for your visit, the severity of your symptoms, and their impact on your life.

The first appointment likely will last 40-60 minutes and could be the first in a series of 2-3 sessions. During these, the psychiatrist will get to know you, your issues, and your medical history.

This also is an important time for you. The consultation gives you the chance to evaluate the psychiatrist’s manner and methods. Assess your comfort level with the psychiatrist. Does their communication style put you at ease? Do they welcome questions about their experience and working methods? You should feel safe asking questions as well as answering them.

Here are some other ways to be prepared for the initial consultation:

  • Bring a list of all your medications so you can tell the provider exactly what you’re taking.
  • Have a detailed medical history available.
  • Be clear about your symptoms and feelings: When did they begin, have they changed, are they worsening? 
  • Know about family history of mental health issues, if any.
  • Be ready for medical or lab tests, if necessary.
  • Speak to a loved one for support if that might help.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

You will be asked many questions during the consultation process. Prepare some questions of your own to ask the psychiatrist as well. 

Here are a few to consider:

  • Do you have experience or training with specific mental health disorders?
  • What types of therapy do you use?
  • How do you determine whether medication will be necessary?
  • How will you involve me in designing a treatment plan?
  • What’s the best way to reach you in between appointments?

Consider the Psychiatrist’s Specialty Area

Some psychiatrists pursue specialized training after their residency that could include a variety of disciplines. They may focus on the treatment of children or elderly clients, work with those facing addictions, study sleep or pain medicine, or practice forensic psychiatry.

For instance, if you are dealing with substance abuse, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction might be helpful. And if your 12-year-old child needs help, a child psychiatrist might provide the best fit.

Does the Provider Offer Online Therapy?

These days, deciding how to choose a psychiatrist involves options regarding the delivery method for therapy as well. Online therapy is a popular option for those who don’t live near a provider, have trouble fitting a visit into their schedule, or are uncomfortable speaking in-person with a psychiatrist.

Online therapy is a safe and effective way to conduct an appointment. It follows the same format as traditional therapy but is conducted by phone or video. As a result, you can speak with a psychiatrist from home or wherever you are most comfortable. For example, Thriveworks offers an online psychiatry experience that gives you flexibility in designing a treatment program. 

Be Open and Patient With the Process

Therapy works best when you are willing to discuss sensitive subjects honestly. You have to be comfortable sharing private information with your psychiatrist. 

Finding the right psychiatrist who makes you feel comfortable may take a little time but don’t give up! Therapy has been proven to be effective in treating mental health disorders. It requires an open mind but can be rewarding. 

Work With a Psychiatrist at Thriveworks

At Thriveworks, it’s easy to find the right psychiatrist. Simply visit our online psychiatry page, pick your state, and read through the list of mental health professionals. Each psychiatrist’s biography will list their specialty areas of treatment, the price for an appointment, as well as the health insurance plans that they accept. 

Plus, we offer online psychiatry that meets our clients’ needs and puts you in control of your treatment. It frees you from the potential hassles of attending in-person sessions, making an appointment schedule easier to maintain. You can choose exactly when and where you’d like to have your sessions, whether that’s in the kitchen, in your bedroom, or in your home office.

Thriveworks also makes scheduling those appointments easy. New clients often can see a psychiatrist within 24-48 hours of calling and sometimes even on the same day. Thriveworks accepts many major insurance plans, offers a flexible cancellation policy, and provides clients with unique benefits. Clients can access a life coach Q&A service, take advantage of email and phone advice between sessions, and participate in moderated community discussions.

If you’re wondering how to find the right psychiatrist, call or click here for a psychiatry appointment at Thriveworks.

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