A psychiatrist assists you with your mental health needs. You usually see them less often than a therapist and they are legally permitted to write prescriptions. If you’re fairly new to the mental health world, things can be quite confusing.  Suddenly you have a to be concerned about a therapist, a psychiatrist and, possibly, medications.  This post is designed to help you choose a psychiatrist that meets your needs.

The first thing you need to do is contact your insurance provider and see which caregivers are covered under your policy.  Under the Medical Parity laws, mental health professionals are supposed to be reimbursed at the same rate as doctor’s for physical ailments.  It’s also helpful to ask your primary care physician for referrals.  Your insurance company will likely have a list of caregivers for you to choose from.

Next, research the psychiatrists that are covered by your plan.  You can do this by going online.  Make sure the doctors you are considering are board certified.  You can also see a doctor’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, malpractice suits and disciplinary history.  You can find all this information on http://www.healthgrades.com.  You can also Google the psychiatrist’s name and find additional information that way.

Set up an appointment with a psychiatrist that sounds like a good fit.  This will probably be an hour long appointment.  This is your time to get a feel for how the psychiatrist operates and, in general, what their personality is like.  Be sure to ask questions like: “What is your philosophy on the use of medication?”  “Do you do any therapy?”  “What is your philosophy on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)?” “How long have you been practicing?”  “What is your process for recovery?”  Often, while you are asking questions, you will already know that the doctor isn’t a good fit for you.  I once had an initial appointment with the grumpiest psychiatrist in the world.  He didn’t crack a smile the entire visit.  He talked in a monotone and, in short, I could tell he wasn’t that in to his clients.  I did end up seeing him for a few months because there was no one else to see.  But don’t be afraid if your first (or second) choice of doctors doesn’t meet your needs.

You are not stuck with the first psychiatrist you see.  If it isn’t a good match, move on to the next doctor on your list.  I went through three psychiatrists before I found the right one for me.

These psychiatrist visits can be difficult because it requires that you tell your full story a few times and that can be exhausting.  Plan for some down time after your appointment to process things and let your mind rest.

Some key areas that you need a good match for are: medication usage, seeing a therapist, how often you will see the psychiatrist, treatment philosophy, what is expected of you as the patient, empathy and compassion.  Those last two can be hard to find, but those doctors are definitely out there.

Are you at a point that you need to find a psychiatrist?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

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