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How to choose a psychiatrist

Not everyone who needs mental help has time to find a doctor before needing treatment. But if you have the time to do some research, it may be a good idea.

If you think you need psychiatric help, time is of the essence. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can get to feeling better again.

But taking some time to find the right psychiatrist will help ensure that you'll get the most out of your therapy.

If you need help

If you've had emotional problems or changes in the way you think, feel or behave, you should see your family doctor, says Mental Health America.

Often, mental problems are linked to other medical problems, such as headaches. Your doctor can help you identify the problem and decide on a course of action.

Where to find a doctor

If your doctor recommends seeing a psychiatrist, ask for a referral to two or three. You should also ask for a copy of your medical records—the psychiatrist may need to see them.

If it's important to you, feel free to ask about the psychiatrist's age, sex, race, or religious and educational background.

Other concerns

Check with your health insurance provider to make sure your treatment and your choice of psychiatrist are covered.

Making an appointment

When you have two or three psychiatrists to choose from, call for more information about each doctor's availability, where the office is and how much each visit will cost.

When you find a psychiatrist with convenient hours, location and fees, schedule an appointment.

Your first visit

The psychiatrist will probably ask you about your general health and the date of your last physical exam. He or she may also ask you why you think you might need mental help.

Feel free to ask questions about treatments. Most psychiatrists offer several types of treatments depending on the condition. If it seems you aren't being offered many options, feel free to see another psychiatrist for his or her opinions.

After your first visit, consider how you felt about the psychiatrist. Were you comfortable with him or her and the location of the office? Were you at ease talking about your problems? Did the doctor seem to be listening to you? Did you feel able to trust him or her?

If a psychiatrist doesn't seem like a good match, move to the next one on your list. It's important to find a doctor you're comfortable with.

Reviewed 1/4/2022

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