If you’ve ever searched “how to find a psychiatrist near me” — as many of us have at one time or another — you should be proud that you took the first step on a path toward mental health care and healing. Making that decision to seek help from a psychiatrist in your area can be scary, and you’re brave for starting the process.
According to the CDC, more than 19 percent of adults in the United States sought out mental health treatment in 2019. So if you’re experiencing signs or symptoms of any mental health condition, it’s important that you know you’re not alone. Whether it’s clinical (depression or anxiety), circumstantial (relationship troubles or a new job) or individual (from life’s inevitable ups and downs) — seeking psychiatry services from a mental health professional when you need them is important. Still, beginning your search for a reputable “psychiatrist near me” can feel like trying to scale a mountain.
To optimize your psychiatrist search efforts, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.
Steps to Finding a Psychiatrist
Though it may seem daunting to seek out mental health services, many people find that simply having a plan in place helps. A strategic plan can help guide and navigate your search, which can make the process a bit easier. Knowing that others have used these same steps to find psychiatric care help might just give you the confidence you need to get started. Often, realizing that we’re not alone gives us the courage we need to try and find help.
If you’ve been wondering how to find a psychiatrist, the following steps can get you started.
Determine what your end goal is with a psychiatrist
Perhaps one of the most important parts of your journey is defining your end goal. Some people find it helps to write goals down before they get started. Having a clear idea of where you hope to go might lead you toward the finish line.
Try starting by asking yourself: What are your mental health obstacles? Think through the following before you begin your search.
- What do you need help with?
- Where in your life are you struggling?
- Do you find that you have a trigger? If so, can you identify what it is?
- What do you hope to gain from your work with a psychiatrist?
- What would your desired outcome be?
Defining your end goal can be a crucial step in finding effective treatment that’ll help you heal. Whatever you’re going through, knowing where you want to end up can be an important part of the process.
Not only will you have a clear picture of where you’re heading as you move through treatment, you’ll also be able to start working as soon as you find a good psychiatrist you can connect with. By being able to express what your needs are, a psychiatrist can put the best plan in place to help treat you and your symptoms.
Search for a psychiatrist
Now that you’ve identified what you hope to get out of seeking treatment, you’re ready to begin looking for your new psychiatrist — but, how do you find the right one? Luckily, you have several options to aid you in your search.
Consider one or more of the following if you want tips on how to find a psychiatrist.
- Ask for a referral from a friend or loved one — Sometimes, asking someone you trust really is the best route (especially if you’re wondering how to find a psychiatrist near me). Getting a referral from a local friend or family member can save you time and effort. For many people, seeing a provider who’s close to home or work can be a real benefit. It makes it that much easier to get to appointments and stay motivated to continue seeking treatment.
- Ask your primary healthcare provider — If you have one, a family doctor or primary care doctor can be a great place to start when looking for a psychiatrist. Primary care physicians will already know you and your history, so they may be able to better-match you with a psychiatrist who is a good fit.
- Check online psychiatrist listings or professional associations — Online psychiatry directories can be a useful tool, if you use the right ones. Be sure to check reputable sites who make it a point to only list licensed psychiatrists. Be wary of directories that just require a fee to be listed, because there’s no guarantee you’ll end up with a qualified (or good) doctor. The following digital directories make it easy to search for “how to find a psychiatrist near me,” and you can easily filter further, using other search features like “search by distance” or “search by specialty.”
Some of the better online directories out there are:
- American Psychiatric Association (APA)
- American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology (ASCP)
- U.S. News & World Report
- Psychology Today
- Search locally (or ask about telehealth) — We understand that the process of healing can feel overwhelming. Looking for a doctor who’s located conveniently to you might ease some of the stress. If you can’t find someone close, telehealth (or in this case, telepsychiatry) can be an excellent alternative. Especially in the last year or so, the idea of “telehealth” (seeking medical healthcare via distance technology) has become particularly appealing to many patients.
- Check with community clinics or facilities — Using local resources, like community clinics or facilities, can be a great way to find a skilled psychiatrist who’s both reputable and close to you.
- Search by subspecialty or area of expertise/focus — If you’re dealing with a known condition — such as depression, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for example — it can be helpful to begin your search by narrowing doctors by specialty. Finding someone with vast experience in what you’re seeking help for can help your recovery dramatically.
- Read reviews — If a picture is worth a thousand words, a review is worth much more. Reviews from other patients can give you incredible insight into a doctor’s ability, his or her bedside manner, how they work with patients, their structure of communication, and so much more. Finding the right fit can be a lot easier if you’re using someone else’s experience to get started.
- Review medical journals — Medical journals can be a valuable resource when searching for the right psychiatrist. Just know upfront that this process tends to be a bit more labor intensive, but when it works, the payoff can be big. To begin, review well-respected journals, such as the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed or JAMA Psychiatry. Then, use the following method to find a psychiatrist:
- Find articles written that you can relate to or that are in the subspecialty you’re looking for.
- Send a brief eMail to the author(s).
- Ask outright for a referral to a specialist.
There’s no guarantee this will work, but it could lead to exceptional doctors in your area.
Screen your options
Researching is just step 1. If you’ve finished that part of the process, now it’s time to move on to screening your choices. You can narrow your list down even further by asking a few simple questions, and/or doing some very minimal research on your end. This can help better ensure you find a doctor who’s the right fit for you and your needs.
Things to think and ask about when screening a potential new psychiatrist:
- Check credentials/experience/processes — It’s always wise to check a doctor’s background and credentials before you begin working together.
- Where they went to school — not just medical school, but you can also ask about residency and post-residency
- What degree(s) they have
- How long they’ve been practicing
- What board certifications they have — any specialty board certifications (I.E., psychopharmacology)
- If they are published
- What areas of specialty they have the most experience with
- How payment works (Do they take your insurance? Are they in-network? Do they bill? Do they expect payment at the time of the appointment?)
- What hours they’re available
- How long sessions are
- What type of after-hours/emergency services they offer
- What types of treatment they use most (Talk therapy? Medication? A combination?)
In addition to this “interview,” you can also check a provider’s website to get a first impression of them and their practice. And, of course, use the web to your advantage. Do a search on any prospective providers, and look specifically for disciplinary actions.
Consult with your psychiatrist
You will likely have an initial consultation with any new psychiatrist. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to ask any other questions you have (including any from above you still don’t have answers for). You’ll also be able to get a sense of their practice and style of treatment. Therapy and medication management is a very personal thing. You want to be comfortable with any mental health provider you work with if you hope to see real progress.
Things to bring to your new psychiatrist consultation:
- A list of medications you currently take or have taken in the past (include any reactions you had)
- Test results or other health records, including previous psychological evaluations, psychiatric conditions, or testing records
- Additional questions you have
If you’ve decided you want to seek treatment and are looking for a psychiatrist, you’ve already taken the first step — and it’s a big one. Remember, you’re not alone, and help is always there for you.
- How to Find a Psychiatrist, With and Without Insurance. Healthline.
https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-find-a-psychiatrist. Published 2021. Accessed July 21,
- Ponte K. Finding the Best Psychiatrist for You | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nami.org. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/April-2019/Finding-the-Best-Psychiatrist-for-You. Published 2021. Accessed July 21, 2021.
- Shore JH, ed. What is Telepsychiatry? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families /what-is-telepsychiatry. Published August 2020. Accessed July 20, 2021.
- Terlizzi EP, Zablotsky B. Mental Health Treatment Among Adults: United States, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db380.htm. NCHS Data Brief, no 380. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020. Accessed 20 July 2021.
Commonly Asked Questions
Although medication prescribed by a psychiatrist can be effective in treating anxiety, research has shown that behavioral interventions can be equally helpful, and sometimes even better than medication treatments. Unless there are severe factors to consider, most mental health professionals recommend beginning psychological treatment (usually cognitive behavioral therapy) with a psychologist to treat anxiety. You can get high-quality psychological treatments online at Talkspace with either a psychiatrist or a psychologist, whichever you think is best suited for you.