If you’ve ever searched for a “psychiatrist near me” — as many of us have at one time or another — you should be proud of yourself. Deciding to seek help from a local psychiatrist can be intimidating, but being proactive and taking that first step is incredibly admirable!
If you are experiencing signs of a mental health condition — whether clinical (e.g. depression or anxiety), circumstantial (relationship troubles or a new job) or individual (life’s inevitable ups and downs) — seeking psychiatry services is an important way to address those challenges. Even after your first search for a reputable “psychiatrist near me,” the process can feel like scaling a mountain.
To optimize your psychiatrist search efforts, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.
What Exactly is Psychiatry?
Understanding the purpose and goal of psychiatry can also help you determine what exactly you require from a provider. In general, psychiatry is a branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders, including the management of its symptoms. Rather than just focusing on the anatomy of the brain, psychiatrists look at the broader picture of a person, including their behavior, family history, and past medical conditions.
One common misconception is that there is no difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Psychologists are trained to understand the human mind and treat mental illness from a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral perspective.
Psychiatrists take a more biological approach, having had the same education as any other medical doctor. Additionally, they are able to write prescriptions for medication while psychologists cannot. These are just a few of the factors that can greatly impact the types of provider you’ll look to work with.
Know Your End Goal for Psychiatric Treatment
When you feel it is time to start seeing a psychiatrist, try to articulate what you are aiming to accomplish through your sessions. You may desire to treat your depression or seek a second opinion about a recent mental health diagnosis, for instance. Or, you may simply want to forge a good relationship with a mental health professional to best enable and support your treatment plan.
To find the right match, recognize you may need to look at many different providers to make an informed decision about the best fit near you
Deciphering Your Psychiatrist Search Results
After searching for a “psychiatrist near me,” you’ll probably find that instead of results that feature actual names and websites of psychiatrists near you, you’re getting websites listing different psychiatrists (like Psychology Today, for example), websites of psychiatry clinics, articles about psychiatry, and other therapy services.
One reason is that most practicing psychiatrists don’t have their own websites. Or if they do, they don’t rank high enough in Google’s results to easily be found. That doesn’t mean that your “psychiatrist near me” results won’t be helpful. You merely need to know which sites are most useful, and how to evaluate their information.
Getting Psychiatrist Referrals
In addition to the “psychiatrist near me” search results, getting referrals for a psychiatrist is an effective way to find a reputable provider in your area. Whether it is through your primary care doctor, friend, neighbor, colleague or family member, ask for their recommendations and experience working with the medical professional.
Another advantage to this method is that some insurance companies require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order for the services to be covered, so it can be both a valuable and necessary exercise.
It is important to note that because of the stigma associated with seeing a psychiatrist, asking for a referral can be an uncomfortable experience for some individuals. The key is to find someone who you know well enough to feel open to sharing your experience and goals of your search.
Professional Associations and Online Psychiatrist Listings
If you are not comfortable sharing your mental health goals with other people, there are other options to help you find a good match. Professional associations such as the American Psychiatric Association and the National Mental Health Organization have a vast range of digital resources to help you find credible professionals in the psychiatry field. You can search for a “psychiatrist near me” via a curated online databases of professionals with certain specialities, experience levels, and of course, the office’s location.
Additionally, because most private health insurance plans cover mental health services (though not all providers take insurance), you can generally leverage your insurance provider’s online database to find psychiatrists within your network. If a psychiatrist does not accept your health insurance, try to at least compare rates among different providers to make sure you are getting the best possible price available and aren’t spending beyond what is comfortable for you.
Choosing the Right Psychiatrist
A reputable network will offer licensed and trained psychiatrists to their clients and should provide detailed background checks, extensive vetting, and training.
Health professionals such as psychiatrists must be licensed by the state in which they practice and can be easily verified through a state’s Board of Psychiatry to ensure their certifications are up-to-date. An easy way to do this is through the American Psychiatric Association. Additionally, if you received a referral from your primary care doctor, you can probably feel confident that your psychiatrist is licensed and board certified.
Making A Change
It may seem as though finding a credible psychiatrist in a convenient location is quite the undertaking, but the truth is, it is only the first step in a to make lasting, positive change.
Setting up an initial session with a psychiatrist takes a simple phone call, but it can feel intimidating. Although it is often a difficult first step, it can be incredibly worth it in the long run. Once you identify a professional who you believe is the right fit “on paper,” it may take several sessions to figure out if it is a good match to meet your needs. Continuing to revisit and be mindful of your initial psychiatric goals can help make the process easier and more effective.