Nowadays, finding a mental health professional almost seems ridiculously easy. A quick Google search for “psychiatrist near me” and you get hundreds of results. In fact, you can even schedule an appointment via online channels.
But while finding a psychiatrist near you is easy, choosing the right one is an entirely different story. Keep in mind that not every “professional” listed online is, in fact, a certified mental health expert.
So, before you go ahead and book an appointment, let’s take a moment to understand what psychiatrists do and how to go about choosing the right one.
What is Psychiatry?
In broad lines, psychiatry is a branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Just as cardiologists deal with heart disease, psychiatrists treat mental disorders and the related symptoms.
The psychiatrist doesn’t focus solely on the anatomy and physiology of the brain. Rather, they also look at aspects related to individual and collective behavior, family history, and medical history.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Health Conditions
When it comes to diagnosis, psychiatrists may request a full range of laboratory tests a well as medical investigations. By combining these results with clinical interviews, psychiatrists gain a broad picture of your physical and mental state.
Their education along with years of training and clinical experience allow them to understand the complex relationship between the biology and psychology of the human mind.
Once they have evaluated your medical and psychological condition, your psychiatrist can help you develop a treatment plan.
When it comes to treating mental illness, most psychiatrists resort to psychotherapy or medication or both.
In fact, research shows that a mix of therapy and psychiatric medication is currently the best option for people who are dealing with some of the most severe forms of mental illness.
For example, a recent study published in The Lancet revealed that when it comes to depression, preventive cognitive therapy can boost recovery for individuals on antidepressants.
Although some psychiatrists are trained to provide psychotherapy services, most of them refer their patients to a psychotherapist.
Aside from “traditional” therapies and medication, another approach which seems to have gained a lot of popularity is online therapy. Instead of a face-to-face session, you can receive psychotherapy services via online channels.
Recent studies have indicated that online therapy may be a practical and feasible approach to pain management and social anxiety.
From apps and web-based mental health platforms to online therapy sessions, it seems like the Internet could be a valuable resource for people dealing with various mental health issues.
Psychiatrists vs Psychologists
We live in a world where “normality” and “mental health” are sensitive topics that often spark serious debates. Unfortunately, these heated arguments can sometimes result in confusion and false beliefs among the general population.
Perhaps one of the most popular dilemmas is the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists. While there are some similarities between these two professions, there are important differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
When it comes to mental illness, psychiatrists take on a predominantly biological approach whereas psychologists rely mainly on a cognitive, emotional and behavioral perspective.
Psychiatrists receive the same education as any other medical doctor (along with specializing in psychiatry). Psychologists, on the other hand, are trained to understand the human mind (and treat mental illness) from a psycho-social standpoint.
Lastly, psychiatrists can write prescriptions for medication while psychologists can’t.
How Do I Start Looking For a Psychiatrist?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the easiest way to find a “psychiatrist near me” is to look it up online. Just like any other professionals, many psychiatrists advertise their services online. But there are also other ways to find a good psychiatrist in your area.
One of the oldest and most effective ways to find a psychiatrist in your area is through referrals. Basically, you can ask a friend, neighbor, colleague, or coworker to recommend a mental health professional. You can also get a referral from your GP.
One of the major advantages of referrals is that you don’t have to check credentials. Assuming the person who’s made the referral is trustworthy, you can go ahead and schedule an appointment.
Unfortunately, because of the stigma associated with seeing a psychiatrist, many of us tend to avoid this option.
If you don’t want others to know you’re seeing a psychiatrist, perhaps a professional association might be a helpful alternative.
Since we’re living in the digital era, most professional associations and mental health clinics have a strong online presence.
The best part is that professional associations offer a wider range of services. They can recommend both psychiatrists and psychologists.
One of the simplest ways to find a psychiatrist in your area is through online listings.
Since most of us spend a significant part of our time in the online environment, most mental health professionals have begun to build a substantial online presence.
One of the downsides of choosing a psychiatrist from online listings, however, is that it’s difficult to check for credentials. Always keep in mind that the Internet is a place where anybody can say anything, so it’s up to you to do some background checks and make sure the psychiatrist you wish to consult is indeed a licensed professional.
How Do I Assess a Potential Psychiatrist?
Before you go ahead and schedule an appointment, make sure the professional you wish to consult is, in fact, a licensed professional with valid credentials and a solid academic background. Also, make sure that you will benefit from the experience.
Make Sure It’s a Good Fit
In order to benefit from a fruitful collaboration and achieve successful recovery, you need to make sure that your psychiatrist is a good fit. But what does that mean?
First of all, a good psychiatrist will make their patient feel safe and comfortable right from the start. Unlike other medical professionals, good psychiatrists tend to place more emphasis on the psychological and emotional impact of your problems.
Secondly, he or she will answer any questions you, as the patient, might have and help you gain a better understanding of the problems you might be dealing with.
Long story short, a psychiatric consultation should feel more “personal” than your average physical examination.
Check Their Credentials
A good psychiatrist is a medical professional with a solid educational background and valid credentials. Given that you’re about to put your mental health and well-being in the hands of a total stranger, it would be wise to check their credentials before scheduling an appointment.
The easiest way to do this is through the American Psychiatric Association’s website where you can find tons of useful information about the accreditation process that governs this profession. In fact, they even have a Find a Psychiatrist section that will make it easier for you to choose a professional with solid credentials.
Don’t be Afraid of Making a Change
Sometimes, it takes more than one session to figure out if the professional you’ve chosen is, in fact, the ideal fit.
If, at any given moment, you feel like the treatment plan isn’t working or that your psychiatrist simply isn’t right for you, you can always look for someone else. Just make sure you don’t change your psychiatrist too often as it might mess up your treatment plan.
How Do I Set Up the First Session With a Psychiatrist?
OK, so you’ve found a professional who you believe is the right fit. All that’s left is to make a phone call and schedule an appointment. But since you’re probably a bit nervous about your first session, first let’s take a look at what you can expect from the first session.
What Happens in the First Session?
As you can probably imagine, the first session an exploratory session. In other words, your psychiatrist will most likely ask you different questions about your overall physical and mental condition.
He or she might also recommend that you get a few laboratory tests and other medical examinations done. Remember you have a say in what happens with your health (and life for that matter). So be honest, provide as much info as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist
Here are some important questions you could ask a potential Psychiatrist.
For How Many Years Have Been Practicing as a Psychiatrist?
Knowing your psychiatrist’s overall level of expertise can help you determine if he or she is indeed the professional you’re looking for. But keep in mind that just because a mental health professional has fewer years of practice, it doesn’t mean he/she can’t be a good fit for you.
There are plenty of young and “sharp” psychiatrists out there who can help you to understand and overcome your emotional or behavioral problems.
Are You a Board Certified Psychiatrist?
In the U.S. psychiatrists must be certified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in order to receive the right to practice their profession. Make sure you ALWAYS consult a certified psychiatrist.
What are Your Specific Areas of Expertise?
Even though all psychiatrists are trained to handle a broad spectrum of psychological conditions, each professional tends to specialize in a specific area. Some specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry while others focus on geriatric psychiatry. You should be able to find one who specializes in your specific problem as well.
Take the Steps to Improved Mental Health
Your mental health and well-being should always be a top priority.
But aside from googling “psychiatrist near me,” you also have to make sure the psychiatrist you choose to consult is a licensed professional, certified by the American Psychiatric Association.
- C. L. Bockting, N. S. Klein, H. J. Elgersma and a. others, “Effectiveness of preventive cognitive therapy while tapering antidepressants versus maintenance antidepressant treatment versus their combination in prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (DRD study): a three-group, multicentre, randomised control,” The Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 401-410, 2018.
- H. D. Hadjistavropoulos, L. H. Schneider, T. Hadjistavropoulos, N. Titov and B. Dear, “Effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility of an Internet-delivered cognitive behavioral pain management program in a routine online therapy clinic in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Pain, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 62-73, 2018.
- S. El Alaoui, E. Hedman, V. Kaldo, H. Hesser, M. Kraepelien, E. Andersson, C. Rück, G. L. B. Andersson and N. Lindefors, “Effectiveness of Internet-based cognitive–behavior therapy for social anxiety disorder in clinical psychiatry.,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 83, no. 5, pp. 902-914, 2015.
- R. Ryback, “Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist,” Psychology Today, 04 January 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201601/psychiatrist-vs-psychologist.