Finding the right psychiatrist can be challenging. Multiple factors need to be considered when choosing a psychiatrist. Here is a list of 17 great tips on how to find the right psychiatrist:
1) Ask your family doctor
Begin your search for a psychiatrist by asking your family doctor for a referral. Your family doctor will most likely have established connections with psychiatrists, and can most likely help with choosing one.
2) Ask your therapist
If your family doctor is not able to refer you to a psychiatrist, then consider asking your therapist to refer you to one. Many therapists have established connections with psychiatry, so they would be a resource. The therapist may also recommend certain psychiatrists, based on fit.
3) Biopsychosocial model
Effective psychiatrists utilize the biopsychosocial model, so ask prospective psychiatrists if they ascribe to the biopsychosocial model. This model is explained in detail in another article found here.
It is important that your new psychiatrist utilizes treatments which are evidence-based. Evidence-based treatments are treatments which have good research that considers the treatment effective and safe, preferably in randomized controlled clinical trials. In medicine, the gold standard for treatment efficacy is the randomized controlled trial, with placebo or standard treatment in one group, and the other group containing the treatment being studied. You want either the treatment to be better than placebo, or at least comparable to the established treatment. There are some psychiatrists out there that don’t ascribe to evidence-based practice, and these are the psychiatrists to avoid.
This trait in your new psychiatrist will facilitate collaboration amongst your support network and existing treatment providers. Psychiatric treatment in isolation is not effective. A psychiatrist needs to collect collateral information from others who know the patient, and then the psychiatrist needs to convey their recommendations and treatment plan to others involved in the patient’s care, with the patient’s consent, of course.
Does the psychiatrist have the expertise in your problem? In this age of subspecialization, you may find out that the psychiatrists you find are only focused on a particular mental illness, and may not take patients with your problem.
Observe the psychiatrist and see if they listen to your concerns. If you find the psychiatrist does more talking than you, go somewhere else. This is about you, not about them.
An effective psychiatrist is available for their patients. If your psychiatrist tells you to call 911 for a psychiatric emergency, then find another psychiatrist. You need a psychiatrist that is reachable, especially in an emergency. Some psychiatrists may offload their responsibilities to others by telling their patients that they go to the emergency room or call 911 in emergencies. How much do they get paid again? Exactly, they get paid well, so they need to be accessible.
Is your psychiatrist helpful? If you find you are not getting the help you need, find another psychiatrist.
Are the recommendations provided practical, or unwieldy and complex? Practical is better.
Excessive use of psychiatric and psychological jargon is confusing to the patient. Observe if your new psychiatrist utilizes understandable words, and clarifies statements.
Effective psychiatrists have empathy for their patients. Your psychiatrist needs to be able to put themselves in your shoes in order to help you.
I once interviewed for a job with a psychiatrist, and the first words out of his mouth to me were “why are you smiling?” in an accusatory tone. Needless to say, it was a terrible interview, and I decided not to take that position, mainly because of the rudeness of the psychiatrist. Imagine going to a psychiatrist who is inconsiderate and rude. I can’t imagine, as it is already a struggle for patients with their emotional problems. Don’t see rude psychiatrists, period.
So yes, I’m going to talk about the stereotypical arrogant doctor. Medicine is full of arrogant doctors. But society has placed physicians on a pedestal, so doctors have been worshiped like Gods. I’m not defending arrogant doctors, just explaining that they have been socialized and indoctrinated to cure illness and save lives, and some have let it go to their heads. Sure, if I ever need life-saving surgery, I would want my surgeon to be confident and knowledgeable…heck, I wouldn’t mind my surgeon being arrogant as long as my surgeon is highly skilled and can save my life. An arrogant psychiatrist is a totally different situation. If a psychiatrist is arrogant, then how are they going to connect with patients with debilitating mental illness? Humility is important, as it allows a psychiatrist to make necessary changes to the case formulation should the emerging data point to a different diagnosis, as psychiatry has no biomarkers to confirm clinical suspicions. An arrogant psychiatrist will hold onto their original formulation, and any contradictions or dissent is met with arrogant disregard.
You need to know what the process is, and what you can expect from that process in the future. Someone that is transparent is comparable to a commentator…a commentator explains events in advance before they unfold, and provides descriptions of what is occurring or about to occur.
Psychiatrists have to be educators about mental illness, and need to be able to teach patients the various concepts, treatment recommendations, and anticipated effects and side effects of the treatments prescribed.
17) Crème de la crème
For those who want only the best in the business, then look at university-based psychiatrists who do research and teach. These psychiatrists are at the cutting-edge of psychiatry. But expect to pay a hefty price, and also to wait for a while, as these psychiatrists are in high demand given their considerable expertise and knowledge.
In summary, finding the right psychiatrist can be difficult. Start with your family doctor or therapist for a referral to the right psychiatrist. The above list can help find the right psychiatrist for you.
James Bergman says
This is a long list of what to look for in a psychiatrist, but I am glad that it is. If I go to a psychiatrist I want to make sure I get the best because we will probably be talking about a lot of uncomfortable things. So, knowing that they come well recommended and experienced in my problems is a way to help me be comfortable discussing my problems with them.
Dr. Carlo says
That is a good summary of the article James. Thanks for sharing.
Rachel Lannister says
You wrote that after visiting with the psychiatrist a few times, you should ask yourself if they are helping you to improve your health. A friend of mine has been thinking about seeing a psychiatrist and I was wondering what would be involved in choosing one. I’ll have to advise my friend try and monitor their progress closely, as it could help them determine if the visits are helpful.
Dr. Carlo says
To see a psychiatrist, for non-urgent matters, the referral process goes through your family doctor. Psychiatrists are specialists, so like other specialists, a referral is needed. Other doctors can also refer to a psychiatrist…for example, if your endocrinologist determines your anxiety and depression is affecting your diabetes care, then that doctor can also refer. If a therapist is involved, then that therapist usually has a network of psychiatrists to refer. If the matter is urgent, then go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital, and the psychiatrist on-call will see you.
Victoria Addington says
Wow, it’s interesting to know some helpful tips on how to find the right psychiatrist. In the past few months, I noticed that there’s been a huge change in my body due to binge eating. Because of this, I wanted to see a psychiatrist after being diagnosed with an eating disorder. With that said, I must then follow your advice to find a professional that uses treatments that are evidence-based since they’ve been considered effective and safe.
Dr. Carlo says
Thanks for the feedback, and hope you find the right psychiatrist for you!
Alice Carroll says
I agree that practicality is important to look for in a psychiatrist. I’m interested in seeing one soon because I’ve been feeling very unmotivated to do things that I love these past few months. I think that I will need to resolve some of the things going on in my head before I can get back to them.
Dr. Carlo says
Good luck Alice, and hope you find the right psychiatrist.
Levi Armstrong says
I agree with what you said that it’s best to find a psychiatrist who’s empathic and kind to ensure they will listen and not be condescending. I’m helping my sister find a child psychiatrist for her daughter and my niece, Cara. Cara has been refusing to speak to anyone ever since her dad died, so my sister wants her to see a psychiatrist as soon as possible. Thank you for this!
Dr. Carlo says
Good luck in your search for one.
Rachel Frampton says
I would like to seek help from a psychiatrist since I’ve been feeling a series of anxiety. I also agree with you that it will be best to opt for an accredited and experienced doctor. Anyhow, it’s a good thing that you shared the importance of choosing a good listener doctor as well.
Dr. Carlo says
Thanks for visiting, and good luck!