How to find a psychiatrist that is right for you

Are you planning on going to see a psychiatrist for a mental health check-up? or did your general practitioner refer you to one for treatment? If so, you may be wondering how you can find the right psychiatrist for you. We are here to help, but before that, why is finding the ‘right’ psychiatrist so important?

Finding a clinician with who you are comfortable and open with is a very important part of the treatment process. In addition, if your treatment plan includes therapy, progress mostly depends on a good relationship. This is called ‘having a good therapeutic alliance’. Research on the importance of a therapeutic alliance has pointed out that the “quality of the client-practitioner alliance is a reliable predictor of positive clinical outcome”. Simply put, a stronger patient-clinician relationship means more treatment progress.

If you think about any of the relationships that you have in your life, the ones where you feel you can truly be yourself are likely to be the ones where you gain strength and comfort. We are more willing to learn from and listen to those we trust. The same is true when you are getting treatment. We are more likely to trust and grow when we have a positive relationship with our clinicians.


What is a good therapeutic alliance?

There is no exact answer to this. The idea of a good therapeutic alliance changes depending on the clinician and patient. However, some common characteristics that make a positive therapeutic alliance include:

  • Mutual trust and respect
  • Empathy and warmth
  • Rapport
  • Being committed to the treatment plan
  • Honesty
  • Strong interpersonal skills of the clinician
  • Feeling connected to the clinician

Naturally, you won’t be able to actually tell whether all of these are present in your therapeutic alliance on the very first day. It will take a bit of time. You will, however, find out if you feel connected to your clinician or if you are comfortable around them.


Finding the right psychiatrist

Now that we have covered why it is important to find the right clinician, let’s move on to how you can do it. Here is a list of tips that can help:


Make the descision

Making a decision to get help managing your feelings, behavior and relationships can be tough to make. At least for some. It could be because of personal beliefs and opinions or even the stigma surrounding mental health in cultures, families, and communities. For instance, someone who comes from a family that looks at mental health problems in a negative light may be more reluctant to get help in comparison to someone who comes from a very supportive environment. However, getting the help of a psychiatrist may be the most significant step towards getting better. A psychiatrist’s main role as a mental health clinician is to diagnose, screen for, and treat mental health problems by using either medication or therapy. In addition, they can also provide referrals to other mental health professionals. Including, psychologists, therapists, and counselors.


Get referals

As with any medical specialist, you will typically need a referral from your general practitioner to see a psychiatrist. You can also get a referral from a health care clinic in your area or even your insurance provider. Start by making a referral list of potential psychiatrists. You can also add recommendations that you get from family, friends, and other healthcare providers to the list.

The next step is to check the credentials, experience, and profiles of the clinicians you have chosen. Do a bit of research to find out what licenses are required in your state or country. Then match them with the profiles of the medical professionals on your list. To do this, you could google search their names or read their websites (a lot of mental health professionals with private practices has one). Alternatively, you could ask other medical professionals, health clinics in your area, or hospitals about them.

Psychiatrists are MDs or DOs. As you do your research you will start to discover that there are many different types of psychiatric practices and clinical subspecialties. Some may solely work in nursing homes or hospitals. While others may work in conventional medical clinics with other physicians or in private practice. As you narrow down your options, contact each psychiatrist’s office to schedule a time to meet and speak with the doctor.


Do your research

When you are looking for a clinician, make sure that they are board-certified. This the probably the most important thing to consider in the process of looking for a psychiatrist. Having a board certification means that a doctor is skilled, experienced, and trained to treat and diagnose mental health problems with precision. The title on the board certification may differ from the age group that the psychiatrist specializes in. For example, a psychiatrist that treats children should ideally be certified in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Moreover, make sure that the clinician you choose does not have a history of malpractice or any disciplinary actions. You may want to see someone else if this is the case. Again, you can often find all this information on the clinician’s website or you can even ask your insurance provider.


Look at expereince

For someone diagnosing and treating mental health problems, experience really matters. When you first call the psychiatrist, ask them a bit about the experience they’ve had with treating patients who have similar problems. Usually, if they are not well experienced with the problem at hand, they will refer you to someone else who has. This would be a psychiatrist or even another mental health professional such as a psychologist.


Consider gender

You are going to be discussing personal information, especially if you are going for therapy sessions. There are going to be times where you feel vulnerable and even emotional. Therefore, it is important to feel comfortable with your psychiatrist’s gender. According to a study by The University of Akron female patients, when matched with female therapists showed higher alliance ratings in comparison to a female to male match. However, male patients reported higher ratings when matched with female therapists in comparison to a male-to-male combination.

Even if you are someone who does not identify as a cisgender male or female, most psychiatrists have the necessary skills to treat non-binary, transgender, or any other LGBTQIA+ individuals. Ask the psychiatrist you choose about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender identity.


Ask about telehealth

Ever since the pandemic struck, a lot of health care providers have moved towards providing their services (both diagnosis and treatment) over the internet using platforms such as video conferencing, over the internet calls, email, and chat services. This is called telehealth. Telehealth was already growing before the pandemic but now its popularity has significantly increased. You may even have heard of telehealth services by now.

Telehealth comes with a lot of benefits including, less traveling, accessibility, convenience, and even more affordability (click here to read more on telehealth, online psychology, and therapy). In addition, some mental health conditions can be effectively managed using online services without requiring any in-person visits. Therefore, you may want to ask your doctor if they offer telehealth services.

If you are still not sure about telehealth, keep in mind that it does not have necessarily have to replace in-person visits completely. Instead, you can have both kinds of sessions as well. This way you can manage your time more effectively when you have a busy day or schedule, especially if your doctor’s office is a bit far from you. Telehealth is also useful for periodic check-ups and mild complaints, making it a practical choice.

Before you take the telehealth option, talk to your insurance provider ask them if your policy covers it. Most insurance providers cover online treatments, the same way that it covers traditional treatments. However, this depends on what type of insurance you have and what country you live in. This is something you may need to keep in mind, especially if paying out of pocket for telehealth is too much of a financial commitment for you.


Examine the style of communication

We have previously established that choosing a psychiatrist that you can comfortably talk to is very important. Here is how you can do it: when you first call the psychiatrists that you have shortlisted or even when you go for your first session, ask questions and notice how they respond. Does he/she seem welcoming and answer your questions in a warm way that you can understand? or is it the opposite? You have to trust your instincts with this. If your treatment is therapy, it can most often go on for months and in some cases, years. Therefore, having a good relationship of mutual trust with your clinician is a must. Find a psychiatrist who is interested in getting to know you, who will take your treatment choices into consideration, and will respect the decisions that you make as the treatment goes on.


Read patient reviews

Reading what previous patients have said about the doctor is a great way to get an insight into their practice. For example, you can get a picture of how he/she treats patients, prescribes medication, and operate their medical practice. Patient reviews also often reflect people’s experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. Furthermore, you can find out how much patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with them, and how well he or she answers questions.

However, keep in mind that reviews may not always show the complete picture. There are many reasons for this. For example, some reviews could be fake or written for the sake of misleading patients, some could be biased or written by people who know the doctor personally and the doctor may have deleted all the negative reviews except for positive ones. Try not to base your choice completely on patient reviews and ratings. Instead, we suggest that you actually talk to the medical professional over the phone or schedule a first meeting with them. After all, everyone’s subjective experiences are different and unique to the individual.


Talk to your insurance provider

Insurance isn’t exactly related to finding the right psychiatrist. However, before you schedule and a session, you may need to think about the long-term financial commitment of treatment. Having health insurance means that you will have to pay the least out of your pocket and in addition, you may also receive insurance benefits. Therefore, it may be a good idea to talk to your insurance provider before you go for the sessions.

Some psychiatrists who do private practice, do not accept insurance and their appointment costs are generally high. If you are someone who is going to rely on insurance, you may need to be mindful of this and read the financial section on the doctor’s websites when you do your research. Alternatively, you could also ask the clinicians if they accept insurance when you first call them.

Sadly, patients must occasionally make compromises in order to secure an appointment and receive the care they really need. If you’re having trouble receiving care or paying for it, contact your state’s mental health services and ask them about alternative resources that are available to you.


Our work at Epsychiatry

Epsychiatry is an online mental health services provider located in Australia. If you are an Australian citizen or someone living in Australia with mental health problems, we can help. We have a team of amazing psychiatrists and psychologists who are well trained and experienced in handling all sorts of mental health problems, to help you with every step of the way in your journey towards better mental health. Reach out to us using the “contact us” option on our website and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to get help. You are not alone.

“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but you are not the rain.”

Matt Haig: English novelist and journalist.