Ryan is an experienced health writer helping educate and inform people on all types of important health topics. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University. Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel.
April 8, 2021
Finding a mental health provider can sometimes be challenging. With so many options, it can be tough to select the right person for you. We’ve created this shortlist to help you find the perfect fit. There are three main factors to consider when trying to find a psychiatrist:
EverydayDr recommends that you use PlushCare to find a psychiatrist. If you are interested in remote psychiatric services, ask your primary care provider for a referral. If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can book an appointment with one through PlushCare.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who utilizes medication to treat mental health-related issues. They are the only kind of therapist who can prescribe medications.
A psychiatrist must graduate medical school and then spend a minimum of three years at a psychiatry residency. Psychiatrists are highly trained doctors who can help you navigate the complex landscape of mental disorders.
A psychiatrist specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental disorders. Psychiatrists create treatment plans involving various medications and may recommend additional interventions such as therapy and journaling.
In addition to their years of specialization in psychiatric disorders, they are also doctors and can treat physical conditions that may produce symptoms that mimic mental disorders. They are trained to treat mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
A complete list and description of these disorders psychiatrists treat are available in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). While this information is freely available, it is important to not self-diagnose and allow your psychiatrist to do their job and evaluate you.
There are many considerations when diagnosing a disorder. While a disorder might list symptoms similar to what you are experiencing, they have a fuller picture of how disorders typically manifest.
For example, two diseases might present similar symptoms on paper to depression but are treated entirely differently. A psychiatrist knows what questions to ask and tests to run when differentiating between the two.
Psychologists are therapists who investigate thoughts and behaviors in a patient. These investigations result in treating issues through discussion, coping, and behavior.
They can’t prescribe medication in most states, but they are the ones who can administer IQ and personality tests. If you think you need specific medication, then you probably need a psychiatrist.
States where psychologists can prescribe limited medication:
Although most psychologists can’t prescribe medication, they shouldn’t be thought of as less qualified than psychiatrists. The two just represent different treatment approaches. In fact, psychologists and psychiatrists frequently work together. The psychologist provides therapy, and the psychiatrist prescribes medication.
According to the American Psychological Association, “practicing psychologists have the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems.” They continue, “psychologists with doctoral degrees (either a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) receive one of the highest levels of education of all health care professionals, spending an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees.”
While there may be some circumstances where you can see a private psychiatrist without a referral, most psychiatrists require a referral from your primary care provider. If there is a specific psychiatrist you want to see, give them a call and ask them what you need to book an appointment.
Otherwise, speak to your primary care physician and share your health concerns. You can always ask them if a psychiatrist might be warranted in your specific situation. If your primary care provider recommends a psychiatrist, then you can certainly make an appointment with one.
Unfortunately, there may be a long wait and high cost to see a psychiatrist in many regions. Your primary care physician may know of virtual programs or programs in your area to help get you access. There may also be resources available through your local government for accessing a psychiatrist.
First, a primary care physician might be able to help you without a referral. That option will be cheaper and easier than going to a psychiatrist. A primary care physician should only provide a referral when they have utilized all clinical tools available to them and have a good understanding of what additional tools you may need.
Second, your primary care physician will provide a referral to a reputable psychiatrist meaning you can expect high-quality care. Psychiatry is a rapidly evolving field with new drugs and treatments becoming available every day so having a good psychiatrist is extremely important.
Third, some insurance plans require referrals before they cover appointments with specialists. Consult your insurance provider for more information about your specific health insurance plan.
Primary care refers to your physician of choice – someone who gives you regular physicals and can diagnose and treat physical conditions.
A psychiatrist, by contrast, is a specialist who treats complex mental disorders. A primary care physician can provide frontline treatment for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety but lack the specialized experience psychiatrists have for treating mental disorders.
Primary care physicians can be family practitioners, pediatricians, or internists. As their name implies, they are your first line of assistance for anything that is not an emergency.
They provide physicals, vaccines, and other preventative care options. They also will analyze potential interactions and long-term effects of medication.
How does a Primary Care Physician Work with Psychologists and Psychiatrists?
The primary care physician is usually seen first. If they think specialized help is required, they refer the patient to the psychologist and psychiatrist. Throughout your treatment with your specialist, your primary care physician keeps records from both offices, ensures the patient has a complete medical record, and handles any acute illness or injury that doesn’t require emergency care.
Your primary care physician should be the first person you talk to if you are concerned about mental health concerns.
They are also responsible for your overall treatment plan and ensure you receive the treatment you need for acute illness, and more importantly, provide a holistic consideration of your health. Your primary care physician may be able to help you piece together a series of seemingly unrelated symptoms into a diagnosis or refer you to a specialist for other symptoms.
If you already have a psychiatrist, you may contact them about side effects or other matters related to the disorder they are treating.
Call 911 immediately if you exhibit any of the following acute symptoms:
EverydayDr is partnered with PlushCare, a top telehealth company that connects patients with top online doctors, and was even named one of the top startups of 2021 by Forbes.
PlushCare does not have online psychiatrists at this time. Although, primary care physicians can prescribe mental health medications such as antidepressants. PlushCare’s online physicians can provide mental health services similar to an online psychiatrist. They can also provide you with a referral to a psychiatrist.
Click here to book an appointment with an online doctor.
Research has found that while medication is helpful, the best results are found if it is used in conjunction with therapy. Therapy can help solve the root of the problem you are facing, so that you’re able to live happily and healthily. PlushCare also now offers online therapy. You can meet via secure video chat as frequently as you would like for ongoing support.
Click here to book an appointment with an online therapist.
To book a free 15-minute consultation, contact 1-800-690-1562 or email [email protected]
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