Updated: Oct 3, 2021
You don't need to read research articles to know that finding a psychiatrist can be incredibly challenging. As a psychiatrist who practices in the emergency, inpatient, and outpatient environments, I regularly encounter patients who report difficulty finding a psychiatrist near where they live. So, how should one go about trying to find a psychiatrist?
First, think about the type of care you'd like to receive (e.g., therapy, medications):
Psychiatrists are trained to provide therapy and/or medications to help you with problems and to improve your functioning. Because of their medical training, psychiatrists are particularly good at combining psychological and biological perspectives. After four years of college, four years of medical school, and four years of residency, psychiatrists end up with thousands of hours of clinical experience by the time they complete their training. Some data also shows that getting therapy and medication management from the same person actually saves money because it is more efficient and allows for similar benefits with fewer total visits.
Even though there are numerous benefits to working with a psychiatrist, it's worth considering the variety of mental health practitioners, particularly if it's hard to find a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists (MD, DO) require 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency, and optional 1-2 years of fellowship. By the time a psychiatrist completes residency, he or she will have completed about 16,000 of medical training, most of which is clinical (treating patients and making clinical decisions). They are trained in both psychotherapy and medications. Further, because they are medical doctors, they can take a holistic approach to care, considering medical and neurologic aspects of diagnosis and treatment
Psychologists (PhD, PsyD) have extensive training in psychotherapy and psychometric testing. Completing a PhD requires 4-7 years after college
Social workers (LCSW) are trained in therapy and may also have unique expertise in connecting you with resources in your community
Primary care doctors (MD/DO) are typically comfortable providing medications for mild anxiety and depression, but they often lack time to provide therapy and may have shorter visits for medication management when compared to a psychiatrist. Regardless, they have excellent training, may be more available, and can decide when to refer you to a psychiatric specialist
Nurse Practitioners (ARNP/DNP) are able to prescribe medications in many states. NP degrees only require 500-1500 clinical hours (3-9 months) of training, significantly less than the 10,000-15,000 hours (4-6 years) of training for psychiatrists. Despite this difference in training and experience, NPs charge similar rates as MD/DO psychiatrists. I have worked with some great NPs and they are an option to be considered.
How to find a psychiatrist
Ask your current doctor (e.g., primary care doctor) for referrals
Check with your insurance provider to find a psychiatrist in-network
Check Zocdoc.com (likely more useful for finding other types of physicians)
Search Google Maps, Yelp, Bing, etc. for local psychiatrists whether they are solo-practitioners, in group practices, or are affiliated with larger institutions
Search online for community mental health programs in your area
Consider using telemedicine companies (e.g., TelaDoc, Dr. On Demand, etc.). Ask about how much time they will provide during each visit
If you're looking for a psychiatrist in Washington state, schedule an appointment with Dr. Reiner at West Coast Psychiatry.
West Coast Psychiatry is located on the Eastside in Bellevue and serves surrounding areas including Seattle, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland. With the convenience of video visits, you can work with West Coast Psychiatry as long as you reside in Washington State. Read more about our approach at www.westcoastpsych.com