After you have made the decision to contact a psychiatrist, the next task will be finding a competent one. There are actually several directions to go in your search.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR-An effective first step is to talk with your general physician about your desire to speak with a psychiatrist. Physicians have knowledge of other professionals in the community and tend to build their own referral network. He may want to know in general why you want to see a psychiatrist to assure that a psychiatrist is the best resource for you to pursue.
CHECK WITH YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY-Another way to get psychiatric referrals is to check with your insurance company by phone, online, or by reviewing the insurance directory provided to you when you first signed up for the insurance. If you have an HMO plan, be sure to talk with your general physician first as you will need a referral from him to a psychiatrist in order for your insurance to cover for any of the charges.
ASK OTHER TREATMENT PROFESSIONALS-If you are involved with any other treatment professionals, ask them for recommendations. For example, if you are seeing a social worker or a counselor, they will have some knowledge about other professionals in the community and may be able to make some suggestions.
JOIN A LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT GROUP-Joining a local mental health support group can open many doors in terms of resources you can access. Make inquiries to the group attendees when it is appropriate to do so. If you live near a teaching hospital or medical school, give them a call to ask for a referral to a psychiatrist.
ACCESS PROFESSIONAL WEBSITES' LOCATOR WEBPAGES-There are online websites that have locator webpages that can assist in finding a psychiatrist near you. Check out ADAA-Find a Professional at www.panicdisorder.about.com/cs/medication/ht/findpsy ch.htm?p=1 to locate a local psychiatrist. Examine the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org to look for information about local psychiatrists on their message boards. Or take a look at the American Psychiatric Association's district branch website for suggestions.
PHONE INTERVIEW WITH OFFICE STAFF-When you have a good psychiatrist in mind, call his office to dig for more helpful information. Ask the office staff for the doctor's specialty areas and information on treating individuals with your disorder, if you have an idea about your specific diagnosis. Inquire as to how long the doctor has been in practice and whether he does therapy or simply initial assessments and follow up medication monitoring. In the event you need counseling down the road, ask if there are mental health counselors working in his office. Ask about charges and ease of getting in for follow up sessions.
REVIEW CREDENTIALS OF PSYCHIATRISTS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN-It is appropriate to ask about the doctor's credentials-good psychiatrists will keep copies of their vitas or resumes in the reception area for patient review. Notice the universities the doctor attended and prior job positions. Check the American Medical Association in your state to assure the doctor is licensed to practice psychiatry in your state. You can also contact your state board of health for licensure and certification to assure the psychiatrist you are considering is appropriately qualified and credentialed. You may be able to check to see if there are any standing complaints against the psychiatrist or whether he has been sanctioned.
SUMMARY-Methods to finding a decent psychiatrist range from asking your personal physician to interviewing psychiatrists' office staff by phone and reviewing their vitas. Asking other treatment professionals, joining local mental health support groups, and accessing professional websites can also effectively help you locate the professional help you seek. Finding a good psychiatrist will require energy, perseverance, and time but will pay off in the long run.
Fenton, Cathleen Henning, 2007. How to Find a Psychiatrist (Online). About.com: Panic Disorder available at www.panicdisorder.about.com/cs/medication/ht/findpsy ch.htm?p=1. Accessed on August 20, 2007.
National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2007. Mental Health Professionals: Who They Are and How to Find One, (Online). Available at www.nami.org/Template.nd cfm?Section=Helpline&template= /ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&contentID=4867 . Accessed on August 20, 2007.