Picking a psychiatrist: How to find the right one for you

When you are hiring an electrician or a plumber, you might ask friends and neighbors for suggestions on who to hire, but if you're looking for a psychiatrist you probably want to do so more privately.

How and where to look

For most people, the first priority will be picking someone covered by insurance, so check with your insurance provider to make sure you have a list of which psychiatrists are in your network.  Your family doctor may recommend someone, though his or her knowledge of the choices avialable to you may be limited by which mental health professionals the primary care physician has had professional contact with.  Angie's List can also help you by enabling you to search for psychiatrists in your city and see which have had good reviews and positive comments from past patients who are also Angie's List members.

Ensuring a better fit

Once you've found a few psychiatrists to call, a good interviewing strategy is to have a list of questions in front of you as a script. Here are some examples:

  • What kind of practice do you have (outpatient, inpatient)?
  • How long have you been in practice here? (If only a short time, you could also ask where else they worked.)
  • Do you feel comfortable involving me in decision making and other aspects of my treatment? (Consider ruling out anyone who answers "No" to this question.)
  • Where did you go to medical school? (You could research the school later.)
  • If I needed therapy, would you do it? (If yes, ask what their specialties are and what kind of therapy they do?)
  • Do you take my insurance?
  • Could I reach you during office hours and after hours, if I had an emergency?
  • Do you have more than one office?
  • Do you require payment at the time of visit? (Also ask any other billing questions you might have.)

Indianapolis psychiatrist Dr. Christopher Bojrab agrees that networking with friends, family and your doctor is a good idea. But he goes further than that: "Do what you would do before buying a car," he says.  "Take them for a test drive!"

Can you "test drive" a psychiatrist?  Dr. Bojrab says sure.  "I am never offended if a patient tells me they are seeing me for an initial appointment to see if we are a good fit. In fact, I am usually impressed by this as it shows an excellent commitment on their part towards getting better. I tell them, 'Look, I think I am a really good doctor, but that doesn't make me the best doctor for everybody. My primary interest is you getting better. If either you or I think that I am not the best person to do that, I am happy to be able to point you in the direction of someone who may be a better fit.'"

Next: What makes a good fit?

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