Finding a psychiatrist (or Psychotherapist, or Psychologist, or Psychoanalyst) can feel like a daunting task, particularly because people are usually in pain at the time they're looking for help. Here are some ideas that might help you get through the process:
1) Allow yourself to talk to 2 or 3 clinicians (or more) by phone or in person. Many people seem to think that they have to go with the psychiatrist they meet with first, but it's OK to meet with a number of clinicians, and get a sense of how they work as a therapist.
2) Ask the psychiatrist how they believe therapy works, and what it might be like to work with them.
3) Ask them about the logistics of treatment, for example their fee, whether they accept insurance, how long their sessions are, and what coverage they have when they're on vacation.
4) You should know even before talking to a psychiatrist or therapist that they have different ideas about how people work and how therapy works. Some clinicians see mental illness (such as depression and anxiety) as a predominantly biological problem, to be solved with medication. Others see mental illness predominantly as a function of past experiences and relationships and of the meanings that people attribute to experiences. Yet other clinicians see both biology and experience as playing a role, and they might work with patients by helping them unravel and better understand the various causes of pain.
5) If you need to have a psychiatrist who is in your insurance network, a list can be obtained from your insurance company.
6) If you need to see a psychiatrist for a very low fee, good places to look are residency programs at University hospitals (in D.C. that would mean, for example, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, University of Maryland). There are also mental health clinics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia who provide services that are subsidized by the state.
Joseph M. Jeral, M.D.
2112 F Street, N.W., Suite 502, Washington, D.C. 20037