Do You Need a Referral to See a Psychiatrist?
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Do You Need a Referral to See a Psychiatrist?

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Everyone has their own preferences about psychiatric medications. Some people want to avoid taking them at all costs, and others need medications to improve their symptoms in the short or long term. Ideally, your psychiatrist should take your thoughts into consideration and make a balanced recommendation for treatment. They might even give you a couple of different options, because your participation is important for the best treatment outcomes.

Most people seek out a psychiatrist for the first time after seeing a therapist for at least a few months. If symptoms haven’t improved enough after some time in therapy, you might need medication. Of course, there are some situations when medication may be needed right away. It’s a good idea to talk with your primary care doctor about your symptoms and the treatments you’ve tried first.

This article will discuss whether you need a referral to see a psychiatrist and provide some tips on finding one you trust.

HMO vs. PPO insurance

It depends on your health insurance and the psychiatrist. HMO plans will require you to get your doctor’s referral, and most PPO plans don’t require a referral. Some psychiatrists will ask clients to get a referral even if their insurance doesn’t require one, and others won’t.

Even if it’s not required, your doctor may be able to recommend a psychiatrist they trust. Some therapists can recommend psychiatrists in your area as well.

How to ask for a psychiatrist referral

At your next primary care physician appointment, talk with them about the symptoms you’re noticing and how long they’ve been bothering you. Tell them what treatments you’ve tried so far, too. If you’ve been in therapy for a while, tell them how long. They may have other questions for you. Your doctor may make a treatment recommendation after you’ve shared this information. 

Some doctors have experience with psychiatric medications, so they may offer to write a prescription themselves. The downside to this is that you likely won’t get a great medication management experience. With a psychiatrist, you have meetings frequently when you’re trying a new medication. After you’ve found a treatment or a combination of medications that work for you, you’ll slow down to meeting once every three months. Primary care doctors usually don’t have this much time to spend with patients. 

How to find a psychiatrist on your own

If you have a PPO plan, you can still ask your doctor for a referral or ask your friends and family if they work with someone they would recommend. You can also do a simple search for “psychiatrists near me” and compare some online reviews to see who seems trustworthy. 

There are a lot of new online psychiatric services and pharmacies that make it sound like you’re getting a much better deal with telemedicine-only networks. The problem with these is that you can’t be sure of the care quality you’ll get. Many of them have great online reviews, but their psychiatrists have high caseloads with short appointments and may overprescribe medications. Many psychiatrists with brick-and-mortar practices offer telehealth appointments, too.

What to look for in a psychiatrist

Finding a psychiatrist in your community will usually get you more reliable treatment at a higher standard of care and longer appointment times. Local doctors are less likely to leave their practice with little notice, and again, many offer telehealth appointments as an option.

Here are some questions you can use to narrow down your search:

  • Do they accept my insurance plan?
  • Will my doctor write a referral, if necessary?
  • Do they come highly recommended by someone I know?
  • Do they offer telehealth appointments? Can I see them in person for my first visit?
  • Are they a part of my community, or could I end up working with someone elsewhere?
  • Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau? Are there many negative online reviews?
  • Do they have experience treating my condition?

About Lightfully’s resident psychiatrists

If you choose Lightfully for higher-level mental health treatment, you’ll see one of our staff psychiatrists during your first week. You can talk with them about your history, your symptoms and the medications you’ve taken before. Some clients may need medication during their stay for the best treatment outcomes, and in other cases, it may not be necessary. Our staff psychiatrist may provide education about some different types of medications you can choose between. That’s a discussion you’ll need to have with your doctor and the psychiatrist.

Our staff psychiatrists will be integrated with the rest of your care team at Lightfully, so they’ll be able to work collaboratively with staff nurses and your therapist. We encourage all Lightfully clients to take their own medication each day, but it’s ultimately your decision. We know treatment works best when our clients choose it voluntarily.

Have questions about seeing a psychiatrist during your treatment at Lightfully? Contact us today.

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