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Fact Sheet

Psychiatrist


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Psychiatrists can help

Psychiatrists are licensed as doctors but also have special training in mental health issues. Psychiatrists treat conditions such as depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists have medical training, and as such, they can prescribe medication if they think it will help you. If your medical doctor thinks that it would be helpful for you to see a psychiatrist, he or she can refer you to one.

Your psychiatrist will listen to you. He or she will talk to you about your emotions and how your emotions may be affecting your behavior. Most psychiatrists are happy to assist young people in this way. If you think your psychiatrist is not listening or hearing you concerns, or if you’re uncomfortable seeing a particular psychiatrist, you can go back to your doctor and ask to see a different one. If you are feeling anxious about a first appointment, you can take a friend or family member to the appointment with you. Sometimes a psychiatrist teams with a psychologist or other mental health professional, with the psychiatrist handling the medication aspect of treatment and the other mental health professional providing the counseling or therapy.

Taking medication

Sometimes just talking to someone will help. Other times, you might need medication to feel better. If a psychiatrist suggests you take medication, make sure you understand the effects of the drug and what some of the potential side effects might be. Some people find it useful to get a second opinion about taking medications. A second opinion may help you decide if using medication is something you want to do. It is important that you receive the information you need to make this decision.

Making an appointment

Psychiatrists work in both agency or hospital settings as well as private practice. Regardless of the setting, you will usually have to make an appointment. If they are busy, you may have to wait a while before your first appointment. If things feel really desperate, tell them it’s urgent, and they may be able to fit you in. If you want to talk to someone now, particularly if you feel you are in crisis or have thoughts of suicide you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Your Life Your Voice at 1-800 -448-3000, run by Boys Town for everyone.

Asking about your privacy

It’s a good idea to talk to the psychiatrist you see about keeping your information private. This is generally something that your psychiatrist will bring up in your first session, but if they don’t, it’s OK for you to ask. In most situations, unless you ask the psychiatrist to share information, your psychiatrist will keep what you tell him or her confidential. If you would tell your psychiatrist something that suggests you are in serious danger to yourself or another person the psychiatrist would be ethically bound to share that information so that you or the other person could be safe. Psychiatrists are also required by law to report instances of abuse and there may be circumstances where they would be compelled to testify in a court case. The parameters for when a mental health professional can be required to testify vary by state.

For more information about confidentiality, check out the Confidentiality fact sheet.

Paying for treatment

If you’re insured, your insurance provider might require you to see a psychiatrist within a specified network, and you might have to pay for part of your visit. This payment is called a co-pay, and usually costs between $20 and $40 or a percentage of the costs (e.g. insurance will be 80% and you will pay 20%). Your insurance might also only cover specific treatments. If you don’t have insurance, you might have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket, which can be costly.

Every insurance carrier is different, and you might want to ask your psychiatrist about payment before you make an appointment. Some community agencies may offer a sliding scale which means you pay according your income and what you can afford. If you are in school, you can check to see if there is a school counselor who can talk to about your struggles. 

You may also want to check out the fact sheet on Paying for mental health services for more information.

Other people you can talk to

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or the Boys Town National Hotline (1-800-448-3000) should be able to help you with some local resources in your area.

Where to Next?

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