My wife thinks I’m depressed and that it would do me well to visit a psychologist/psychiatrist.
So I’ve looked up the provider list offered by my health plan, and started calling people. But, to be honest, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, what questions I should be asking (other than “do you take my insurance?”), etc.
A number of people I call say I need to be admitted before seeing a doctor (apparently my health insurance company doesn’t bother to mention whom on their list of providers are hospital-based, which would be a nice thing to know prior to me wasting their time), however, whenever I finally contact someone who isn’t part of a hospital… I don’t have the slightest idea of what to say.
What do you want the psychiatrist or psychologist to do about your being depressed? The answer to that question is going to have quite a bit to do with which you’re looking for.
If you are looking for someone to give you medications, you want a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can recommend a therapist, if you’re interested in pursuing therapy, but a psychiatrist probably isn’t going to do therapy him/herself. If all you’re interested in is medications, not therapy, your regular doctor might be willing to prescribe medication for depression.
If you think you have depression, you want to know if they treat that on an outpatient (non-hospital) basis.
I’m a big fan of picking medical providers based on how close/convenient they are but Anne’s right - the place to start is by thinking about what you want from them. Meds? Someone to talk to? Cognitive behavioral therapy has a lot of fans on this board - a search for those words will bring up a lot of relevant threads that could help guide you.
When I was first considering going to a mental health professional, I asked my regular doctor for some names. I also asked people I knew who were seeing psychiatrists/therapists, then checked to see if they were on my insurance plan.
My doctor recommended visiting the psychiatrist first and having him evaluate me for whether I should be on meds and/or see a therapist. At first I just did counselling with a therapist, but as my condition got worse, my psych put me on some meds. Amazing transformation. I see my psych for meds only and rely on my therapist for counselling.
Also remember, you may have to see several psychs/therapists before you find someone you really like. This is fine. They understand that.
I am a psychologist, and most people just ask if I am taking new clients. If I am, I ask them to tell me a little about why they want to see me. Sometimes they volunteer that. In your case, I would recommend saying that your wife thinks you may have depression and you want to be talk about that with the psychologist.
You may want to look for psychologists who have websites, so you can read more about them. Mine has a bit about how I do therapy, as well as my background.
Also, look for someone with a PhD or PsyD. We have more training that an LCSW, MS, etc. I would recommend going to a psychologist first, unless you are sure you want meds. If you need meds, a psychologist can refer you to a psychiatrist, or communicate with your MD to get you meds from him/her. IME, psychologists do a more thorough diagnostic examination.
I went the opposite way. I found a therapist who referred me to a psychiatrist.
But it’s not like I planned it. Frankly, it was just easier that way. Many psychiatrists weren’t taking new patients except upon referral. My therapist got me in faster. Also, I was able to talk to the therapists on the phone and find one who I clicked with. I couldn’t talk the psychiatrists without setting up the appointment.
Another option: do you have an employee assistance program at your work? If so, you can call them, and they’ll usually give you a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist based on your discussion.
I’ve read a bunch of these “help me find a good doctor” threads on the board and I think I know the best way to handle this situation.
Go around town with a notepad and ask as many pharmacists as you can for recommendations on general practitioners. Apparently pharmacists should know the doctors who prescribe the latest medicine, and which doctors are easy to deal with. After you find a good general doctor, he or she should be able to recommend all other doctors.
If you’re not embarrassed, you can ask pharmacists about good psychiatrists directly.
Don’t just seek out meds and call it good. Frankly I think they’re over-prescribed, and while they are suitable for some people, it should be a last resort, not a first one. Meds alter your brain chemistry; they will not fix your life. They also can have nasty side effects.
Not to discount the value of schooling, but the best therapist I have ever had is a LCSW. Every other therapist I’ve seen – and I do mean every other one, from early childhood onward – was at best completely unhelpful, and worst completely incompetent (that one actually made things much worse, and I was sorting out that mess, without any help, for years afterward). I’ve seen PhDs, PsyDs, Psychiatrists (she also did counseling), LCSWs, Licensed Family Therapists, etc. etc. etc. Ultimately, it’s not about the alphabet soup at the end of their name, it’s about whether their therapeutic approach works for what you need, and there’s no way to find that out except to try it for a while and see if you improve.
That said, if you have any unique circumstances that you either need addressed as part of the cause of your depression, or that are just a big enough part of who you are that you need to be able to feel like you can safely refer to it as needed, ask the therapist if they have specific experience (and how much) with that circumstance. Two examples off the top of my head: if you have a history of abuse; or something like if you need a kink-aware therapist. Also, in my experience, merely being non-judgmental doesn’t cut it, if they have no experience with what you need to deal with. You’d end up spending 90% of your sessions educating your therapist, instead of getting therapy.
As for how to find therapists to call in the first place, I’d start with asking close friends for referrals.