How to Choose a Good Psychiatrist

December 1, 2011 Natasha Tracy

Picking a psychiatrist out of the phone book doesn't guarantee a good doctor. Here's how to choose a good psychiatrist. More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

I have said to people many times - your psychiatrist works for you. You pay the psychiatrist. They are your employee. That means you're the one who decides if they are hired or fired. But choosing a psychiatrist is no mean feat as someone who others consider "good" may not be "good" for you. So the only thing to do is to research and interview a doctor - just as you would any employee.

Who Makes a Good Psychiatrist?

This is actually an easy question to answer. While "good" is different to each person, one thing remains the same: a good psychiatrist is one that you're happy with. That's all. A good psychiatrist is one that performs to your expectations - whatever those are.

Research to Find a Good Psychiatrist

The first step in finding a doctor is picking one out of the heap and researching them. The easiest way I know to do this is through websites like It allows you to find doctors by name, specialty, and location. But what's better is that it provides feedback on the doctors including a background check which is excellent information to have before you walk into a doctor's office.

Interview to Find Out if the Psychiatrist Is Good for You

Once you've found a doctor and made an appointment, you need to decide what to ask a doctor to find out if they're a good fit for you. While on first meeting, a doctor is going to be interviewing you, you should be interviewing them too.

What you ask depends on what you care about in a doctor and in your treatment. Here are some of the things I might ask:

  1. Do you provide psychotherapy? What is your view on bipolar and psychotherapy?
  2. What is your view on supplements and alternative medicine?
  3. What is your treatment philosophy?
  4. How often do you see your patients? How long are appointments?
  5. What happens if I have an emergency outside office hours?

On top of that, I might ask other question about my specific medications, treatments and other points of view that are specific to me.

These questions are about opening up a dialog on issues that matter to you. It's not about judgement as much as it is about exploration. You're testing the waters to see if this is the person you think is most able to help you. Try not to be intimidated by them just because they are a doctor.

If a Psychiatrist Doesn't Seem Good for You

Some psychiatrists will not meet your expectations. This is OK. Not every doctor is for every person and there's nothing necessarily wrong with either of you. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It's just like a first date. First dates don't always lead to second dates and that's OK.

Now is the easiest time to say something simple like, "I don't think we're the best therapeutic match; could you provide a referral to someone else, please?"

And remember to be polite. A doctor may not be used to be interviewed by the patient and may be taken aback for a moment. So thank them for taking the time to answer your questions. A trusting relationship with your doctor is a two-way street so treat the doctor with the same respect you expect from them.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, December 1). How to Choose a Good Psychiatrist, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Kate Hansen
October, 12 2020 at 1:51 pm

It was really helpful when you said that researching a psychiatrist is the first step. My cousin has been struggling with really bad depression for the past couple of weeks, and he was telling me last night about how he wants to make sure that he can find the right psychiatrist to help him with feeling better. I'll make sure to pass these tips along to him so that he can know what to look for when finding a psychiatrist.

April, 21 2020 at 10:28 am

I hadn't thought about interviewing a psychiatrist before we will hire them, but I appreciate that you mentioned it because it seems like a great way to make sure that they are going to be a good fit for us. My wife wants to find a psychiatrist for our son because of his recent mental health diagnosis, and it is going to be important for us to know that we could find the best one. To be sure that they are going to be good, I am going to interview them.

Olivia Nelson
May, 31 2018 at 10:11 pm

Thanks for the tip about considering what kind of treatment philosophy a psychiatrist has. It would be good to consider this philosophy because it would show that they are qualified. My husband and I are looking for a psychiatrist for our son, so we'll have to consider their treatment philosophy.

Kourtney Jensen
May, 4 2017 at 10:10 am

Finding the right psychiatrist is a difficult task to do. It should be someone you you can trust as well as a person you feel can understand you. I hadn't ever thought about the questions to ask the doctor while seeing them for the first time. You can learn a lot about them and how they will be able to help you by finding those answers. If I'm ever in need of a psychiatrist, I'll be sure to learn about them.

Frank Delaware
March, 8 2017 at 6:30 am

My sister was telling me that she might need to see a psychiatrist, and I was curious about how she would find the right one. It's interesting that you say to interview them and see what kind of treatments they use. It would be nice to make sure that she is comfortable with everything.

December, 19 2016 at 8:19 am

I think it's a really good idea to actually interview the doctor that you want to go with. Like you said, it is important that they are a good fit for you. Plus, I think it's a good opportunity to see just how nice and orderly the psychiatrist's office is. If the office doesn't have a friendly atmosphere, then it could be a lot harder for you to actually make it to your appointments.

Burt Silver
December, 7 2016 at 6:46 am

My sister has been struggling with some severe depression and anxiety for a few months now. She has decided to see a psychiatrist, so she can try to overcome it. I agree that it is important to ask about an emergency, and what the doctor would do in that situation. It is always better to be prepared. I will pass this on to my sister.

March, 18 2015 at 4:51 pm

Ah, if it were only that easy... Psychiatrists are specialists and as such you often require a referral of some type in my area. Sometimes you get stuck on a wait list before you get in. I've tried shopping around but most of the really good doctors aren't taking any new patients. I just happened to get lucky. My doctor recently moved to Canada from England and I was one of his first patients. Things have seemed to work out well for me so far.
For those that are interested there's also a website called for Canada and the USA that's very similar to The doctors are broken down by specialty, location and gender and are rated by patients and their experience with them. Some of the newer doctors may not yet be listed.

Risk management
June, 16 2013 at 7:42 pm

I feel really comfortable with him after nearly 5 years. As I said… I got lucky.

April, 16 2013 at 4:30 am

Finding doctors through websites is a good option.Knowing them by name and location is good and getting feedback and background will be great information to patients. Thanks for sharing informative post.

Judie Witt
January, 13 2012 at 10:34 am

RE: for a p-doc is for U.S./ is there any similar place like this for Canadians.
I do have a p-doc now which i was referred to by my physician, but up in here in Canada it is not that easy to get a psychiatrist. I had been waiting along time to get one and i had to keep checking with my physician for a couple years if there was one available. I dont' have a therapist either and am seeking one now. I used to have a counsellor but she moved just over a year ago, & haven't seen one since.
Any info or help wud be appreciated.

Dr Musli Ferati
December, 3 2011 at 8:37 pm

This issue is of great importance for oneself patient and for psychiatrist as well. The diade patient-psychiatrist is very intrigued, insidious and challenged social situation. For this reason it should be mindful and vigilant when You decide to choose any psychiatrist who would help you to overcome your mental difficulties. Among preliminary information on the aforethought psychiatrist, the socio-cultural background of the same is crucial. The first interview, also has outstanding role in the course of therapeutic process. There are different and personal expectancies that embrace impressions on pertain psychiatrist. However, every psychiatrist should be prepare and engaged to help you in substantial manner, that appeared through verbal and emotional communication. It is our innate skill to detect if our psychiatrist besides its professional capabilities possess adequate psychological deeds to treat us in humane and sincere manner. This interpersonal performance should't be disguised, hence it is the best way to evaluate right from the start if the treatment process would go in good side.

Ray Tyler
December, 2 2011 at 11:10 am

This is a great definition of a good Psychiatrist. My first one forever told me how well I was doing. However, I never felt comfortable with him. I later found out he was telling my then wife that I was malingering. No wonder she threw me out of our marriage.
In the beginning I did not take to my current Psychiatrist either. He seemed preoccupied whenever I was with him. Now, years later, I have an excellent rapport with him.
I totally agree that the right Psychiatrist is of the utmost importance for each of us who need one.

December, 2 2011 at 10:56 am

I just recently relocated to Killeen,Tx and im freaking out about finding a new doc. I literally had an anxiety attack due to the stress of the move falling in love, inclement weather, bad hair days you name it lol but anyway Im kinda picky when it comes to my doc. Im not picky on the male/female thing i just need them to be matter-of-fact with me. Not no by the book junkie UGH, hate those. I wanna get off 1/4 of my medz because the weight gain is out of control. Ok im rambling again, so in short, I feel ya!!! lol Peace&Love

December, 1 2011 at 2:55 pm

I lucked out and got a decent shrink from a hospital inpatient referral. He's always willing to adjust dosages and try different med combos to keep me on an even keel. I feel really comfortable with him after nearly 5 years. As I said... I got lucky.

Shauna Smith
December, 1 2011 at 1:07 pm

This is great advice.. I love my psychiatrist but I referred another family member and they dont like him.. he has a great rep and we have been successful together but a psychiatrist is really a personal choice.. Thanks for this post and the good advice.

December, 1 2011 at 11:34 am

Jeff, i was in the same boat, so i bit the bullet and i pay for my doc out of pocket, which makes him falling asleep that much more frustrating! Some docs do a sliding scale if you pay yourself. They are hard to find though. The whole process of finding a doctor is really hard and doing so while you are in the middle of a crisis is almost impossible. At one point, i called the EAP program offered by my employer and found a few docs thru them. Glad to hear you have a good one.

December, 1 2011 at 11:10 am

I have HMO insurance with its own network of providers. The choices you have for pdocs are only of those in their network. I have the choice of one in my vicinity. And she's so overbooked that the wait is three months for an initial evaluation! They had two but one moved on to somewhere else. My next closest choice is almost an hour away! Fortunately, I think my current doc is doing a pretty good job. I get the feeling she's really trying to do what's best for me.

December, 1 2011 at 11:08 am

this is great. I have never know how to interview a doctor. Im getting my mustard up to look for a new doc. I decided this when my current med doc fell asleep while i was talking to him and when he asks me what meds I am taking.

Natasha Tracy
December, 1 2011 at 7:44 am

Hi Mef123,
That's a great success story, thanks for sharing. Sometimes a second opinion is exactly what is needed to feel better.
- Natasha

December, 1 2011 at 7:28 am

This is really good advice. I spent 3 years with a doctor that didn't fit, I liked him as a person but not as a doctor. He just kept adding med after med until I was up to 10 meds and felt terrible. I switched pdocs and got off of sone of the meds and put on another and in the five months I've been seeing him I have felt better for about 2 months. I don't know if it is coincidence or that he just found the right med combo better than my previous pdoc could. I do know that he listened to me when I told him that I felt I was on too many meds. That I appreciate.

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