Finding a Psychiatrist
By Rachel Parodneck, LMSW
Many seemingly easy tasks can be surprisingly difficult. Finding the right psychiatrist is one of those challenges. For a plethora of reasons, it seems a good shrink is hard to come by! Many don’t take insurance and the ones who do may not have openings in their jam-packed schedules. Even if you have insurance, scheduling an appointment with a skilled psychiatrist or nurse practitioner (NP) can seem like an insurmountable hurdle to tackle. So how do you go about finding not only a psychiatrist or NP that is accepting new patients but one you feel confident entrusting with your overall mental health?
First question: What’s your budget? If you are not on a budget, the NYC medical community is your oyster! However, if you can’t afford to pay top dollar out of pocket, some very excellent and kind psychiatrists operate on a sliding scale for patients who can’t afford their pricey standard rate. It’s a question to ask, but not something you can count on.
Let’s say you are fortunate enough to have insurance and are looking for a psychiatrist in-network (in-network means that practitioner accepts your insurance and you will only be responsible for the co-pay. The co-pay amount for specialists is usually on your insurance card). Contacting your insurance company by phone or searching on their website can result in finding a number of different practitioners in-network. Zocdoc.com is also a great resource. You can enter your insurance information, type of doctor you are looking for, and location then boom! You have a list of doctors who accept your insurance and most have ratings on a 1-5 scale with reviews.
If you don’t have insurance, you’re not necessarily out of luck. Most community health clinics have prescribing clinicians on staff and happen to be very low cost. A simple Google search for your local community health center can turn up a surprisingly robust list of facilities.
Once you’ve identified psychiatrists/NPs you would feel comfortable seeing, don’t be afraid to do your research! Try picking 3 different professionals and looking them up on healthgrades.com or vitals.com to see how they stack up based on patient reviews. Don’t be discouraged if a doctor of your choice does not have a perfect 5 star rating. Often patients will leave not-so-nice ratings based on very subjective criteria. So if the majority of reviews are positive, give that psychiatrist/NP a chance!
Once you’ve found “the one,” making the phone call to schedule an appointment can be anxiety inducing. Try making a list of questions prior to getting on the phone. Some important ones you may want to ask:
*What is your specialty?
*Are you accepting new patients?
*What insurance do you take?
*How much is an initial consultation? How much for follow up visits?
*Do you offer sliding scale rates?
Luckily we get to live in NYC, the greatest city in the world, which also happens to be flush with top-notch healthcare providers.
Best of luck and happy hunting!