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How to Pick a Psychiatrist or Therapist

7071545621_1c0e40613d_mFinding the right psychiatrist and therapist is the second most important part of treating bipolar disorder. The first is complying with treatment (taking medication as subscribed). Sticking with treatment is considerably easier when you have good relationships with your psychiatrist and therapist, but finding the right person can be a challenge. It takes considerable effort from you and your health professionals to keep bipolar disorder in check. There are five steps you can follow to help you get the best care possible.

1 Check your insurance.
This step is crucial. Having bipolar disorder is expensive. Medication, therapy, doctor appointments- all of these happen frequently, and they add up. That’s why finding a professional you can afford is essential. You won’t go if you can’t pay.

If you don’t have insurance, don’t choose the $125/hour therapist. There are options that are low-cost or free of charge. Type “community mental health center” and your location in your search bar. This will show facilities in your area.

If you have insurance, login to the website and click the “find a doctor” button. This will lead you through the process of finding a professional covered by your insurance plan. You can often select by language, gender and a few specialties.

2 Use mental health websites to check for specialties and ratings.
There are a lot of other websites that will help you find a therapist or psychiatrist. These lists are not extensive, and some are better than others. You may want to try multiple sites. Some examples are:
Psychology Today
American Psychological Association

With these sites you can find more detailed information about the professionals covered by your insurance. Information on their education and licensing should be listed. You can also see if they specialize in bipolar disorder. You want to make sure the person you see is up-to-date on the latest research and treatment recommendations for your condition.

3 Call around to see who is taking new patients.
Once you have a list of potential therapists or psychiatrists, you need to make sure they are accepting new patients. Some insurance or “find a therapist” websites will have this information, but it is not always accurate. The best way to find out is just to email or call. Contact information may be provided on the site, or you may have to do a quick search.

4 Make an appointment.
You will never find the right fit without trying. If there are multiple options of therapists or psychiatrists you can work with, go with your gut feeling. This is not a permanent commitment. You can decide to see someone else if you end up not clicking with the person.

Do make sure to give them a fair chance. Most of the time it will take several visits before you can get into a groove. If, after several attempts, you still do not think you are getting the best care possible, you can move on to the next person on your list.

If you do find a good fit, congratulations! You may end up seeing the same person for years or decades to come. However, you should still evaluate how your care is going from time to time to make sure you’re on the right track. Don’t be complacent.

5 If needed, breakup with your current therapist or psychiatrist.
Even if you do find a therapist or psychiatrist you work well with, the relationship may not last. Whether it’s after four sessions or four years, the time may come when you need to move on. There are two ways you can handle this:
-Say it directly. “I don’t feel as though I am getting as much good out therapy/medication management as I need to be, so I think it’s best if I move on.” You can even ask for a recommendation to someone new. Just don’t be rude about it.
-Don’t say anything and just move on to someone new. Your new therapist or psychiatrist can request records from your previous health care professionals. There is no shame in taking this option. Sometimes it’s the best and easiest way to move on.


Once you’ve decided to move on, start the process again. If you do break up with one or more of your health care professionals, make sure you find someone to take their place before you stop going. Don’t miss weeks or months worth of care. Doing so can lead to major setbacks.



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Image credit: Kate Ter Haar

How to Pick a Psychiatrist or Therapist

LaRae LaBouff

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APA Reference
LaBouff, L. (2016). How to Pick a Psychiatrist or Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2016
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