How to first get your foot in the door to begin psychiatric treatment

I got a request for a topic via a donation for SSA Week.  It is the title of this post.

The best advice I can offer is not to do it alone.  Tell your friends what’s going on.  Have a friend there when you make the appointment.  Have a friend accompany you to the appointment.  It’s hard admitting you’re not well, I know.  Being honest about it rather than trying to hide things and do it on your own will be much, much better.

I’d also check out the Therapist Project to see if there is an avowed evidence-based therapist in your area.  Another good resource is

And if you want someone to talk to while you’re making the appointment, my email is in my bio over there on the right.  *hug*

I’m glad you’re considering doing this.  After so many promises of life getting better that don’t work, I know it’s easy to get pessimistic.  Therapy and medication work.  I’m glad you’re going to give them a chance.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • michaeld

    Hmm as someone who’s been considering it thanks for the advice :).

  • Improbable Joe

    I’ve been wondering… mostly about how to see a therapist versus a psychiatrist/prescription-pad charging $600 an hour to do me absolutely no fucking good except to make me feel worse about myself.

    • Tim

      Therapists are much cheaper, especially if you have good insurance. As JT mentioned, there are resources to start with, but in my experience it still takes quite a bit of shopping around. Don’t be afraid to stop seeing someone if, after a session or two, you get the feeling that they won’t be very helpful—your gut instinct is usually right.

      • Improbable Joe

        I’m still waiting to see what my new insurance will pay for. My old insurance kept sending me to walking prescription pads who though that filling me with pills would solve my ills. There’s no pill that can fix what’s wrong with me, let me tell you. :) Mostly though I don’t trust people who have that much power over me, no real accountability, and who generally express no real interest in me or my needs.

        • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

          Emphatically seconded.

      • Improbable Joe

        Oh, and my last psychiatrist was charging way more than that. She had booked 5 people per hour and got $40 from me plus $150 from my insurance company and refused to give me more than 10-15 minutes under any circumstance other than suicidal ideation.

  • rcs

    I’ve been following your posts and I greatly appreciate your speaking out on mental illness. As a long-time depression and anxiety sufferer, I don’t feel quite so alone.

    For those like me, that don’t have much in the way of a friend or family support system, this is how I jumpstarted myself into seeking help.

    Trigger warning:
    :When feeling suicidal, you can decide that suicide can still be an option after you talk to a therapist, so you don’t have to kill yourself RIGHT NOW. You will not be committed involuntarily by talking about having suicidal feelings.

  • Adam

    I got pretty excited when I went to the Therapist Project link. I have been looking online the last few days for resources, but was really disappointed at how many of the therapists’ sites referenced religion either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, it seems there are no therapists on their list within 200 miles of me :(

  • karmacat

    It can be hard to find a psychiatrist who does both therapy and meds. You can call your state’s psychiatry, psychology or social work society to get names of psychiatrists and therapists. The American Psychiatric Association will be adding “find a psychiatrist” to their website soon.
    It is best to find a psychiatrist who spends at least one hour for an evaluation and 30 min for follow-up. However, that usually means you will get a psychiatrist that doesn’t take insurance. It is hard to make enough money with insurance. You have to see at least 4 patients an hour.
    Another place to find a psychiatrist who does therapy is through the medical school hospitals. Residents (psychiatrist in training) are usually enthusiastic and have lots of good supervision.
    When you call a therapist or psychiatrist, ask them how often they see a client and what kind of therapy they practice. Therapy is only useful if you go at least once a week. If it is a straightforward problem (panic attacks, phobias, anxiety, mild depression) you don’t have to go for long (3-6 months)
    If anyone is in the Baltimore area, I can give that person names of psychiatrists and therapists

  • Mark

    I wonder if a therapist would reject services to a person they thought was a hypercondriac about mental illness, or if they would keep taking their money.

    • Jaime

      That’s an interesting problem, since Hypercondriasis can also be a Psychological disorder.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Also that a lot of less commonly recognized problems can be dismissed as hypochondria (female-specific heart attack symptoms come to mind).

  • PocketWocket

    I was really excited to see that the Therapist Project site is done, but there aren’t any Trichotillomania specialists within an hour of my zip code :/ Oh well, I’ll just have to work a little harder to find the right person.