So you've decided to see a psychiatrist. Good on you - that's a big step towards getting better. Take a moment to congratulate yourself.
But where are the psychiatrists? Unfortunately, there is a growing shortage of psychiatrists in the United States. Demand for psychiatric services is increasing, partly due to greater awareness of mental health's importance, but the psychiatrist population - currently about 35,000 nationwide - is actually falling as older providers retire (see post).
The shortage of psychiatrists is a big social problem - and it also presents a challenge for the individual seeking great care. At times, it might even feel like a "Where's Waldo?" game - you're vainly trying to find a great psychiatrist among a bunch of look-alike pretenders.
Seek, and you shall find. The national shortage of psychiatrists means that you might need to put some extra effort into finding the right provider for you. The first step is to figure out the right clinical setting. If the concern is urgent, an emergency room or urgent care clinic is most appropriate. In most cases, however, an out-patient clinic is the way to go. Cost-conscious patients can try to seek care from a local community clinic or find a provider who is in-network with their insurance carrier. Unfortunately, however, the availability of such providers is limited. Psychiatrists who accept insurance may also be more time-constrained as they typically see more patients per day.
Here's a handy stepwise guide for finding the right out-patient provider: