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Historical Practice Archive

Why People See Psychiatrists


In deciding to seek professional support for your mental health, you may find yourself unsure of what type of practitioner to book an appointment with. There are so many different titles such as psychiatrist, counselor, therapist, and psychologist.

Counselors, therapists, and psychologists, while all somewhat different, generally provide a similar service. Listening, diagnosing, and skill-building. Psychiatrists, however, are in a category of their own.

If you’re looking to speak with someone who can both diagnose you and prescribe you medication to manage mental illness or distress, you will want to be sure you speak with a psychiatrist.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

Psychiatrists offer similar support as psychotherapists. For one, they are compassionate listeners and are ready to listen to what you are struggling with. A main part of their job is being present and supportive for the clients.

In session, a psychiatrist will first evaluate a client to see if they have a diagnosable condition. In the United States, the criteria that psychiatrists use to make diagnoses are in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Version 5). Evaluation generally occurs in a conversation between client and psychiatrist, where the client explains how they are feeling and what they have been dealing with.

After this initial examination, a diagnosis is made (or not, if it is determined there is no disorder). Sometimes a psychiatrist will take more than one session to come to a diagnosis. Assuming, however, that a diagnosis can be provided, a psychiatrist will prescribe the most effective medication to treat the illness.

Once the client begins a medication regimen, periodic check-in appointments will be scheduled to see how the medication is working. The psychiatrist will adjust the prescription as necessary in order to provide optimal treatment of the condition.

Why Would Someone See a Psychiatrist?

People see psychiatrists for all sorts of reasons, but at the core of all of them, they recognize that something feels “wrong” and are reaching out for help.

Some may make the decision to see a psychiatrist at the recommendation of their primary care doctor or psychotherapist, when it is determined that their mental illness may require medical intervention rather than therapy alone. Others may seek help from a psychiatrist as a first line of treatment.

Overall, those who seek support from a psychiatrist are doing so in order to receive a formal diagnosis of their mental health condition. Generally, after doing so, they will receive psychopharmacological treatment.

Why Would Someone Not See a Psychiatrist?

Though psychiatrists offer empathetic support and are generally great listeners, they do not usually provide talk therapy. That means that you see a psychiatrist to have an illness diagnosed and medicine to be prescribed, but not to process emotions like you would in psychotherapy.

If you are looking to talk through your struggles and work on understanding your family dynamics, a psychiatrist may not be the best solution for you.

Often, clients with mental illness have both a psychotherapist for skill-building and emotional support, as well as a psychiatrist to prescribe and manage medication. Together, therapy and medication can provide well-rounded mental health support.

How can I Find a Psychiatrist?


You can find a psychiatrist by asking for a referral from your primary care doctor or even by asking trusted friends and family who may see their own. is a great solution if you are looking to work with a therapist or counselor in addition to your psychiatrist. Therapists on cannot prescribe medication, but they can encourage you to seek support from a psychiatrist if that is a goal you set for yourself. Your therapist may be able to provide you with suggestions for a professional to talk to in your area.