10 Things You Should Know Before Seeing a Psychiatrist

10 Things You Should Know Before Seeing a Psychiatrist

Making the decision to see a psychiatrist is a brave decision. It means you recognize you need help and that’s okay because you are not alone. 1 in 5 people have some form of a mental health issue that needs attention by a medical professional.

In order to help you find the right professional, we’ve put together 10 things you should be aware of and have information about. While this may seem overwhelming, there many great professionals out there that can help you during your time of need.

  1. The difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and therapist

Not all mental health professionals carry the same degree or have the same credentials, each type of professional is strongest in certain areas. Before seeking a professional, it’s important to learn the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and a therapist.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry. They’re able to prescribe medication as well as provide psychotherapy.  However, many psychiatrists to do not engage in psychotherapy. Most do not participate in the one-hour psychotherapy sessions. Generally, a psychologist or therapist is seen for these psychotherapy sessions and a psychiatrist is seen when medications are necessary.  However, at CPCH we do offer psychotherapy.


A psychologist is a mental health professional who in order to become a licensed clinical psychologist, need an undergraduate degree (4 to 5 years of college) plus a doctorate in psychology (4 to 7 years of graduate school).  Psychologists are able to perform psychotherapy, however they cannot prescribe medication.


A therapist is someone who participates in the psychotherapy sessions with you. These professionals are also often referred to as psychotherapists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and social workers. A therapist is required to have a bachelor’s degree in their field of study.

  1. What are their areas of expertise?

Psychiatrists are trained in all aspects of mental health so they’re able to offer support and guidance in all areas. Furthermore, because psychiatrists are highly skilled in medication management, they may have more insight into more complex mental health issues than psychologists or therapists.  Therefore, seeing your psychiatrist for psychotherapy as well as medication management has great benefits to you the patient.

Psychiatrists also have a variety of areas in with they specialize in such as child psychiatry, adult ADD/ADHD, women’s health issues, geriatric psychiatry, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder as well as panic disorder. You want to find a psychiatrist that specializes in what you are seeking treatment for.

  1. Are they easy to communicate with?

It’s important to ensure you’re able to easily and effectively communicate with your psychiatrist. This starts at the very beginning with the first phone call. If you’ve called a psychiatrist and no one returns your call, it’s best to move on to another option.

You need to make sure you’re comfortable speaking with your psychiatrist; otherwise therapy won’t be as effective for you. The psychiatrist you choose should be easy to talk to and knowledgeable in helping you understand your feelings. Your psychiatrist will not judge you and will always keep your information confidential; except in the event that the psychiatrist is legally obligated to notify the proper authorities.

  1. What are their fees and are they in-network or out of network for insurance?

When choosing a psychiatrist, it’s important to learn about the fees charged and the type of insurance accepted, if any. You may be financially responsible for your sessions if the psychiatrist doesn’t accept your insurance or is an out of network practice. Be sure you’re fully informed of the fees charged to avoid surprises.

Many psychiatrists in private practice no longer accept insurance and require that patients submit a claim to the insurance provider personally. Many psychiatrists have found that insurance companies haven’t been as efficient at processing claims, leaving the psychiatrist financially responsible. By requiring that the patient submit the claim for reimbursement, the psychiatrist has been released of the financial responsibility.  Here at CPCH we file your insurance claims for you as a courtesy.

  1. What is the psychiatrists approach?

It’s important to find out the psychiatrist’s approach to speaking with patients and prescribing medications. It’s also beneficial to find out how often you will be meeting with the psychiatrist as well.

The approach varies from psychiatrist to psychiatrist so it’s important to understand what you need when looking for a professional. Some psychiatrists simply want to hear how your medications are working and leave it at that. Others, however, are interested in speaking with you regarding how your therapy is progressing and how the medication is helping (or not).

There are also other psychiatrists who also participate in the psychotherapy themselves, which eliminated the need for a therapist. It’s important for you to know which type of psychiatrist you need before making your first appointment so that you’re not wasting time or money.

  1. Do they offer same day refills and how do they handle medications?

Since you’ll be seeing a psychiatrist for your medications, it’s important to understand how the psychiatrist handles prescribing medications and what the policy is for requesting refills. Some psychiatrists require 24-hour notice while others may require up to 5 days for refills.  Do they charge for refill requests without an appointment?

Here at CPCH we provide same day refills and we do charge a small fee for medication refills without an appointment. The reason for this is to ensure the doctor’s time is valued as well as the patients.

  1. Do they have urgent or same day emergency sessions available?

This is very important to understand and know. How accessible is your psychiatrist? Do they return phone calls the same day? Do they return emails on the same day? Do you have access to your doctor if there is an emergency? Do they offer same day urgent appointments? At CPCH we are very patient focused and we provide excellent service for our patients.

  1. Does the psychiatrist offer psychotherapy?

While most psychiatrists generally do not participate in psychotherapy sessions, there may be some who do. It’s important to find out if psychotherapy is available and/or required in order to obtain medication. If you’re seeking a psychiatrist who participates in psychotherapy, this is crucial for you to find out.

Keep in mind that psychotherapy appointments may be kept separate from initial medication appointments and regular medication checks. If these sessions are not combined, you will be looking at a few appointments per month. Speak with the psychiatrist to find out if these appointments, if separate, can be combined to help save time and money.

  1. What do their reviews say?

It’s important to do your due diligence before calling psychiatrists for an appointment. Use the Internet to your advantage and find professionals in your area. Take a look at the reviews and, if you decide to call, ask the psychiatrist about any negative reviews.

If you find that the psychiatrist isn’t willing to speak about any negative reviews, you may want to reconsider making an appointment. A negative review could simply be a conflict in personality between the psychiatrist and former patient. It’s important to find out as much as possible to avoid making an appointment with a psychiatrist that isn’t a good fit for you.

  1. How easy is it to schedule appointments with your doctor?

During your initial phone call to psychiatrists, be sure to ask about appointment times and scheduling procedures. Many psychiatrists tend to overbook, leaving patients waiting and rushing through appointments.

It’s easy to determine if a psychiatrist overbooks based on the hours of operation and the number of patients seen per day. If a psychiatrist is available for 9 hours per day and books more than 8 patients per day, they’re usually over booking, running behind, and more likely to reschedule sessions.

You also need to find out about the cancellation policy as it varies from office to office. Some psychiatrists require a 24-hour notice to cancel your appointment without charging you while others require a 48-hour, or longer, notice. To avoid being charged for your missed appointment, it’s important to find out about the cancellation policy.

What Makes Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill (CPCH) Different?

At Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill, we pride ourselves on being available to our patients at all times. Yes, you read that right. Our doctors are available to you 24/7 and we offer no waiting, Saturday, early morning and evening appointments.

We take great care to ensure that you’re as comfortable as possible. Beyond our exceptional treatment in mental health, our patients enjoy all the bells and whistles associated with an outstanding medical practice, including:

  • Email/Text appointment reminders
  • Email receipts
  • Complimentary electronic submission of your out-of-network claims
  • Free wi-fi
  • Beverage service (water, coffee, tea)

At Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill, we combine psychiatry and psychotherapy, which eliminates the need for multiple appointments for therapy and medications.

We go the extra mile to ensure that you’re fully educated about your mental health. We offer a bookstore, social media updates, groups, and informative emails so that you never miss any new developments in mental health or any updates with CPCH. We believe that a well-informed patient is a happy patient.

To learn more about Cognitive Psychiatry, please visit our website, and don’t forget to read our blog for the latest news and updates. If you’re ready to schedule an appointment, please call our office at 919-636-5240.

We’ve created the following checklist to help you in your search for a psychiatrist. Be sure to ask the following questions when calling each psychiatrist to ensure you find the right psychiatrist for you.

Question Checklist

  1. Is there a waiting list?
  2. Do you offer same day appointments?
  3. Do you offer evening or weekend appointments?
  4. Do you offer psychotherapy?
  5. What are your fees?
  6. Do you accept insurance?
  7. If so, what type of insurance is accepted?
  8. If not, do you offer assistance in filing claims for reimbursement?
  9. What is your cancellation policy?

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