Can I See a Psychiatrist Without a Referral?

Learn more about what a psychiatrist can treat and if a psychiatrist visit is the right treatment option for you.

Is a Referral Necessary for a Psychiatric Visit?

To see a psychiatrist, people will typically require a referral. Some insurance companies won’t cover the medical cost if you don’t obtain a specific referral from a general practitioner. Getting a psychiatrist referral from a healthcare provider will help the psychiatrist identify the appropriate treatment and procedure for one’s needs. Individuals can obtain a psychiatrist referral by visiting their general practitioner and describing their condition.1


What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical professional specializing in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Psychiatrists frequently collaborate with general practitioners and other health providers to treat patients’ mental and emotional disorders. Psychiatrists primarily treat symptoms of mental health issues with medicines, but they may also employ various types of psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists diagnose illnesses, oversee treatment, and provide a variety of therapies for complicated and severe mental conditions. A psychiatrist prioritizes medication in their treatment plan. After an accurate diagnosis, psychiatrists develop a treatment plan for the patient, focusing on symptom management through drugs and psychotherapy. 

Psychiatrists vs. Psychologists

Both psychologists and psychiatrists can provide psychotherapy. While psychologists primarily focus on giving a talk or behavioral therapy, the majority of psychiatrists treat patients by administering medication. However, several states now allow psychologists prescription privileges after they have completed the necessary education and training. 

A psychologist or psychiatrist generally uses various therapies to treat mental health disorder symptoms and aid individuals in overcoming challenges in their lives. Psychologists are trained to administer psychometric tests, assessing a person’s personality and mental health. Scheduling a psychologist appointment is easier than getting referred to a psychiatrist.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

A psychiatrist evaluates, recognizes, and treats emotional, behavioral, and mental illnesses. Since they are medical professionals, psychiatrists can order and administer various physiological and psychological tests. Psychiatrists help identify mental health issues by combining these tests with a medical record and family history.

Following criteria from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) of the American Psychiatric Association, psychiatrists diagnose particular mental health conditions. Psychiatrists also create personalized treatment programs that may involve psychotherapy, medication, and other medical procedures for individuals suffering from mental illnesses.2

Providing Psychological Treatment

Talk therapy and a variety of other treatment options are used by psychiatrists to diagnose and treat people with complex mental disorders. Psychological treatments cover a variety of approaches, including improved coping skills and cognitive behavioral therapy. One of the most successful types of psychiatrist psychological treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Prescribing Medications

Medication can be prescribed by a psychiatrist to treat mental illnesses. The most effective treatment methods psychiatrists employ are frequently a mix of psychotherapy and medication. There are several factors psychiatrists consider when choosing which drugs to recommend. The type of medication a psychiatrist will recommend will be based on the diagnosis. 

Doing Procedures

Depending on each individual’s needs, psychiatrists employ various treatments, such as different types of psychotherapy, drugs, psychological interventions, and other therapies. Due to their medical training, psychiatrists can order or perform several medical laboratory and psychological tests. A psychiatrist offers advice and opinions to other medical specialists. Psychiatrists may recommend further medical specialists or admit an individual to the hospital if they deem it necessary.

What Does a Psychiatrist Treat?

A psychiatrist evaluates, recognizes, and treats emotional, behavioral, and mental illnesses. A psychiatrist may diagnose and treat the following mental health conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

How Do I See a Psychiatrist?

In most cases, individuals must first obtain a referral from their primary care physician or another medical professional before seeing a psychiatrist. The primary care physician may refer the person to a psychiatrist, who will examine them and recommend the best treatment option.

If an individual feels the need to see a psychiatrist, they should schedule an appointment with their primary care provider and ask if they will provide a referral. The person can also consult a psychiatrist privately, but most request a referral from a doctor. People suffering from mental health disorders can contact a psychiatric clinic or use online psychiatry services.

Can I See a Psychiatrist Without a Referral?

Generally, people need a referral to see a psychiatrist. However, some psychiatrists do not require individuals to get a referral from their general practitioners. Some insurance companies will not pay the medical cost if the individual’s primary care physician doesn’t make a specific referral. 

How to Get a Referral for a Psychiatrist

To schedule a consultation with a psychiatrist, individuals must first visit their primary care physician for a checkup and then get a recommendation from them. Getting a referral from a general practitioner can take time. Private doctors also provide referrals for a psychiatrist.

Can You Self Refer to See a Psychiatrist?

If your insurance does not require a referral, you can self-refer to the psychiatrist of your choosing. In this case, individuals can find a psychiatrist via an online search, recommendation, or directory and schedule an appointment for a consultation. However, most private psychiatrists prefer a referral from your primary care physician.

Why Are Referrals So Difficult?

The level of difficulty surrounding obtaining a referral to a psychiatrist depends on the doctor and the severity of the person’s mental health disorder. While some doctors will refer the person to a psychiatrist, others may opt to treat the condition themselves. If you feel the need to see a psychiatrist, search online for “psychiatrists near me” who do not require a referral before booking an appointment.

Why It's Important to Make Appropriate Referrals

Appropriate referrals help the psychiatrist quickly diagnose and choose the best treatment option for you. Doctors are in a good position to offer a preliminary diagnosis. To achieve this, they will most likely conduct a short interview, a physical examination, and potentially some laboratory testing to determine one’s mental health. 

The doctor will also inquire about one’s symptoms and if there is a family history of mental illness. The general practitioner will then suggest a psychiatrist, depending on the individual’s needs.


Medications That a Psychiatrist May Prescribe

Psychiatrists have a range of options when deciding which medications to administer. Psychiatrists give prescriptions depending on the individual’s condition. In the course of treatment, psychiatrists may prescribe the following medications.


Antidepressants are medications that are used to treat depression. Antidepressants function by regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, which help boost an individual’s mood and manage emotions. In cases of significant depressive disorder or when more conventional forms of therapy have failed, a psychiatrist may recommend antidepressants. 


Psychiatrists prescribe stimulants to help people manage their confused or disorganized thought processes. Stimulant drugs can help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The stimulants boost a person’s ability to concentrate on a task without being distracted by thoughts or other events. A psychiatrist may prescribe sedatives and antipsychotics to aid insomnia, panic attacks, or other conditions that impact your mood, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers, often known as anticonvulsant drugs, assist individuals who experience unpredictable mood swings. The mood fluctuations associated with bipolar disorder or severe depressive disorders may be treated by psychiatrists prescribing mood stabilizers.3

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic drugs act by changing brain chemistry to decrease psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. Sometimes, antipsychotic medicine may prevent the symptoms from being obtrusive rather than totally eliminating them. These medications help the person feel more stable and productive. If a person has schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses, a psychiatrist may recommend an antipsychotic to treat such conditions.


Psychiatrists frequently recommend hypnotic drugs as an alternative to traditional treatments for sleep disturbances. These drugs help the individual feel calm, safe, and at ease while also slowing their thoughts to make it easy to go to sleep. Depending on the kind of sleep disorder one has, a doctor may recommend or prescribes any forms of hypnotic medications available.4

Find Out More About Finding the Right Psychiatrist for you at Essence Healthcare

Finding a psychiatrist that helps you work toward your goals is essential for recovery. This process requires extreme care, research, and consideration. Essence Healthcare will guide you in finding a psychiatrist based on your needs and situation. 

Essence Healthcare is driven to provide every patient with the highest quality care. Contact Essence Healthcare to find the best psychiatrist for you. 

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