Can I refer myself to a psychiatrist on my own?

If your insurance does not require a referral, you can see the psychiatrist of your choice on your own. In this case, you will find a doctor - through an Internet search, a recommendation, or through a directory - and simply make an appointment for a consultation.

Updated on March 12, 2023

Do you need a referral to a psychiatrist?

Do you need a referral to see a psychiatrist? The answer to this question depends on several factors. First, you need to know if your health insurance requires a referral. Second, the type of specialist you want to see may determine if you need a referral.

Referral to a psychiatrist is usually required more often than referral to other mental health professionals, such as a psychologist. This is just one of the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Some psychiatrists prefer to see you only after you ask your doctor for a referral, but this is not always the case. You can also call a psychiatrist to make an appointment for yourself or your family members (children under 18) without a referral from your doctor. It is important to check your health insurance first to see what is covered, what out-of-network providers are available for possible reimbursement, and then you can ask your doctor, insurance company, friends or family for a referral.

Can you refer yourself to a psychiatrist on your own?

Depending on your insurance, you can see a psychiatrist in person or online without getting a referral from your doctor. You can find out simply by calling your insurance company and asking: Do I need a referral to see a psychiatrist?

If your insurance does not require a referral, you can see the psychiatrist of your choice on your own. In this case, you will find a doctor - through an Internet search, a recommendation, or through a directory - and simply make an appointment for a consultation. Keep in mind that some psychiatrists prefer to be referred by another doctor.

"It's not uncommon for you to call the office directly to make inquiries after you've done your research online about specialties, treatments, and practice settings. Sometimes talking to the support staff can provide a lot of information about the practice itself and let you know that they can support what you're experiencing in terms of symptoms." Similarly, at, the client selection counselor often walks you through the process and tells you what's offered in terms of accessibility and styles."

Elizabeth Keohane, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW

How do I get a referral to a psychiatrist?

If you are unsure about the need for mental health care, or if you know for sure that your insurance will require a referral, you can make an appointment with your GP or GP. At the appointment, you can discuss your symptoms, and the doctor can help you figure out whether you should seek psychiatric help as your next step.

Sometimes your primary care doctor may first prescribe psychiatric medications before giving you a referral to a psychiatrist. Then, if your mental health does not improve, he or she will be ready to go to the next step and refer you to a psychiatrist.

"Primary care physicians may well prescribe medications for anxiety and depression; depending on the dosage and severity of your clinical manifestations, they may refer you to a mental health professional. Practices are sometimes fluid in terms of protocol, specific to some insurance plans. That's why it's important to learn about the specific steps you need to take to get mental health care to minimize stress during this process."

Elizabeth Keohane, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW

Making an appointment to see a psychiatrist

Even if you don't need an insurance referral, you can still see a general practitioner or your primary care provider before looking for a psychiatrist. Your primary care provider can refer you directly to a psychiatrist he or she knows and trusts. Or he or she can give you information about mental health professionals in your area who can help you get started. Mental health professionals can meet with you and better assess your need for mental health treatment.

You also have the option of going directly to a private psychiatrist, or you can use an online service to find a doctor.

If you don't want to make a lot of calls asking if they accept your insurance or accept new patients, online psychiatry services at can be a great option for you because you can start your appointment right away.

Finally, if you need urgent help from a mental health professional, most large hospitals have mental health care. You can go to an emergency room or find a community mental health clinic where you can get mental health care.

You may know which psychiatrist you would like to see, but you haven't decided when you need to see a psychiatrist. Again, if you need it urgently, be sure to let the receptionist know when you call. They may be able to find you a faster appointment or put you on the list of cancelled patients.

"When you're trying to figure out whether a consultation with a psychiatrist is needed for medication therapy, it can be confusing and can sometimes be ambiguous. If you are looking for a practice with a multidisciplinary approach, this can be reassuring and may be a likely indication that the practice itself has a team approach that includes a therapist or social worker and sometimes even a nurse practitioner; which may represent a more comprehensive level of treatment, not just medication treatment."

Elizabeth Keohane, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW

How do I get treatment?

Once you find a psychiatrist you want to work with, whether by referral or otherwise, you will begin with a consultation. You should expect to spend some time during your first conversation discussing your needs and expectations about what you hope to get out of mental health treatment.

You can use this time to find out what kind of treatment you need. The psychiatric illnesses a psychiatrist can treat include, but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • OCD
  • Sleep disturbances

When you first call or during your first visit, you can ask specific questions about the methods as well.

Some of the questions you might want to ask include:

  • What is their approach to working with patients?
  • What is the philosophy regarding mental health care?
  • Do they have a concentration or specialization?
  • Where did they study?
  • How long have they been practicing?
  • How much does a psychiatrist cost?

Can you go to a psychiatrist without a referral? In general, sometimes. But there are several factors that make this question not so easy to answer. Wondering how to find a psychiatrist? Start with a quick assessment at to find the best psychiatrist online.


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  4. Finding help: When and where to go. Mental Health America. Published 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.
  5. What is psychiatry? American Psychiatric Association. Published 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.
  1. Top 5 reasons to see a mental health professional, UR Medicine. Published 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.
  2. Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. American Psychological Association. Updated 2020. Accessed August 23, 2021.
  3. Treatment: When to seek professional help and where to find help for major depression. American Addiction Centers Resource. Published 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.
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