The whole process of finding a new psychiatrist or other prescribing medical professional can feel scary and overwhelming. So I put together this list of “5 criteria to look for when searching for a new psychiatrist.”
Each of us has our own specific needs. However, you can use this list to give you a baseline for where to start.
Keep in mind that one criterion may be more important to you than another. Plus, this list is based on my own experience. I hope my ideas give you a place to start your own search.
Now, without further ado, let us get started!
Criteria #1: Knowledge Of Bipolar Disorder
This pretty much goes without saying, but it needs to be said: Whoever you decide to monitor your medication needs to have a good knowledge base about bipolar disorder.
You need a psychiatrist (or other prescribing medical professional) who has a basic understanding of bipolar disorder. They do not necessarily need to specialize in the disorder, but they need to at least have some experience treating it.
As I mentioned, there are other prescribing medical professionals besides a psychiatrist. For example, my current one is a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She is just as knowledgeable about bipolar disorder as a psychiatrist.
I know some family doctors have experience treating bipolar disorders, and so do some physician’s assistants.
My suggestion is not to be afraid to look at all of your options. If there are few options for psychiatrists in your area, look into some of the alternate ideas I mentioned above.
Criteria #2: Collaborative Approach
As part of collaboration, both sides give their input, and you make your decisions together as a team. You should view the relationship you have with your psychiatrist as a collaboration, and they should, as well. It is not a one-sided conversation. You should feel open to discussing your thoughts and ideas with your doctor.
You may not feel completely open with your psychiatrist at the start, but you want to at least feel comfortable around them. After all, this person will be with you for the long term, and you want to feel comfortable openly discussing your various treatment options with them.
Your psychiatrist should also be open to your own suggestions and input about your treatment plan. Again, decide together – as a team.
If you feel uncomfortable making suggestions, or the psychiatrist does not value your input, this doctor may not be the best fit for you.
Criteria #3: Does Not Have A ‘God Complex’
This suggestion is more of a preference on my part.
For me, personally, I will not allow someone to decide about my health without my input. This is especially true if that decision directly impacts my life on a daily basis. All decisions regarding the treatment of my bipolar disorder, positively or negatively, affect how I function on a daily basis. Therefore, I find it empowering to take an active role in my own treatment.
I have met plenty of professionals in my life who feel, since they have the letters “MD” next to their name, they can decide about my life better than I can myself. This is not okay with me. It does not matter the amount of education you have had – you have never walked in my shoes. Everybody deserves respect.
A psychiatrist is there to help, support, and guide you. If they are on a power trip and disregard your feelings and input, I suggest giving them a hard “pass.”
The last thing you need when you are feeling depressed is a doctor making you feel small and insignificant.
Criteria #4: Personalities Mesh Well
Having a psychiatrist that meshes well with you creates a special camaraderie. Here, I am speaking about personalities.
I am not saying that you need to have the same personality as your psychiatrist. We connect with others in unique and complex ways. However, you want a doctor that builds you up and does not break you down.
What kind of personality do you best get along with? Is it someone that challenges you? Maybe it is someone more empathetic?
Personally, like most people, I have a real problem butting heads with others. I have never stayed with a psychiatrist that felt their ego was more important than treating me as an individual. I end up butting heads with them and will simply find someone else.
Criteria #5: Experience With Prescribing Psychotropic Medication
Medication is the foundation of treatment for those of us living with bipolar disorder. Along with regular therapy, medication is part of the medical model of treatment.
Your psychiatrist needs to be an expert in the various kinds of psychotropic medications. From my experience, not all of them are completely knowledgeable about specific medications. However, you want a professional who knows what they are talking about and what they are prescribing, as well.
If you find a medical professional other than a psychiatrist to manage your medications, make sure they are knowledgeable in the different classes of psychotropic medications.
It is important that your psychiatrist is up-to-date with the different treatment options for bipolar disorder. New discoveries about the treatment of bipolar disorder are always coming to light. You want a psychiatrist who is aware of them.
Last Thoughts To Keep In Mind While Searching For A New Psychiatrist
The 5 criteria I have mentioned in this post will hopefully get you thinking. Use them as a guide for what you find important in finding your own psychiatrist.
It may be beneficial when searching for a new psychiatrist to view it like you are interviewing them to be a part of your team. They will be a primary player in your team because they will monitor your medication and overall treatment.
My suggestion is to make a list of questions for potential psychiatrists. Ask whatever question will help you determine if the psychiatrist is a good fit for you. You are hiring them to take care of you. You want to hire someone you like, right?
For most of the criteria I have mentioned, you really have to “feel” or experience for yourself. This requires a face-to-face interview or appointment with your potential future psychiatrist. Trust your gut.
Remember the importance of advocating for yourself. By taking an active role in your own treatment, you will empower yourself. In the end, this will help you find the right treatment for your situation and successfully treat your own bipolar disorder.
As a last thought, always remember that you deserve just as much respect as the next person.