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Can I See a Psychiatrist Without a Referral?

Read on to learn about psychiatry and what to expect when you make an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Table of Contents

What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Psychiatrists are trained to understand the biological and psychological factors that contribute to mental health conditions. They use this knowledge to treat patients through medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

The Difference Between Psychologists and Psychiatrists

It’s important to understand the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists before seeking mental health treatment. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are mental health professionals who are trained in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. However, there are key differences in their training, qualifications, and practice. Before making an appointment, it’s good to know what kind of assistance you’ll need.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed a four-year medical degree and a residency in psychiatry. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Psychologists have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, which is a five to seven-year program. While psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they can provide psychotherapy.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

Psychiatrists use a variety of techniques to help their patients, including psychological treatment, prescribing medication, and doing other procedures or practices that can help patients work through symptoms. These will be detailed below.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment involves talking with a patient about their thoughts and feelings. This can help the person to understand and manage their emotions better. This is often called psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Prescribing Medications

Psychiatrists will often prescribe medications for a person to help to stabilize a person’s mood and alleviate certain symptoms of mental illness.

Doing Procedures

There are certain procedures, such as brain stimulation therapies, that a psychiatrist can prescribe and administer to help treat some mental health conditions

Brain Stimulation Therapies

Brain stimulation therapies are a group of treatments that aim to modulate brain activity to alleviate certain conditions or symptoms. These therapies make use of electrical or magnetic stimulation to target specific areas of the brain and have been found to be effective in treating a range of conditions such as depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain.

Medications That a Psychiatrist May Prescribe

There are a variety of medications that a psychiatrist may prescribe, depending on the individual’s needs.


Antidepressants are often prescribed to help treat depression. Some of the most common types of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Each type of antidepressant works in a slightly different way, and the psychiatrist will work with the patient to determine which type and dosage is most likely to be effective.


Stimulants can help to increase alertness, focus, and energy levels. They are often used to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy.

Sedatives and Anxiolytics

These drugs can be helpful in treating conditions like insomnia, panic disorders, and anxiety disorders. However, sedatives and anxiolytics can be easily abused, and they can be addictive. When used inappropriately, these drugs can cause serious side effects.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are a class of drugs used to treat bipolar disorder and other conditions characterized by mood swings. These drugs work by modulating the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps to stabilize mood. There are several different types of mood stabilizers available, including lithium, valproate, and carbamazepine. Each of these drugs has its own unique set of benefits and risks, so it is important to work with a doctor to find the best option for you.

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic medications are a type of medication used to treat psychosis, which is a condition characterized by disruptions in a person’s thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. Common symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), delusions (false beliefs), and disordered thinking. Antipsychotics work by modulating the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which helps to reduce the symptoms of psychosis.

There are two main types of antipsychotic medications: typical antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics. Typical antipsychotics are older medications that are generally less effective and have more side effects than atypical antipsychotics. Atypical antipsychotics are newer medications that are generally more effective and have fewer side effects than typical antipsychotics.


Hypnotics are a class of drugs that are used to induce sleep. They work by slowing down the nervous system, making it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Common hypnotic drugs include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, and non-barbiturate sedatives such as zolpidem (Ambien).1

What Does a Psychiatrist Treat?

Psychiatrists can provide a wide range of services, including psychological counseling, medication management, and other forms of therapy. Some of the most common conditions that psychiatrists treat include anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and other conditions.2

Anxiety Disorders

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms and side effects. But all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: they cause extreme fear or stress that can interfere with daily activities.


Depression is a serious mental illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities that used to bring you joy. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and interact with others. Depression may even lead to suicide.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are not just about food. They are about using food to cope with difficult emotions and situations. Eating disorders often develop during adolescence or young adulthood, but they can occur at any age.

Substance Abuse Disorders

There are many different types of substances that can lead to a substance use disorder, including alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. Substance use disorders can range from mild to severe and can have a profound impact on an individual’s life.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. People with schizophrenia may also have problems with concentration, motivation, and socializing. The condition can make it difficult for affected individuals to go through daily life.3


ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s a condition that can make it hard for kids and adults to focus and control their impulses.


PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes extreme mood swings, from manic highs to depressive lows. The condition can be very debilitating, and people with bipolar disorder often have difficulty functioning in day-to-day life.


OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a mental disorder that causes sufferers to have obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

Other Conditions

Whatever mental illness you may be experiencing, there is hope and help available. Please contact Boardwalk Recovery for more information.

Can I See a Psychiatrist Without a Referral?

Psychiatry is considered a specialty in medicine and often requires a referral for treatment. If you think you might need to see a psychiatrist, the first step is to speak with your primary care physician. While you don’t necessarily need a referral to see a psychiatrist, your doctor can help you determine whether you would benefit from one and may be able to provide a referral if necessary.

How Much Does a Psychiatrist Cost?

The cost of a psychiatrist can vary depending on the individual’s needs. In general, psychiatrists charge between $100 and $200 per session. Keep in mind that some insurances often cover the cost of treatment. It is important to ask about the cost of services before meeting with a psychiatrist.

What to Expect From a Psychiatrist?

During a psychiatric evaluation, the psychiatrist will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. They will also want to know about your family history of mental illness, and any other factors that may be contributing to your condition. The psychiatrist will then do a physical examination and may order tests, such as blood work or a brain scan, to rule out other conditions.
After the evaluation, the psychiatrist will give you a diagnosis, and they will work with you to develop a treatment plan. The treatment plan may include medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Medication can help to reduce the symptoms of mental illness, and therapy can help you learn how to cope with your condition and make positive changes in your life.4

How Long Do Psychiatrist Appointments Last?

An initial intake with a psychiatrist can take an hour or longer. After diagnosis and the beginning of treatment, appointments can last anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes.

Get Started With a Psychiatrist at Boardwalk Recovery

If you have any questions about what to expect from a psychiatrist, be sure to ask them during your appointment or contact us at Boardwalk Recovery. We’re here to help every step of the way.
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