How to find psychiatrist or therapist in NYC
Between therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists
The problem, in short:
Your mental health is important. Finding the right psychiatrist or therapist for you is a critical decision to make—as you are entrusting this individual with your deepest and most vulnerable self.
There are two main issues that make this choice complicated.
- There are many different types of mental health professionals, varying widely in their approaches and types of people and conditions they can help
- We often don’t know what we need help with, and if we do know, it’s hard for us to know what type of mental health professional can best help
The bottom line is this. Certain therapies and treatments are helpful for some, not others, and most mental health professionals can only specialize in a few types of therapies.
The many types of mental health professionals
There are many different types of “therapists”. To name a few:
- General Therapist
- Clinical Social Worker
- Nurse Practitioner
- Physician Assistant
- … and more
Most therapists have expertise in only one or two methods of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, group therapy, medication therapy, or patient education. This can be confusing for patients seeking help, as they may not know which type of therapist to see or what type of treatment they need.
Below, I outline the major types of outpatient providers in the field of psychiatry; there are less common types I don’t discuss here.
8-9 years of post-college training
A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the brain, mind, and mental health after completing medical school, otherwise known as Residency. They can choose to specialize further in specific areas of psychiatry, which is Fellowship.
All physicians receive the same training during their four years in medical school, which covers different areas of medicine like surgery, OB/GYN, internal medicine, pediatrics, neurology, and psychiatry. Towards the end of medical school, doctors choose their area of focus and attend a residency program.
During their residency, psychiatrists receive training in both outpatient and hospital settings, with an emphasis on assessing and diagnosing patients. They are also trained in various forms of psychotherapy and using psychiatric medication for both acute and chronic situations.
4-7 years of post-college training
Psychologists are individuals who have completed either a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in the field of psychology. These are graduate-level programs that involve several years of coursework, followed by the completion of a dissertation, which is a large body of original research that is often published in a book.
Depending on the program, psychologists receive varying levels of clinical training and research experience. Some programs prioritize clinical work, while others prioritize research. Typically, psychology focuses on outpatient care, and the types of treatments that psychologists learn about can vary greatly depending on the program. Some programs teach highly cognitive-based therapies, while others focus more on psychodynamic approaches. One thing that distinguishes psychologists from other groups is their strong training in neuropsychological testing, including IQ tests and projective testing.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
2-4 years of post-college training
LCSWs are individuals who have earned a master's degree in Social Work and have completed additional supervised clinical training to obtain their license. The focus of a social work master's program is on systems, such as schools, families, and homes. As part of their supervised hours, LCSWs receive additional training in therapy and clinical practice. They can receive training in different types of therapy, such as DBT, CBT, psychodynamic, or psychoanalytic treatments.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner / Physician’s Assistant
2-3 years of post-college training
Nurse Practitioners (NP) and Physician Assistants (PA) are individuals who have completed a master's degree after college. Their training is a condensed version of medical school that includes rotations in all major areas of medicine. The role of NPs and PAs was developed as an extension of physicians, with many of the same abilities and frequently supervised by physicians. However, in many states, they are allowed to work independently with their own licenses. They have the ability to prescribe medications, like doctors, but are less likely to have training in psychotherapies.
Why would I pick one over the other? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
This question is difficult to answer as each type of provider has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Psychiatrists are generally the most versatile among mental health providers. They have extensive experience working with patients ranging from severely ill to those who are simply anxious or worried. Their medical training enables them to identify and address both medical and psychiatric factors that may contribute to symptoms. They are equipped to diagnose and treat patients through a combination of talk therapy and medication. However, they tend to be the most expensive.
Psychologists are highly specialized professionals who typically focus on one specific type of therapy, such as CBT, DBT, psychodynamic therapy, or family therapy. They receive extensive training in psychology, including research experience, and are qualified to administer neuropsychological tests. However, because of their specialized focus, it can be difficult to determine if their treatment is the best fit for a patient. Further, psychologists cannot prescribe medication, so a referral would be necessary if medication is needed.
Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) are a great choice for people who are new to therapy. They work in various settings such as clinics and private practices. LCSWs with experience are very effective in family and couples therapy, as well as providing support therapy. Although LCSWs tend to have less specialization than psychologists, many LCSWs choose to pursue further training to specialize in specific treatments. LCSWs are usually the most affordable option for therapy.
The number of nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) is increasing in hospitals and outpatient clinics across all medical fields. They are carrying the burden of caring for the growing number of patients who require medical attention. These providers are best suited for patients who are being treated with medication and need mostly education, support, and medication maintenance.
How do I find a provider?
When it comes to finding a psychiatrist or therapist provider, getting recommendations from friends or family members is a good starting point. However, it's also important to evaluate providers on your own. Here are some factors that I consider important:
- Final stage of training: For doctors, this is residency and fellowship. For psychologists, LCSWs, NPs, and PAs, it's where they completed their master's or PhD or an internship or post-doctoral work. This is significant because it's where they learned to be a mental health provider. Where someone went to college or medical school isn't as important because doctors learn to be physicians in their residency, not medical school.
- Academic work: In my experience, mental health providers who stay in academia/education tend to be stronger providers than those who work exclusively in the community.
Why Integrative Psych?
At Integrated Psych, we offer a comprehensive approach to mental health treatment. Our team includes skilled psychiatrists and nurse practitioners with diverse areas of specialization, allowing us to assist you no matter what your needs may be.
Our Methodology of Integrated Psych (MIP) approach emphasizes comprehensive initial evaluations for all new patients. Specifically, the MIP involves a thorough initial evaluation of your mental health concerns, including issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, attentional problems, and self-esteem.
One of the key components of our approach is patient education. We believe that when you understand your conditions and treatment options, you can make informed decisions about your care. That's why we take the time to thoroughly discuss all available treatment options across disciplines and specialties.
We understand that treatment-fit is one of the most important elements to therapy. To ensure the best fit between patients and clinicians, we offer consultation appointments before starting any longer-term treatment. During the consultation, our clinicians use their extensive training to identify your pain points and recommend a personalized treatment plan. There is no commitment beyond the consultation, which serves as an opportunity for you to get to know the practice and feel comfortable with your providers.
If you're ready to improve your mental health and quality of life, please reach out to Integrative Psych for an initial consultation.