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Depending on the area or country in which you live, the process to get a psychiatrist referral may differ. It may also change based on the insurance you have. In some rare cases, you may be able to call the psychiatrist's office directly to just make an appointment. Many people may first need to visit their primary care doctor for an exam, and then receive a referral from that doctor in order to make a psychiatrist appointment. Another option might be to phone the health insurance company and ask them for a psychiatrist referral. In an emergency, going to a hospital is always an option as well.
In most cases, it will be necessary to first visit a general physician or your primary care doctor in order to get a psychiatrist referral. This is done for a number of reasons. The first is for the general physician to determine whether or not he or she believes you need to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist; it is rare that a physician will refuse to refer someone, but he may be able to guide you to the most appropriate specialist. The second reason is to rule out any potential medical causes. Certain mental health issues can result from medical conditions, such as an imbalanced thyroid, which can be ruled out with a simple blood test.
In some cases, however, it may not be necessary to visit a general practitioner first to get a psychiatrist referral. Depending on your insurance, you may simply be able to call the insurance company and request a referral to a psychiatrist who accepts your insurance. If the psychiatrist accepts new patients that way, this might be all you need to do. Depending on the health insurance you have, it might be necessary to both visit a general physician and call the insurance company ahead of time to make sure they'll pay for services.
Yet another method to get a psychiatrist referral is to make an appointment directly with a psychologist, who rarely needs a referral, and request a recommendation from him or her. If you do not have time to do any of these things, or you feel that it is an emergency situation, or you might harm yourself, going to a hospital is always an option. There, you will be able to receive emergency treatment in the psychiatric department, rule out medical conditions, and also be able to receive a psychiatrist referral to receive ongoing care and treatment.