Helping you get through tough times

Seeing a psychiatrist

If you or someone you know is looking for advice or help for about your mood or other mental health issues seeing a psychiatrist may be helpful.

Two white chairs in front of a red wallThere are hundreds of psychiatrists in Ireland. Most psychiatrists work with a mental health team of psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses.

Mental health teams

These people are interested in helping people in difficulty figure out what is going on in their lives and work out the best way to improve things. There is a mental health team in every area of Ireland.

To get to meet your mental health team you need to visit your GP. If you are already attending a counsellor they will often help you with this.

If you like they could have a discussion with your G.P., which will save you having to tell your story all over again.

When you have discussed your problems with your G.P. or counsellor you can then figure out together if being referred to your local mental health team is the best option for you at this point in time. It’s free for everyone to see your local mental health team as the government pays for these teams.

Your first visit

When you go to see your local mental health team you will usually be seen by a psychiatrist on your first visit. You can bring a close friend or relative to this meeting for support.

You will have plenty of time on your first visit to talk (usually about an hour). You will never have to travel far to be seen, as your local psychiatrist will be working in a health centre or clinic near where you live.

What happens next?

After your first meeting you will then make a plan with the psychiatrist about what’s the best way to improve things. Many things can help when you are not feeling strong mentally. Your local mental health team has a lot of different people who are interested in helping you in different ways.

This can range from talking and support, to medication, to linking you with social supports and much more. After meeting you the first time the team will then try to figure out who on the team best matches your needs.

It is important that you feel comfortable with the person who is helping you.

The advantage of being referred to a mental health team is usually you will find someone on the team who is suitable to your needs and who you find you are at ease with (even if the first person you meet isn’t right for you).

Office appointments

People sometimes fear that they will be put into a mental hospital if they see a psychiatrist. Until 40 years ago this happened quiet often. It has all changed now.

Psychiatrists and mental health teams now see almost all of the people they are helping in local health centres or in their homes.

Psychiatrists are doctors who are interested in mental health and want to work with people to help them figure out what is wrong.

Because they are medical doctors they are good at figuring out if how you are feeling is being caused by a physical illness.

Talking therapy

They can also prescribe medication if you feel this may be helpful. Some psychiatrists are trained in talk therapy (or psychotherapy). If they are not one of the other people on the team usually can help you in this way.

After your first “figuring it out visit” you will then plan when it would be helpful to be seen again. People who do often stay in contact with the team for 6 to 12 months. This can be longer or shorter depending again on what you need and find helpful.

If you decide it’s not for you at any stage, you don’t have to return.

It is a brave step to ask for help. If you do decide to look for help from your local psychiatrist or mental health team hopefully you will meet one of the many caring, interested mental health professionals with whom you can figure out and improve your situation.

By Dr Leonard Douglas

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This article was last reviewed on 23 April 2017

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