Schizophrenia: The Hunt For the Right Psychiatrist

It is frequently difficult to find the right primary care and psychiatric/counseling care for someone with schizophrenia or other mental health illnesses.  The right PCP, is more about finding the someone who is sensitive to the illness.  My brother has a primary care he has been seeing for 20 years.   They work well together and they don’t discuss his schizophrenia.

Finding the right psychiatric care and counseling took fifteen years.  It is a problem for many individuals and families.  There just aren’t enough psychiatrists and of those numbers, only a per cent  are any good treating schizophrenia.  For those psychiatrists who are skilled in this treatment, it is difficult to get an appointment.

Psychiatrists manage the diagnosis and medications.  It is a rare doctor who does counseling as well.  Schizophrenics need cognitive behavioral therapy.  It is essential to deal with the every day anxieties and pressures of life.  The right medication management allows a person to function in life and be able to talk about it.  Therapy is a form of support that so many schizophrenics have little of.

My brother was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a sensitive and caring psychiatrist.  He actually did his counseling but sent him to someone else for medication management.  He involved the family and was always available when crisis loomed.  He helped keep him out of the hospital for twelve years.  That is a miracle.

A major problem with psychiatry is doctors seem to move their practice often.  In the last three years, my brother has had to change medication psychiatrists three times because each moved.  This kind of disruption can be a trigger for a psychotic break.  Luckily, his medication and counseling have given him the tools to not end up in the hospital.  Another miracle.

The best way to find a psychiatrist is to start with your PCP.  In this day of HMO and in network, they will have a list (probably very short).  Call and ask what their specialty is.  If there is a psychiatry hospital in your region, call and ask about their programs with schizophrenia.  In Massachusetts, there is McLean Hospital. They have state of the art research and programs.  Unfortunately, wait times are long and getting to the right person is hard. Many of their doctors have offsite private practices.

Another resource for services and doctors is National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) and each state Department of Mental Health.  However, the best way, is to network with other families or support groups and ask which doctors are known for their work.  Support groups can be located through NAMI.