Finding a Healthcare Provider for Someone with Schizophrenia

Where to begin the search for a psychiatrist and what questions to ask when choosing a psychiatrist.

young woman with therapist

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to interpret reality. People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there), delusions (beliefs not based in reality), and disorganized patterns of speech, thought, and behavior. People with schizophrenia often need help from a caregiver or a care partner—a loved one who helps them navigate treatment as well as the practical areas of everyday life that are made difficult by having schizophrenia.

When you are a caregiver for someone with schizophrenia, you want them to get the best care possible. And that starts with finding the right healthcare provider. Treatment for schizophrenia will be overseen by a psychiatrist with experience treating the condition. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor whose primary focus is mental health disorders. Psychiatrists perform psychological evaluations, prescribe medications, and provide therapy. They may also work in cooperation with other healthcare providers, such as psychologists or primary care physicians.

Finding a psychiatrist

Finding a psychiatrist may seem like a daunting task, but there are some things to consider during your search that may make it easier.

  • Ask for recommendations. Talk to family, friends, or co-workers you trust who have experience with mental illness. If you are part of a support group, ask people for suggestions. You can also ask your primary care physician or a mental health professional for recommendations.
  • Talk to your insurance provider. Since they may only cover certain providers, talk to an insurance representative to get a list of psychiatrists that are covered under your policy.
  • Search online directories. Websites such as the American Psychiatry Association or Psychology Today offer lists of psychiatrists by zip code.
  • Contact local medical centers. They are usually associated with medical schools and should have a list of local practitioners.
  • Check with patient advocacy programs. Along with offering a list of local practitioners, an advocacy program may be able to give you a better idea of how to search for a psychiatrist that will be the best fit.

Keep a list of questions to ask during your search. Find out if a provider is in network for your insurance, what out-of-pocket costs and copays to expect, and if they require a referral from your primary care physician. If your loved one does not have insurance, ask about payment options or talk to your local mental health center for help.

Remember to involve your loved one as much as possible in your search—it’s important that they have as much control over their treatment as possible. Research psychiatrists together, if they are able, or show them a list of possible choices and go over the options together.

Specialties and subspecialties

Because schizophrenia is often accompanied by other mental disorders, be sure to ask about a psychiatrist’s specialties. Other disorders may include bipolar disorder, depression, or substance use disorders. There are also disorders that present with symptoms of psychosis, such as schizoaffective disorder or delusional disorder. Schizophrenia can be even more complex when it is concurrent with other disorders, so it is important to find a psychiatrist who is able to treat multiple conditions.

Arrange a meeting

Once you have compiled a list of providers, talk to your loved one about what they are hoping to find in a psychiatrist. Make a few notes about what is important and start making phone calls to schedule consultations with potential providers. When you head toward your appointment, remember to bring insurance information, a list of medications, and your medical history. Consider bringing a list of questions, such as:

  • What is your background? What are your areas of expertise?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What experience do you have treating people with schizophrenia?
  • How often will we meet and for how long?
  • Will we be able to contact you outside of office hours?
  • What can we expect from treatment?

After an initial visit, talk to your loved one about how they felt with the psychiatrist—qualifications are important, but so are your loved one’s feelings about a person. Do they feel confident in the psychiatrist’s abilities? Do they feel comfortable talking to this person? While it’s normal to feel some discomfort when discussing mental illness, a psychiatrist should make you and your loved one feel safe.

Schizophrenia is a complex, lifelong condition that requires constant care. Take the time to choose a team of healthcare providers that you can trust to set you and your loved one up for success.

Article sources open article sources

Mayo Clinic. "Schizophrenia."
Cleveland Clinic. "Schizophrenia."
BrightQuest Treatment Centers. "Support for Caregivers of Schizophrenics."
American Psychiatric Association. "What is Psychiatry?" "The Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry."
Katherine Ponte. "Finding the Best Psychiatrist for You." National Alliance on Mental Illness. April 8, 2019.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. "Finding a Mental Health Professional."
University of Michigan Health. "Schizophrenia: Related Disorders."
American Psychiatric Association. "What Is Schizophrenia?"
Tom Joshua P. Wy and Abdolreza Saadabadi. "Schizoaffective Disorder." StatPearls. August 6, 2021.
Shawn M. Joseph and Waquar Siddiqui. "Delusional Disorder." StatPearls. July 13, 2021.
Mental Health America. "Questions To Ask A Provider."

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