Choosing the right psychiatrist or psychiatric doctor can be difficult, especially in an area like South Florida. The Palm Beach and Broward areas have experienced an unprecedented population boom in recent decades. Healthcare, including behavioral healthcare, has long been a major industry in the South Florida region. More people means more healthcare providers, so finding the right mental health professional may seem overwhelming. Here are some helpful guidelines for researching psychiatry in Delray Beach and the surrounding areas:
A) Is the doctor actually a psychiatrist: This may seem like an obvious question, but people often confuse psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, with psychologists, who are either researchers or psychotherapists. A psychiatrist should have a Doctorate in Medicine (MD) or a Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine (DO). A lot of times people go to primary care or pain management instead for psychotropic medications. That is potentially problematic because these doctors do not specialize in mental health medicine. They may prescribe habit-forming medications without the proper understanding or supervision. It is important when looking for psychiatric help to actually find a real psychiatrist.
B) What is the doctor’s specialties: All psychiatrists provide some form of general psychiatry, treating mild depression or anxiety for example. Most psychiatrists also have specialties, specific conditions and populations that they are experienced working with. For example, all of the doctors at Dr. Rodriguez’s psychiatric practice in Delray Beach specialize in addiction medicine as well as general psychiatry. Dr. Rodriguez also specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and treatment-resistant depression. Knowing what your doctor specializes in is important, because some mental health disorders are notoriously difficult to treat. To the untrained eye, they can present as different conditions, leading to misdiagnosis.
C) What certifications does the doctor have: In the United States there are various medical boards that doctors can join for both knowledge and prestige. Examples of medical boards for psychiatrists include the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) and the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM). While a board-certified psychiatric doctor is not automatically better, it provides a barometer when searching for a doctor, because diplomates on these medical boards are thoroughly vetted. Psychiatrists may get other certifications as well, to provide them expertise when working with a specific type of patient. For example, our two senior doctors are intensively-trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This is unique for medical providers, but it aligns with our philosophy and clinical model and helps them to better serve their patients.
D) Does the doctor provide psychotherapy or just psychopharmacology: Some psychiatric doctors are only involved in patient care through prescribing medications. Other psychiatrists are willing to engage with patients therapeutically and help them process what’s going on. A lot of this boils down to each psychiatrist treatment style. Patients may prefer one style over another, but the important part is to be informed before going into your first appointment. One common complaint we receive from new patients is that their previous doctor did not take enough time to really talk with them. Regardless of which doctor’s approach you prefer, it is important that you also discuss therapy with your doctor, as many mental health disorders cannot be treated with medication alone.