What should I look for in a psychiatrist?

A good track record is the most important thing to consider in choosing a psychiatrist. If a psychiatrist has consistently helped his patients feel better, then you probably want him to be your doctor. Your psychiatrist should have plenty of clinical experience. This can only be obtained by evaluating and successfully treating many other patients like you who suffer from unipolar major depression. Your psychiatrist must be a skilled diagnostician to make sure you get the right diagnosis. He must be able to give you a detailed evaluation and be able to apply the official diagnostic criteria for depression [see Appendix B). You do not want a psychiatrist who diagnoses by first impressions or instinct, because these diagnoses are often wrong.

Your psychiatrist should be a good pharmacologist who keeps up with the current medical literature and can offer you a choice of the most up to date medications for unipolar major depression. He needs to know more than what is in the textbooks. Whether or not you ask your psychiatrist to provide you with psychotherapy, he must be an accomplished psychotherapist in order to understand your psychological makeup, to maintain effective communication, and to help you make the best of your medications. Your psychiatrist should be a good physician and healer in the broadest sense of the word. In the depths of your depression, he must be a source of understanding, help, reassurance, and inspiration. Your psychiatrist must be a good person and a good role model for you. The strength of his personality may be the only thing helping you to stay alive during the tough period before medications and psychotherapy start working.