A referral means someone recommends you to another service. In health care, it usually means a request from your doctor to see a specialist like a psychiatrist.
To access any specialist in BC, you first need a referral. You may need to meet certain criteria, like a specific diagnosis or specific symptoms, to access some specialists. Your doctor can tell you what to expect.
Once your doctor has made the referral, the specialist’s office will contact you with an appointment time. Make sure your doctor’s office has your current contact information so the specialist can reach you.
The process is the same whether you see the same family doctor or visit a walk-in clinic.
Not all mental health programs in BC require a doctor’s referral. This is good news for people who are looking for help! A "self-referral" means that you ask to see someone, and then you will be evaluated to see if you meet the criteria to receive services. Contact your local health authority to learn more about programs in your area:
- Northern Health Mental Health and Addictions Services
- Interior Health Mental Health and Substance Use Services
- Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use
- Fraser Health Mental Health and Substance Use
- Vancouver Coastal Health Mental Health and Substance Use Services
Where can I learn more?
- Q&A: How can I find a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or counsellor?
- Q&A: Where can I find free or low-cost counselling?
- Q&A: What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a registered psychologist?
About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.
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