Written by Shannon,
6 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Jen Miller, PMHNP-BC
10 Minute Read
*Content warning: This article briefly mentions suicidal behaviors.
Taking the first steps towards getting treatment for your mental health is a brave, respectable, and important thing to do. With that said, having hesitations, anxiety, or stress about your first psychiatric appointment is completely normal.
Let’s walk through the process so you know exactly what to expect upon your first appointment.
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Psychiatry vs. Therapy
While psychiatry and therapy often go hand in hand, they are different from one another. In a therapy session, you will discuss your concerns with a licensed mental health professional who can work to assist you with behavioral and cognitive changes to help you work through mental health conditions.
Psychiatric providers, on the other hand, have extensive medical training and will also prescribe and monitor medications to control your symptoms. Therapists can not prescribe you medication, but they can refer you to a psychiatric provider for evaluation if needed.
Therapy, in conjunction with medication, is the most effective way to treat mental disorders, so it is common to work with both a therapist, and a psychiatric provider.
Your Brightside care team includes both a psychiatric provider and therapist who stay by your side every step of the way, so you have access to help whenever you need it.
Before Your Appointment
Before you’re matched with a psychiatric provider, you’ll generally first need to answer a questionnaire about yourself to provide information your provider will need to thoroughly evaluate your situation. This will ask you what kinds of things you need help with, how often and severe your symptoms are, and some more general questions to expedite the process ahead of time.
You may also want to come prepared with a bit of background knowledge of your medical history, such as allergies to medications, lists of medications you’re currently taking or have taken in the past, family history of mental health and physical health issues, and other medical concerns. This will help your psychiatric provider give you more comprehensive care.
With Brightside, you will receive a personalized treatment plan with evidence-based therapy at hand, medication delivered to your door, and the support of expert psychiatric providers at every step.
During the Appointment
Remember that psychiatric appointments are a bit different than therapy sessions. While therapy sessions are normally 30-45 minutes long, your conversation with a psychiatric provider may only be about 15! The goal during your psychiatric appointment is to check in and see how you’re feeling in relation to your medications. However, the first consultation may be longer and will be focused on your symptoms, diagnosis, and creating a treatment plan that’s right for you.
On your first consultation, a psychiatric provider will ask you about your symptoms and what you’re struggling with. This might include some general questions about your medical history and your past in general. If you’re ever uncomfortable answering a question, know that it is entirely okay to let your provider know that you’d rather not answer and would like to move on.
They may then choose to prescribe antidepressant medications to help ease the symptoms. They’ll give you the lowdown as far as what to expect when taking the medications, how to take them, potential side effects, and more.
After that, you’ll discuss your long-term care plans, including any recommended referrals for psychotherapy and any referrals for additional care.
Keep in mind that it is okay to feel emotional during your first visit. You can cry, feel scared, awkward, and nervous. Or, you may feel jubilant and excited to be taking such important steps. Regardless, your psychiatric provider is here to help you and will never be judgemental of your emotions.
After the Appointment
After your initial appointment, expect to feel some relief! You’ve taken the next step on your journey, so congratulate yourself for accomplishing something really amazing.
If your Brightside provider has chosen to prescribe you medication, it will be delivered to your door within approximately 5-7 business days, and you will receive refills monthly as long as you are engaged with the program.
Make sure that you are taking the recommended dosage of your medication and check in with your provider as often as needed with unlimited messaging and video sessions. You’ll also have unlimited messaging and video visits as needed, so check in as often as you want to make sure everything is running smoothly. Your provider wants to hear from you.
If your psychiatric provider has recommended psychotherapy, you may tell your therapist about how the medications are making you feel as well. Both psychiatry and therapy go hand in hand, so never be afraid to talk about what you’re experiencing to either one.
Medication is Often Part of Treatment
Many people feel nervous and distrustful of taking medication that has the potential to alter your brain’s chemistry. These are very rational hesitations, but there is evidence that medication is a successful treatment for depression and anxiety. Remember that medication will not take away any of the good things about you.
Around 40-60% of individuals with depressive symptoms noticed improvement within six to eight weeks on medication alone, and at Brightside, 85% of members report feeling better within 12 weeks. Furthermore, combined treatment with psychotherapy appears to be a more effective treatment than just taking medication, so it is recommended that you utilize both simultaneously.
Everyone is different, so it might take some time to find a medication that works for you. This is why frequent discourse with your psychiatric provider is important, as they can modify your prescription and dosage accordingly based on how you feel while taking them. Also, medications don’t normally take effect immediately. It may take around four to six weeks for you to notice a difference while taking depression or anxiety medication.
Going to your first psychiatric appointment can be nerve-wracking, but coming prepared can help alleviate some of those anxieties. Know that psychiatry is different from therapy, in that your psychiatric appointment is more geared towards prescribing and monitoring the use of medication, rather than building behavioral and cognitive skills towards coping.
During the session, just expect to answer a few questions and check in with your provider about how you’re feeling. They may prescribe you some medications, in which case they’ll go over directions and possible side effects.
Medications are a safe and effective way to treat mental illness. It is most effective when combined with psychotherapy, which your psychiatric provider may recommend. Remote therapy and psychiatry is great for individuals who deal with depression, anxiety, and other anxiety/ stress related disorders.
All in all, it’s normal to be nervous, but your psychiatric appointment will ultimately work for you, not against you! Click here to get started on the right path today.