If I asked you to create a scene in your mind of a session with a psychiatry provider (psychiatrist or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner), how would it look? Would the provider ask a few questions about your main mental health symptoms and write a prescription? Would the follow-up visits involve nothing more than asking about side effects and maybe increasing the medication dose? In and out within 5-10 minutes, no real check-in about how life is going and what is important to you?
This is certainly how some clinics operate. It may be the type of psychiatry treatment you have received in the past or that you are receiving now. This model treats psychiatry as merely medication management. This works for some clients, but most of us are looking for something a little more personalized, and a lot more personal.
More than Medication Management
Although medication management is an important part of psychiatric treatment, it does not have to stop there. The good news is that in some practices, psychiatry services are about much more than medication management. Here are a few things that can be addressed in psychiatry appointments that go beyond medication management.
Behavioral or Lifestyle Changes
Psychiatry services that place more emphasis on DOING something, as opposed to only TAKING something can be helpful for creating lasting change. Medication alone will not usually resolve all the symptoms that led you to seek treatment. Discussing changes to the following life areas may be an important part of comprehensive psychiatry treatment for you:
- Sleep: not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, and having an irregular sleep schedule can all affect mental health.
- Movement: exercise and movement can be an important part of supporting and improving your mental health.
- Food: what you eat, how much, and at what intervals can also affect mental health. If a specific dietary plan is needed, your psychiatry provider may coordinate with a dietitian or nutritionist.
- Social connection: we were not meant to go it alone. Finding meaningful connections is an important part of being mentally and emotionally well.
Address Other Aspects of Life
Understanding your specific mental health symptoms is important in psychiatric care. However, so are other parts of life. Here are some aspects of life that a comprehensive psychiatry provider can discuss with you.
- Physical health: chronic illness, physical disability, and other concerns with physical wellness can affect your mental health and vice versa, and should therefore be discussed in your psychiatry treatment.
- Relational wellbeing: the amount of support from others, conflict in relationships, intimacy, and other relationship factors also have a reciprocal relationship with mental health and can be addressed in comprehensive psychiatric care.
- Work and/or school: problems with performance, workload, schedule, and balance with other aspects of life can all impact wellbeing. Consider talking to your psychiatry provider about your work or school concerns.
Psychiatry providers should be able to help you learn specific coping skills to respond to some of your symptoms. They may also refer you to a counselor or recommend other resources for additional skill development.
- Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques to respond to anxiety or panic symptoms.
- Behavioral activation to act in ways that are contrary to your depressive symptoms.
- Sleep hygiene skills to help you fall asleep sooner and have more restful sleep.
- Basic communication skills to better respond to difficult situations with your loved ones (or work colleagues!).
- Self-care and coping strategies to better manage stress.
Societal concerns and external factors can impact your mental health and treatment. They can, therefore, be important topics in your psychiatry appointments.
- Bias and discrimination: people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and other people who experience marginalization may benefit from talking about the impact of bias and discrimination on their mental health.
- Living situation: An unstable housing situation can cause stress and worry. In addition, clutter in the home can affect mental health. You can discuss the role of organization and de-cluttering on your mental wellbeing.
- Economic situation: debt or money stress can impact your mental health and can be addressed during comprehensive treatment. You can also discuss appointment frequency related to your financial situation.
Decreasing or Stopping Medication
Many people think about psychiatry care as something you seek when you want to start a medication or need a prescription refill. However, you may seek comprehensive psychiatric care to either decrease the dosage or number of medications you take. Or you might be interested in eliminating all of your medications. These goals should be discussed with a qualified psychiatry provider who can help you weigh your options and create a safe plan for you.
Comprehensive Psychiatry Requires Time
When you schedule your first psychiatry appointment, ask how long the appointment is scheduled for. Is it 30 minutes or less? If so, it will be very difficult for your provider to get a good sense of your current symptoms, history, prior medications, and goals for improvement. Practices that emphasize a meaningful personalized treatment approach will likely schedule you for about an hour for the first appointment.
You should also ask about the length of follow-up visits. Are they 15 minutes (or less!)? Are you the only person scheduled for that time with that provider, or do you overlap with other clients? To cover more than the basic medication management tasks (symptom change, side effects, and prescription modifications), you will need more than 10-15 minutes. Thirty minutes of dedicated time for you is a good goal for psychiatry follow-up appointments if you want more than a “med check.”
Psychiatry in Auburn
At Auburn Psychological Wellness Center (APWC), all of our new psychiatry appointments are scheduled for one hour. This allows us time for a comprehensive assessment of symptoms, history, and goals. However, if more time is needed before determining the right medications (if any) for you, we will schedule a follow-up clinical intake so that both you and your provider can feel confident in creating an effective treatment plan.
After the initial visit, your follow-up appointments are scheduled for 30 minutes and that time is reserved just for you (no double booking of clients). This allows your psychiatric nurse practitioner to address your progress and make medication adjustments if needed AND to address the other areas of life that are important to you. Learn more about our psychiatry services in Auburn, AL.
Schedule an Appointment
If you live in the state of Alabama or can visit Auburn, AL for an in-person appointment, you can schedule a psychiatry appointment at Auburn Psychological Wellness Center. We have providers who can see children (8+), teens, and adults. Call us at 334-219-0425, review our information on how to schedule an appointment, or click the button below to request that we call you.