PBHS Psychiatric Care FAQ

 What is psychiatry? I’ve never seen a psychiatrist before. 

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Psychiatric care providers provide some psychotherapy, but their primary role is to prescribe medication to help manage mental health symptoms. 

What training does a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner receive? 

A psychiatrist has an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree and specializes in mental health. That means they complete the 4 years of medical school and spend an additional 3-4 years specializing in psychiatry. There are also PMHNPs (Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners) who have completed additional graduate-level education and training in psychiatry. Both Psychiatrists & Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners can prescribe medications, perform psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or counseling), and order laboratory or psychological tests. PBHS psychiatric care providers have also completed additional training in perinatal mental health care.

My doctor referred me, do I have to go? 

PBHS psychiatry is completely optional. Your attendance will not impact your ability to continue working with your doctor. If your doctor referred you, they may have noticed something a PBHS psychiatrist could help with. Feel free to use your first session just to ask questions about what we do and how we can help. If you do not think psychiatry is right for you, please let us know. There are lots of ways to get support. 

What do I need to do for my first appointment? 

The initial appointment will take a full hour, while return appointments will be shorter. You will complete paperwork and assessments to determine an accurate diagnosis. The provider will ask questions to get to you know and understand why you are seeking treatment. If you are currently prescribed medications or have previously taken medications for any mental health issues, bring that information to the appointment. PBHS psychiatric care providers won’t necessarily prescribe medications on the first visit, and the appointment may look more like a consultation. 

What is the difference between therapy and psychiatric care? Do I need both? 

Psychiatric care is a time to discuss medication and symptoms. It is more like a typical medical appointment. You can meet with a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner to discuss medication related to your mental health. These providers have specific training in the medications used to manage mental health diagnoses. By contrast, therapy sessions are a time to work on goals and learn new coping skills to manage symptoms with recommended exercises. These are longer, usually weekly or bi-weekly meetings. If you are taking medication, therapy is typically recommended. 

Do I see my psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office? 

Some appointments may be Telehealth visits. You can talk with your psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner by phone or video chat. Signing up for MyChart helps improve the scheduling process. 

Are all psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners the same? 

Just as there are many different types of therapy and medications, there are many different psychiatric care providers out there. We do our best to match your needs with the right provider. PBHS strives to be a welcoming place for all of our patients and we know this takes ongoing work. Building a trusting relationship can take time and we encourage you to be direct with your psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse on your needs and preferences. Be your own best advocate! Ask questions, challenge your provider, and ask for things if you feel you are not getting what you want or need. If you do not think your psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse is a good fit, you have the right to ask for a referral to another provider. We ask that you speak with your psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or coordinator about this or ask for a supervisor’s information if you do not feel comfortable talking directly with them.