The decision to see a psychiatrist is not an easy one. But it can be the first step toward dramatically improving the quality of someone's life. Mental health issues rob people of their peace of mind, joy, and the ability to reach their full potential. Depression is a leading cause of disability, and stress and anxiety are often associated with serious medical diseases and pain disorders. But some people still believe mental health problems come from character weaknesses. Fortunately, research in the mental health and neuroscience fields has begun to destigmatize these myths. We now know how mental and emotional ailments directly relate to genetics, brain structure and chemistry to influence health and illnesses. Today more than at any other time in history we have several choices of treatments for psychiatric and emotional problems.
An initial comprehensive evaluation is needed that will encompass all aspects of an individual's life. Knowing each patient's history personally makes it possible to provide personalized treatment for them physically and emotionally. A psychiatrist's training is as a medical physician and therefore they have the knowledge and understanding of how the mind interacts with all the systems of the body. This training is especially important when looking at someone's symptoms and understanding the anatomy, nervous system and neurochemistry that controls behavior and a person's overall physical, mental, and emotional health.
A psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication if it is needed to provide relief from symptoms that are causing a person to seek help. I also work with individuals in psychotherapy (talk therapy). Not all psychiatrists do this; some prefer to prescribe medications and let someone else see them for talk therapy. However it is done, research has shown that therapy and medication together work better together than either alone.
Treatment and education about a person's symptoms begins with an initial appointment. I schedule an initial evaluation for 1 1/2 hours. Depending on the complexity of the person's problems, it may take more than one session to fully understand how to best help them, or to start treatment and assess the person's response. I may see them again in one to two weeks, either for talk therapy or medication adjustment, but regardless of scheduling, follow-up is critical.
It's unrealistic to expect complete relief from a single visit and perhaps a prescription with no continuing care. Good psychiatric treatment is a process that may involve ongoing medication management and talk therapy. It takes time, patience and collaboration between the patient and treatment provider. It is a commitment, but an extremely worthwhile one that can make the difference between an unfulfilled life or one with peace and hope.