What to Expect During Psychiatric Therapy

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What is psychiatric therapy?

Psychiatric therapy, or psychiatry, is the field of medicine that diagnoses treats, and manages mental disorders. Psychiatry lies at the intersection of neurology and psychology, in that psychiatrists engage their medical training to understand and treat mental illnesses while employing psychological principles and techniques in their practice.

Psychiatric therapy is practiced by a psychiatrist – a physician who went to medical school with residency training in psychiatry. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are able to prescribe and manage medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants, hypnotics, sedatives and mood stabilizers. Psychiatrists most commonly prescribe these medications to manage and treat conditions like:

  • Depression and related mood disorders including – premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related trauma – or stress-related disorders

There are also several sub-specialties within the field of psychiatry in which a practitioner may choose to undergo additional training. There are a number of fields and medical conditions that are more broadly associated with mental health that can be effectively treated through psychiatric therapy, including:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Mental disorders in children and adolescents
  • Symptom management and end-of-life care
  • Substance use disorder
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Eating disorders
  • Nervous system disorders

What should I bring to my first psychiatric therapy appointment?

Your first visit with your psychiatrist will likely feature a lot of paperwork and disclosing background information about yourself and why you are in psychiatric therapy. You should come prepared to share information about your medical history, including any diagnoses, past and present medications, and known psychiatric disorders in your immediate family.

You should also be prepared to give your psychiatrist an idea of the symptoms you experienced that led you to seek psychiatric therapy. Even if you don’t feel comfortable fully discussing these issues yet, let your psychologist know if you have experienced:

  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Obsessive and/or compulsive thoughts
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Thoughts of hurting other people
  • Auditory and/or visual hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Substance addiction
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little

*It will be helpful to keep a list of all of this information so that you don’t forget.*

Your psychiatrist will also conduct a psychiatrist assessment to inform a diagnosis if necessary. By the end of your first psychiatric therapy, you and your psychiatrist will have likely defined a treatment plan for moving forward. This most often includes a combination of therapy and medication management. It is also important to discuss the level of care needed, such as an inpatient program versus a partial hospitalization program versus fully outpatient treatment.

What should I expect during my psychiatric therapy appointments?

Your psychiatric therapy appointments will be highly individualized to your diagnosis and long-term goals. If, for example, you have chosen to see a psychiatrist because you are feeling symptoms of depression, your psychiatric treatment plan will likely involve both psychotherapies, or talk therapy and medication management. While your psychiatrist may practice psychotherapy, it is more likely that you will meet with a separate therapist or counselor who specializes in talk therapy.

In the case of psychiatric therapy for depression, medication management will entail monitoring and slowly titrating the dosage of the prescribed antidepressants, regular check-ins to discuss how your symptoms have evolved with the medication and opportunities for you to share any positive or negative effects the medication may be having on you. These types of appointments – primarily focused on medication management – will be much shorter than your psychotherapy appointments as the emphasis will be on your medication’s impact on your symptoms rather than your symptoms or condition as a whole.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many psychiatric therapy appointments are held remotely via secure, confidential teletherapy platforms.

What are the benefits of psychiatric therapy?

Psychiatric therapy will give you tools and coping skills that you can carry with you long after your treatment has ended. Benefits include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Being able to openly and vulnerably discuss your challenges, without worrying about judgment
  • Receiving guidance from a trained professional
  • Gaining or increasing self-confidence, especially when it comes to advocating for yourself
  • Positive changes to your frame of mind and way of thinking
  • Improvements to wellbeing and quality of life
  • Honing and more easily addressing specific issues
  • Confronting and overcoming past traumatic experiences or fears

How do I begin psychiatric therapy?

The Light Program offers psychiatric therapy for children, teens and adults alike. Our psychiatric treatment plans include psychiatric evaluations, psychiatric assessments and testing, and medication management along with therapy. Reach out today at 610-644-6464 to discuss whether psychiatric therapy is right for you.