Being seen and treated by a psychiatrist is not an extravagant medical expense and is not mysterious. Find out the cost of the first visit and the approximate cost of follow up visits. Consider the rewards of any changes you can make and weigh this against the financial and time investment that may be needed. At the end of the first visit, your psychiatrist is often able to give you an idea of the usual frequency and costs, if treatment is indeed recommended, over a relevant time period.
Your first evaluation visit
An experienced psychiatrist will:
- Listen, ask questions, find out your goals and expectations, apply professional scientific viewpoints, and usually formulate a diagnosis/problem list.
- Briefly communicate all this to you as well as treatment options and recommendations.
- Discuss and negotiate with you as to the best place to start a general treatment plan including prescribing medication or other therapy, including psychotherapy or environmental change or other medical assessments (if appropriate and necessary, and if you agree and understand the pros and cons, options, risks, benefits). “Informed consent” is the basic of any treatment by a professional.
- Review (if you bring) significant information such as reports, medication bottles or pharmacy printouts, previous diagnoses, and notes about what has helped and what has not helped in the past (including psychotherapy).
Very often, bringing another person or family member will be useful for at least part of the evaluation; sometimes not; your decision.
Follow up visits
If you agree with recommended treatment, and medication is involved, then there are some frequent scenarios. The psychiatrist may use psychotherapy or brief counseling (or refer to another therapist) while prescribing.
Several visits every one to four weeks may be needed to find the effective depression/anxiety medication. Several monthly visits may be needed for stabilization. Then quarterly visits (or semiannual) for maintenance.
In typical treatment of ADHD/attention deficit, my experience is that it may take one to three follow up visits to achieve stabilization, and maintenance is every three months.
Someone with a substance use problem and possible withdrawal may need to be seen again very soon. The same for possible harmful behavior or suicidal issues. Medications are approved and available to control alcohol use, tobacco use, and opioid use. Prescription of controlled substances depends on Federal and State guidelines.
Sometimes only one or a very few visits are needed, similar to a primary care physician treating an acute infection. Other times it is more like treating over a longer time frame such as for high blood pressure, asthma, or diabetes, with the plan of preventing recurrences and keeping everything stable.
Bring a written list of any questions to the appointment, as it is easy to forget and important to plan ahead.