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What to Expect from Your First Online Psychiatry Session

older man on online psychiatry appointment
By Lifestance Health on August 19, 2020

Telehealth has become the norm in all types of medical fields, including psychiatry. However, the personal nature of psychiatry and the stigmas that surround mental health treatment, some people may feel nervous about their first online psychiatry appointments.

Whether it’s your first time ever seeing a psychiatrist or you’re transitioning to virtual care, you may have questions. So we sat down with Dr. Kate Kelley, M.D. for answers. Kelley is the Medical Director of Telemedicine at Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates, one of the largest practices in the LifeStance Health Family.

How to Prepare for Your First Telepsychiatry Appointment

Once you schedule your appointment, take a moment to appreciate what that means. “Please start by giving yourself credit for taking the first step toward better mental health, which is scheduling the first appointment,” Kelley said.

 

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Once you’ve done that, you can start preparing for your appointment by jotting down notes, including your top three concerns with your mental health. Make notes of any patterns you notice in your symptoms, anything that improves your symptoms, and anything that makes things worse.

Because the appointment is online, it’s important to make sure your internet speed is sufficient. “For an optimal telehealth appointment, the goal is 250 Kbps upload and download bandwidth per video,” Kelley explained. “Bandwidth on either side of the call is the single biggest predictor of call stability from a technical standpoint.”

Finally, make note of all medications you currently take and any psychiatric medication you have tried. “Please also prepare a list of prior psychiatric medications that you have tried, as well as your individual results (benefits and side effects),” Kelley explained.

Getting Prescriptions Through Online Psychiatry

While most medications can be prescribed after a telehealth visit, there are some exceptions. “Logistically, most medications can be e-prescribed,” Kelley said. “Some prescriptions require an in-office appointment, though prescribing guidelines have been relaxed in some ways during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”

However, patients should not expect that a psychiatrist will necessarily prescribe medication. “A prescription may or may not be recommended to you by your clinician,” Kelley explained. “Every person’s health is different. Please note that more than one appointment may be required to fully, thoroughly assess your individual healthcare needs before a prescription is recommended or issued to you. Your clinician will guide you through this process.”

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Important Information for First-Time Psychiatry Patients

When asked what first-time psychiatry patients need to know before their first appointments, Kelley was quick to ease fears. “Please know that mental health conditions are incredibly common,” Kelley said. “You are not alone! Twenty percent of Americans experience mental illness. Some mental health conditions are chronic and recurrent. For best results, these individuals should partner with a mental health professional for long-term management of their chronic condition. This is the same way we manage other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension.”

Making the Most of Your Online Psychiatry Appointment

When it comes time for your appointment, bring a notebook and pen. “You may write down your clinician’s treatment recommendations, medication details, and upcoming appointments,” Kelley said. “You may also write down interim updates, observations, and non-urgent questions between the appointments. Writing things down will help you to stay organized and engaged with your treatment process.”

Ready to make your online psychiatry appointment? Find a provider near you and book an appointment. You can feel proud about taking that first step and prepared for the journey ahead.

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