Psychopharmacology

Psychiatrists at Counseling and Psychological Services are available to help evaluate your problems, advise whether medication may be useful and, if you elect, prescribe medication when clinically indicated.

Our psychiatrists work closely with our psychologists, social workers, and postdoctoral fellows to provide the best possible treatment. Our psychiatrists will work with you and our psychologists to help determine the best treatment option, but the final decision whether to take medication is yours. Many students meet with our psychiatrists and don’t end up taking medication.

The psychiatrist may decide that medication is not the treatment of choice or the student may decide that she or he does not want to take medication.

To schedule your first evaluation, please schedule an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services.

Prior to your first visit with a psychiatrist

You will usually meet with a Counseling and Psychological Services counselor who will spend time learning about your symptoms, personal history, and present circumstances.

To accommodate all students who need counseling services, CPS psychiatrists do not conduct psychotherapy, but instead focus on medication consultation and management. We have a large staff of psychologists and social workers from whom you can select if you are seeking psychotherapy.

During your first visit with psychiatrist

Your psychiatrist will already have your background information, and be able to use your time together to focus on the aspects of your health and health care needs.

Your psychiatrist will conduct a thorough assessment of your symptoms as well as review the following:

  • Your personal medical history
  • Your family medical history
  • Basic medical information, such as blood pressure or lab results, from Medical Services.

Your initial visit may range from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Your psychiatrist will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of medication as a treatment choice, so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you would like to try medication. In some instances, your psychiatrist may conclude that medication is not appropriate for your condition.

Initiation and Monitoring Use of Medications

If you elect to start medication, your CPS psychiatrist will meet with you periodically to monitor its therapeutic efficacy and any possible side effects. Your psychiatrist may find it necessary to adjust the dosage of your medication from time to time or, if indicated, may recommend changing or adding medications.

We encourage students to schedule appointments well in advance of the need for a medication refill, ideally at your current psychiatric appointment.

It is important that you do not abruptly discontinue psychoactive medications. Many students use our services and there may be a wait before a refill appointment is available.

Check the frequently asked questions about short-term medication refills.  

Some students find medication so helpful that they remain on that medication for an extended period. In these instances, your CPS psychiatrist will assist you with a referral to an outside provider or facility, who can follow you for as long as necessary or useful.

Counseling and Psychological Services psychiatrists do not ordinarily continue to treat students beyond the initial consultation and stabilization period. This is consistent with Counseling and Psychological Services’ aim to make its resources readily accessible to the entire Columbia community.

Continuing on Medications Begun at Home or Elsewhere

If a psychiatrist outside of CPS has already prescribed medication for you, considerations for quality care dictate that you still have a thorough assessment at CPS before our clinicians prescribe that medication for you.

It is important to obtain enough medication from your current psychiatrist until you are able to schedule an appointment with CPS. Even if the prescription you were given a few months ago was right for you then, it may not be right for you now. Our psychiatrists need to assess the therapeutic efficacy of your medication and the potential side effects before continuing the prescription. They will also periodically meet with and monitor students for whom they have prescribed medications.

FAQs

Do I need to request another session with the psychiatrist since s/he saw me in a shorter period of time?

Your psychiatrist has a great deal of training and experience in knowing the most important questions to ask, and can gather an abundant amount of information in a relatively short amount of time. Sometimes the visit may be shorter to allow you to see a psychiatrist sooner rather than waiting for a full-length appointment.

Prior to your initial visit with a psychiatrist, you would have met with a psychologist or social worker for an initial assessment. At CPS, we work together as a team to facilitate any necessary background information that will maximize the time with your psychiatrist.

I need a medication refill and am unable to see my psychiatrist. What should I do?

If you require a last minute refill, we will accommodate you as best as possible by prescribing enough medication to last until a proper follow-up appointment can be scheduled.

Quality health care requires that you meet with your psychiatrist periodically to review the therapeutic efficacy of your medication, check for side-effects, and ask questions. It may not be possible to provide this careful monitoring in a last-minute refill appointment, so you will still need to return for a more comprehensive follow-up visit.

Therefore, to avoid additional appointments and the extra cost of multiple refills of the same prescription, we encourage you to keep careful track and arrange a renewal appointment well before you run out of medication.

Last updated April 18, 2014