Psychiatry is a somewhat mystifying part of mental health services to people. I want to take a moment to clarify some common misconceptions about psychiatrists and psychiatric services. In the mental health community, we talk about psychiatrists and psychologists frequently, but the difference between the two is often not understood by the general population. On top of that, we will often use the term “psych” which could refer to either professional designations. Confusing, indeed. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, meaning they attended medical school and specialized in psychiatry by doing a specific residency in psychiatric care. Psychologists, have a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). Psychiatrists are often the ones responsible for prescribing and managing medications for persons with a mental health diagnosis. Once upon a time in the days of Freud, psychiatrists were the ones that prescribed the medication and did the therapy. As the mental health system became more busy and adapted through time, mental health counselors, psychologists and social workers more often provide the therapy while the psychiatrist prescribes the medication. These different professionals work in conjunction to be able to help people achieve the outcomes they desire.

This brings me to my next point. Many people think that medication can be the magic pill to make their mental health symptoms go away. Unfortunately this is not the case. Medications can often help manage symptoms. Medications in conjunction with therapy is what is clinically recommended for most mental health disorders. Some disorders can be treated with therapy alone and medications would not even be indicated. Family Service Association of Greater Elgin Area works hard to stay true to these clinical recommendations. If you are only interested in medications to manage your symptoms then FSA is not the place for you. We believe and it has been research supported that best outcomes can be achieved by learning some new skills and tactics while also considering what role medication might play in treatment. In order to see a psychiatrist at FSA, the therapists must first complete an assessment to determine if that referral is necessary. Then the therapist will build goals about medication management into the agreed upon treatment plan.

There is a shortage of psychiatrists in Illinois and throughout the US. Particularly, there is a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists who can treat youth under the age of 12. Our psychiatrist, who we have a contractual relationship with, Dr. Mohanakumari Naidu, is licensed as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and we are grateful to be able to continue this relationship with her. Over the past year with Illinois’s budget situation, one of the cuts made was to psychiatric leadership support. Medicaid rates do not cover the cost of having a psychiatrist on staff and so community mental health centers are having to supplement the cost of psychiatric services. Many agencies found themselves in a position to make the difficult decision to cut back on these services. This has led to long wait lists and difficulties in getting the necessary care to those in need. I know many people are frustrated by this situation and I suggest you contact legislators and ask them to restore psychiatric leadership to the budget.

There are also a lot of misunderstandings about different psychiatric medications, but that subject would result in this being much longer than intended! Please consult with the professionals should you have any questions. Psychiatry is an important part of the continuum of care for mental health services and FSA is proud that we continue to provide a full array of services to youth and their families in the greater Elgin area.

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