Psych Central

Is My Psychiatrist Overbooked?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I know that this seems like a weird question. But I wanted an objective opinion on this situation. I’ve been seeing my psychiatrist since 2006, and at that time I was in the middle of getting my meds all switched up, and he needed to see me every week or ever other week for a few months to make sure that everything was okay.

At that time, I had no problems getting an appointment to see him when he told me to come back.

Since then, it has been harder and harder to get an appointment with him for a simple 15 minute med check.

This last time, I saw him on October 14th, and he told me that he wanted to see me in 6-8 weeks, and when I got to reception, they told me that the first open appointment was in the last week of January 2010. I was floored!!

I mentioned it to a friend, and they thought that it seemed excessively long wait to get an appointment for an existing patient.

I know how to get an appointment earlier than that, it requires some repetitive calling to see if a slot has opened up, but its workable, but hard to do sometimes since I’m at work when I have to call.

Am I being unreasonable to think that 100+ days is too long to have to wait?

A. Unfortunately, psychiatrists are in short supply across the United States, especially in rural areas and among the youth populations. It is likely related to a chronic lack of funding for mental health services. The result is that many individuals now see their primary care physicians for psychiatric medication and treatment.

Ideally, if you’re taking psychiatric medication, you should see the psychiatrist approximately once a month. Remember that is the ideal. You probably would not be able to see your psychiatrist that frequently unless you’re able to pay out of pocket (i.e. cash). Most insurance companies do not reimburse for monthly visits and many people cannot afford to pay cash for a monthly appointment.

When meeting a patient for the first time, psychiatrists may initially request frequent visits, particularly when prescribing a new medication. It is not unusual for a psychiatrist to prescribe a new medication and then reschedule an appointment within a few weeks or a month to assess a patient’s response to the drug. After that, the psychiatrist will usually suggest less frequent appointments.

How frequently a psychiatrist sees their patients can depend on many factors including personal philosophy, number of patients who require their services, level of funding and reimbursement rate, type of medication, age of patient, diagnosis, and so forth.

To answer your specific question, waiting over 100 days seems too long. You stated that you know how to get a sooner appointment. If you are uncomfortable with the long wait then schedule a sooner appointment. You also should discuss your concerns about the long wait with your psychiatrist. Thank you for your question. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Is My Psychiatrist Overbooked?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/12/is-my-psychiatrist-overbooked/