As an adult psychiatrist, I fully understand the trepidation many young adults experience when transitioning from meeting with their child psychiatrist to using a psychiatrist that specializes in psychiatric care for adults.
Do You Need To Switch?
If you have an excellent psychiatrist that treats children, teens and adults, it probably isn’t necessary to make any changes. If your doctor does focus their practice on children and teenagers, however, it is best to find someone that specializes in adult psychiatry.
Some health plans also will require that you make the transition to an adult psychiatrist, although this transition usually doesn’t have to occur on the day of your 18th birthday. It’s often recommended to make the switch before you turn 19 or in some cases, the plan will allow you to keep your psychiatrist until you turn 21.
As you get older, your psychiatric needs can change, especially once you’ve completed puberty and your body and brain become fully developed. Adult psychiatric treatment plans can be different than those for children, and a psychiatrist that specializes in helping adults can be beneficial as you head into adulthood. Here are a few tips to help make this process a bit easier.
1. Start Early
Don't wait until the last minute to start the transition process. Begin discussing the change with your child psychiatrist well in advance, ideally a year or more before you'll need to switch.
2. Ask for Recommendations
Your child psychiatrist likely knows of trusted adult psychiatrists to whom they can refer you. They can help guide you to someone who will be a good fit for your needs. You also could ask your primary care physician or even trusted friends or family for recommendations.
3. Involve Parents or Guardians
If you're comfortable doing so, involve your parents or guardians in the process. They can provide emotional support and help manage the logistics of the transition. While you are becoming more independent, complete independence doesn’t have to end after you blow out the candles on your 18th birthday cake. Trusted adults can offer excellent advice and support if you need it.
4. Understand Your Diagnosis and Treatment
Make sure you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis, treatment plan, and medications before you transition. Ask your child psychiatrist to explain anything you're unclear about. I am a huge advocate for educating yourself about any mental or physical health issues – knowledge is power, and it helps you advocate for yourself and your needs.
5. Get Copies of Your Medical Records
Request a copy of your medical records, including mental health diagnoses, treatment plans, and medication histories. Provide these to your new psychiatrist to ensure continuity of care.
6. Prepare for Your First Appointment
Before your first appointment with your new psychiatrist, make a list of questions, concerns, and any symptoms you want to discuss. It’s always a good idea to compile a list of questions when meeting with any healthcare provider and be sure to take some notes during your appointment.
7. Be Open & Honest
During your initial appointments, be as open and honest as you can about your feelings, symptoms, and any concerns. This will help your new psychiatrist understand your situation and provide the best possible care.
8. Be Patient
Building a new relationship takes time. It might take a few sessions for you to feel comfortable with your new psychiatrist. As you move from adolescence to adulthood, your physical body changes and this can necessitate changes in your psychiatric care. When it comes to trying out new treatment options, it’s also wise to keep in mind that it does take time for treatment to work, so try to be patient with this process as well.
9. Stay Consistent
Keep up with regular appointments and follow the treatment plan laid out by your new psychiatrist. Consistency is key in managing mental health conditions. Stay consistent with any medications as well, as changing your dosage on your own or stopping medications can have serious consequences. If you have concerns about your medications, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
10. Advocate for Yourself
If something doesn't feel right, speak up. You know yourself best, and it's important for you to be active in your treatment plan. This can be tough for young adults, but always keep in mind that this is your life and your health. You have a right to proper care and a right to ask questions and voice concerns.
Do You Need An Adult Psychologist?
Again, the same criteria may apply as to whether or not you need to transition to using an adult psychologist or therapist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and the only mental health professionals that can provide you with prescriptions for medications to treat mental illnesses.
However, while medications can be highly effective at treating mental health disorders, I find that the best treatment plans are those that also include regular visits with a therapist or psychologists. Learning strategies to help cope with symptoms is essential and talk therapy can help make day-to-day life and the transition into adulthood much easier.
Need An Adult Psychiatrist? Contact My Office
I provide adult psychiatric services for a wide range of mental health conditions. If you need an anxiety psychiatrist, addiction psychiatrist, ADHD psychiatrist, depression psychiatrist or bipolar disorder psychiatrist, these are just a few of the issues I treat.
Additionally, I also provide telepsychiatry services, which can be a convenient option for many patients. Using a virtual psychiatrist can be less stressful and save time, but it also can be extremely convenient for young adults. If you are attending college away from home, for example, we can still meet and continue treatment without waiting until you are home for vacation or breaks.
Remember, transitioning to an adult psychiatrist is a big step towards independence and self-management in mental health. While it may be challenging at times, it's an important part of your journey.
Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.