Understanding Your Loved One’s Psychiatric Care
Wednesday, April 2 2014 Guest Author
Have you ever felt confused by the psychiatric care of your loved one? If so, you are not alone. Most families are uninformed about the system, what to expect, and who to trust. There are 4 important factors involved in receiving psychiatric care that all families should be aware of.
Your Loved One’s Psychiatric Evaluation
A Mental Status Examination (MSE) and Safety Plan: A MSE determines level of need. Components evaluated include speech (rate/tone), eye contact, physical appearance, insight into need for help, judgement, and thinking patterns to determine delusions, suicidal, or homicidal thoughts. It is not a specific test, but a series of steps used while meeting with a person. However, a “safety plan” is often used with children and adolescents, but may also be used with adults. It includes supportive contacts and coping skills to try during moments of distress.
Psychiatric Consents: Consents are significant because they give permission to contact external sources (hospitals or agencies) where treatment has or is being received. Consents also allow therapists to coordinate treatment and family members to receive or give information to a therapist.
Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment Plan: The assessment is often exhausting due to multiple questions about family, substance use, mental and medical health, legal history (arrests, charges), medication, etc. Duration is about 1-2 hours. In addition, a treatment plan is completed by a therapist following the above steps. It is like a vehicle, helping guide the direction of services and should (but does not always) include input from the person seeking care.
The Psychiatric Treatment Team
A psychiatric treatment team consists of individuals who can offer special input about treatment.
Therapist: The therapist is a mental health professional who will perform the above services and offer weekly sessions. All matters of concern with psychiatric treatment should be directed to the therapist.
Social Worker: A social worker is someone who can offer resources, support, or aftercare services. A social worker often contacts external services to coordinate treatment. For example, a teen receiving therapy may also see a speech pathologist. A social worker will contact the speech pathologist to learn more about the child.
Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is often the head of a mental health team and will provide medical and mental health services such as prescribing medication.
Advocate: A psychiatric advocate is someone who may be contacted to speak on behalf of your loved one. The advocate is a support system who is often connected to an outside non-profit organization.
Questionnaires are often involved in psychiatric care because they help therapists understand components of an individual that may not be seen in therapy. For example, personality, career, or mental health tests can reveal thinking patterns or personality characteristics. There are 3 important questions you should ask about questionnaires:
- Is it culturally valid/reliable? Some questionnaires have only been researched on particular cultures (e.g., Caucasian males) which can make results inaccurate when used with other cultures (e.g., Native American females).
- How accurate is it?
- Why is this necessary?
The most important way to help your loved one is to understand the process of psychiatric care, know your rights, and stay informed.
This article was written by:
Támara Hill, MS, LPC-BE is a therapist working with children and adolescents suffering from disruptive behavioral disorders and mood disorders. While helping troubled kids utilize their strengths in the home, school, and community, she became well known for her interest in seeing change, connecting with families, and speaking on behalf of those in need. Through this passion she continues to rely on what she calls her “divine calling” for inspiration on where to help families next. Connect with her at AnchoredInKnowledge and on Twitter.
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