What to Know Before Scheduling

What to expect at the initial psychiatry visit

During your initial visit, you will be meeting for one hour with a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a physician (medical doctor) who specializes in behavioral, emotional, and mental health. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication and provide talk therapy. If you are seeking only talking therapy, a psychiatrist is possibly not the best first step for you. For only talking therapies, use your UC SHIP resources (https://shc.uci.edu/insurance) to find a psychologist or psychotherapist (https://shc.uci.edu/psychiatry-mental-health-services/understanding-psychiatry).

When you arrive at SHC, you will complete a form about your health, well-being, and previous treatment. Please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment in order to have time to complete the questionnaire. Please bring the names and addresses of previous mental health providers as well as the names and doses of medications you’ve taken in the past.

The purpose of the first visit is to figure out what treatment will be right for you. We want to hear what is troubling you. We will have many questions about your symptoms, your physical and mental health, your past treatment, your background, your life as a student, and your social / family relationships. At the end of the visit, we may recommend ongoing psychotherapy and/or medication(s). You may also be using your Student Health Patient Portal to fill out clinically-based surveys in between your appointments.

The Counseling Center provides treatment on a time-limited basis for registered and enrolled students. There is no separate fee for services provided by the Counseling Center as their services are covered by the general Student Services Fees.

Conversely, Student Health Center is, essentially, a regular doctor’s office in a medical facility on campus. Services provided by SHC are covered by and billed to the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) and students are responsible for a co-payment. (Refer to the Health Insurance page for detailed information regarding your plan benefits, copays and coinsurance.) Treatment at SHC is indefinite, so students are sometimes referred to SHC by the Counseling Center if they need long-term follow-up, or after their treatment at the Counseling Center is complete. Most of our patients self- refer to our service.

As long as you are a registered student who can easily access the Student Health Center, there is no time limit to your treatment at SHC. If you have withdrawn from the quarter but have retained your SHIP coverage, you can still be seen for services through the end of the quarter for which your SHIP fees have been paid.

SHC psychiatrists can prescribe medications. When medication is started, we will want to follow you closely until you are feeling better. Follow-up visits usually last 25 minutes, and are usually scheduled every 2-4 weeks at first, and every 3 months once you are feeling well. We will prescribe enough medication to last until the next visit.

If we prescribe medications, patients need to agree to get mental health medications only from your SHC psychiatrist during active treatment. Certain medications, called “controlled substances,” have special and tighter monitoring rules.

If you are a minor (i.e. under the age of 18 years old), unless you have been legally emancipated, your parent or legal guardian is required to also consent to your taking psychiatric medication(s). Please be prepared that your provider will need to speak with your parent or legal guardian and may also need to send your parent or legal guardian some additional documentation. If you have a legal guardian, or if you have been legally emancipated, you will need to provide a copy of your legal papers.

If you have received any type of mental health treatment previously (e.g. by a psychiatrist (M.D./D.O.), a psychologist (Ph.D./Psy.D.) a therapist (MSW/LCSW/MFT/ LPCC), a psychiatric nurse practitioner (A.P.R.N.)), or have had psychiatric medications prescribed by your regular doctor, please have your records sent to us as soon as possible.

Ideally, we’d like a chance to review your records before your first appointment. It can take up to 15 days for any facility to process records, so the sooner the better! To have your records sent to us, download and complete an Authorization for Release of Health Information form in its entirety, and bring it to the Student Health Center during our regular hours of operation. Or, you can stop by the Student Health Center during our regular hours of operation, obtain the form at the Reception counter and complete and submit the form at that time.

If you are under 18 years old, you may begin your own treatment, and you can participate in talk-only therapy. Unless you have been legally emancipated, your parent or legal guardian is required to also consent to your taking psychiatric medication(s). Please be prepared that your provider will need to speak with your parent or legal guardian if you need medication(s) and may also need to send your parent or legal guardian some additional documentation. If you have a legal guardian, or if you have been legally emancipated, you will need to provide a copy of your legal papers. If you require psychiatric hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or partial hospitalization treatment, your parent or legal guardian must also consent to your participation

Unfortunately, we do not have the staffing to provide weekly therapy at SHC at the present time. However, we can help you find a provider in the community who accepts the SHIP insurance. We will provide referrals during the first appointment, and at any point necessary in treatment. If you are an undergraduate student, you can self-refer for therapy. If you are a graduate student, you must obtain a referral from a SHC provider (see below). If you are being followed at SHC for psychiatric medication care, we will work closely with your therapist in the community to coordinate treatment.

Yes. Information regarding UC SHIP benefits (including copays for office visits and medications); referral requirements; in-network provider directories; insurance carrier contact information and other plan information for both the undergraduate student (USHIP) and graduate student (GSHIP) plans is available on the Health Insurance page. Please keep in mind that utilizing an out-of-network provider will cost you more.

The staff of SHC’s Insurance Services department can answer your questions regarding self-referrals, benefits and other related topics.

As long as you are an enrolled, registered student, you can be seen at SHC for treatment. For students without SHIP, the charges for their visit and treatments are transferred to their ZotAccount for payment. You can view and print a statement of charges and receipt of payment online through the Student Health Patient Portal and submit a claim to your own non-SHIP insurance carrier for possible reimbursement. Some HMO plans will not reimburse you for care outside of their own provider network. To reverse a waiver and enroll in SHIP either immediately or for the next academic term, visit the Health Insurance page.

(see Information by Diagnosis - ADHD)

The Student Health Center does not provide services for new ADHD evaluation or testing. If you have never been diagnosed or treated for ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), or been diagnosed but have no medical records available, please contact our Insurance Services department at 949-824-2388 to be referred to a provider in the community.

If you have been diagnosed and/or treated previously for ADHD, Student Health Center requires complete documentation of the diagnostic evaluation and treatment provided by your previous treating physician or other licensed professional. You will need to contact your previous provider to send your records to SHC. If this is your situation, please refer to SHC’s ADHD policy.

While we believe that pets (just like making friends, having healthy relationships, adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep) can be an important part of your life, the difference between emotional support animals, comfort animals, and pets are not well defined (see question below: What is an emotional support animal?).

ESAs are not current evidence-based psychiatric best-practice interventions in the treatment of psychiatric conditions. Until ESA’s become Level 1 clinical evidence recommendations for indicated psychiatric conditions, SHC Psychiatry & MH providers will generally NOT write ESA support letters nor complete ESA forms.

Note: This is different from ADA-qualified service dogs or miniature horses.

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are any domesticated animal intended to provide comfort and companionship through the human animal bond.1 ESAs are not granted rights of public access. No temperament testing or training to perform specific tasks is currently required of ESAs; yet, it is reasonable to expect appropriate temperament, disposition, and possible training for ESAs (e.g. Canine Good Citizen Test). Assessing an animal’s suitability as an ESA is often outside the scope of psychiatrists and other mental health providers.

There are specific housing federal laws that prohibit discrimination related to certain animals. In these definitions, “assistance animals are not pets. These are animals that do work, perform tasks, assist, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.” Further, “disability does not mean the individual has an attachment to the ESA, feels happier in proximity to the ESA, or just wants to accompany the animal, which is usually their pet.  It means that the person requires the presence of the animal to function or remain psychologically stable.”2

ESA’s may or may not be the “therapy dogs” you see on campus that other campus units invite onsite during exam time to remind you to take healthy breaks and temporarily de-stress.

1 Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA). (2023, January 1). Animals on campus: Current issues and trends.  Higher Education Mental Health Alliance. Hemha.org/animals-on-campus-guide

American Psychiatric Association Resource Document on Emotional Support Animals, Joint Reference Committee approved June 2022


You may be able to find a mental health professional in the community who is willing to assist you in the ESA process.  According to California’s AB-468 Emotional Support Animals bill 3 (effective January 1, 2022), this professional is expected by best practice to meet certain conditions, or the professional can be at risk for fraudulent practice in the state of California. Additionally, if you have more than one of the same type of provider, this can be considered unethical.

3 https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202...

You would need to contact a provider who accepts your current health insurance.  Please refer to your current health insurance "wallet card" or brochure for additional resources.