Frequently Asked Questions

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing and treating emotional problems and mental illness.

What other kinds of clinicians can assess and treat mental health conditions?

In addition to psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners have special training in treating mental health conditions. General physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners may also treat the most common mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression). CAPS Psychiatry employs psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners. We also have a psychiatric case manager to help connect students with psychiatry (and other) resources on and off campus.

What kind of conditions does a psychiatrist treat?

Psychiatrists treat individuals in distress because of various difficulties, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and some types of behavioral problems, such as those involving self-destructive or violent impulses. Students seriously thinking of suicide can be helped. A number of emotional and mental difficulties are influenced by physical conditions; as a physician, a psychiatrist is in a position to take account of such conditions and coordinate overall care.

What kind of treatment is provided? Do psychiatrists only give out medication?

CAPS Psychiatry staff conduct assessments to determine the best treatment plan and can prescribe medication for psychiatric illnesses and other situations requiring medication intervention. Psychotropic medications are useful and appropriate for some conditions, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. However, they are not necessary in every case. Psychiatrists are trained to deal with the psychological and interpersonal aspects of difficulties, as well as prescription of medication. Often, therapy and/or a change in a life situation is the appropriate intervention. Psychiatry staff can assist with referrals to other CAPS, Health Center, or off-campus clinicians.

What questions should I ask about my medication?

  • What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
  • How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
  • What if I miss a dose?
  • What foods, drinks, or other medications should I avoid while taking the prescribed medication?
  • Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol while on this medication?
  • What are the side effects, and what should I do if they occur?
  • Is there some printed information about the medication available?
  • What are my options?

Do psychiatrists treat only serious cases?

No. Psychiatrists evaluate and treat individuals with a wide range of difficulties. This is true for those who seek out treatment themselves and those who are referred by others.

I want to get or refill a prescription for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication.

If you are requesting medications for ADHD (which in the past was called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder [ADHD/ADD]), please be aware that medical treatment of ADHD is extremely limited (and not always available) on campus, and when it is available, there are specific requirements for receiving this treatment through CAPS. Please review our ADHD FAQ page.

I want to refill my medication for a condition other than ADHD.

You can start this process by calling the CAPS office at (831) 459-2628 during business hours. You will first be scheduled for a short initial assessment appointment with a CAPS counselor to answer a series of screening questions and discuss next steps. Note that CAPS Psychiatry may not refill mediation prescribed by another clinician without your first being assessed by our staff. The process can take several weeks to a month (sometimes longer). See "Transfer of Psychiatric Care" on our Psychiatry page for more information.

What if I am running out of medication?

You should call the medical provider who is currently prescribing your medication to obtain additional prescriptions. If this is not possible and you will run out of medication before you are scheduled to see a CAPS Psychiatry practitioner, you may be able to get a one-time refill by calling your pharmacy or another doctor who has treated you. If not, contact CAPS for an initial assessment and let the counselor know your situation. We cannot guarantee that we can provide your prescriptions urgently, so do plan ahead.

What if I am currently experiencing an emergency?

If you are experiencing a life-threatening condition or medical emergency, please call 911. If you are experiencing an urgent/crisis situation that is not immediately life-threatening, call CAPS at (831) 459-2628 or walk in during business hours. Our staff will assist you with taking the next steps. You can also call our After Hours Crisis Service on evenings, weekends, and holidays at (831) 459-2628 and follow the menu prompts to talk to a crisis counselor.

The UCSC Student Health Center does offer urgent medical care to students on a same-day basis, and you may walk in or call (831) 459-2500 for a same-day appointment. For after-hours medical emergencies, see the Student Health AFTER HOURS information for location and hours for urgent care and emergency department options off campus. The AFTER HOURS handout is also located in a box outside the entrance of the health center's same-day clinic.