Psychiatric Medication

Last reviewed: 4/8/2023

Psychiatrists at Counseling and Psychological Services are available to help evaluate problems, advise whether medication may be useful, and, when clinically indicated, prescribe medication. Please schedule a treatment planning session on the Patient Portal or by calling 212-854-2878.

Our psychiatrists work closely with our psychologists, social workers, and postdoctoral fellows to help determine the best treatment option, but the final decision whether to try medication is up to you. Many who meet with our psychiatrists don’t end up taking medication.

The psychiatrist may decide that medication is not the treatment of choice, or you may decide not to take medication.

Prior to the First Visit

You will usually first meet with a counselor who will spend time inquiring about symptoms, personal history, and present circumstances. Having this background in advance enables our psychiatrists to provide the best-informed, most efficient care.

To accommodate all students who need counseling services, psychiatrists do not conduct psychotherapy, but instead focus on medication consultation and management. We have a large staff of psychologists and social workers for students seeking psychotherapy.

During the First Visit

Typically, a psychiatrist will already have a student’s background information and be able to focus on the aspects of the student’s health and health care needs. The psychiatrist will conduct a thorough assessment of symptoms and review the following:

  • Personal medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Basic medical information, such as blood pressure or lab results

The initial visit may range from 30 minutes to one hour. Our psychiatrist will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of medication as a treatment choice, so you can make informed decision about whether to try medication. In some instances, our psychiatrist may conclude that medication is not appropriate.

Initiation and Monitoring Use of Medications

If you elect to start medication, you will meet with a psychiatrist to monitor its therapeutic efficacy and any possible side effects. The psychiatrist may find it necessary to adjust the dosage of medication from time to time or, if indicated, may recommend changing or adding medications.

We encourage you to schedule appointments well in advance of the need for a medication refill, ideally at your current psychiatric appointment.

It is important that you do not abruptly discontinue psychoactive medications.

Many use our services and there may be a wait before a refill appointment is available.

Some students find medication so helpful, they take it for an extended period. In these instances, one of our psychiatrists will make a referral to an outside provider or facility, who can follow you for as long as necessary or useful.

CPS psychiatrists do not ordinarily continue to treat students beyond the initial consultation and stabilization period, which is typically no more than several months, but may vary from person to person. This is consistent with our aim to make resources readily accessible to the entire Columbia community.

Need to discuss something about your care?

If you would like to speak with us about any aspect of their care, you are welcome to attend virtual Care Navigation Drop-in (hours listed below). Care Navigation is an opportunity to speak with a CPS social worker who is there to listen and be of help. Typical topics include switching providers, planning for care while travelling, or feedback about an off-campus provider. If the issue cannot be resolved during drop-in, our social worker will follow up via phone or email. Note that these visits are not an alternative to therapy. 

Mondays: 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesdays: 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. 
Fridays: 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. ET. 

To attend Care Navigation Drop-in

Join the Care Navigation Zoom Room during the above hours. If you are unable to attend, please email [email protected].  A CPS social worker will reply in no more than 5 business days. The care navigation mailbox is not monitored 24/7 and is not intended for urgent clinical matters. If you are experiencing an emergency, visit the Emergency page

Continuing on Medications Begun at Home or Elsewhere

If an off-campus psychiatrist has already prescribed medication, considerations for quality care dictate that a student still have a thorough assessment before our clinicians prescribe that medication for you.

It is important to obtain enough medication from your current psychiatrist to last until you are able to schedule an appointment with us. Even if the prescription you were given a few months ago was right for you then, it may not be right for you now. Our psychiatrists need to assess the therapeutic efficacy of your medication and the potential side effects before continuing the prescription. They will also periodically meet with and monitor students for whom they have prescribed medications.