The Questions Everybody Wants To Ask About Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic


A few days ago, I attended a mental health care conference along with a crowd of other mental health care professionals. Having come from another event, I was wearing a T-shirt with the logo for Sigma Mental Health Urgent Care on the front. I got a few funny looks. I wondered if I had a piece of broccoli stuck between my teeth. Then people started asking me about my t-shirt and the clinic, Sigma Mental Health Urgent Care. People were puzzling because they were just trying to get their minds around the idea of mental health urgent care. Even my mental health colleagues don’t quite grasp it at first.

Here are some of the things people ask:

Mental health urgent care clinic? Yes. We provide walk-in mental health services.

So is it emergency room? Is it a hospital? No it’s not hospital, and no it’s not an emergency room. Just like a medical urgent care is not a hospital and not emergency room, neither are we. An emergency room is designed to take care of people with life-threatening emergencies, like heart attacks, while medical urgent care clinic is for minor immediate care needs, like a sports injury.

In the same way, a psychiatric emergency, like an immediate urge to attempt suicide, often requires hospitalization, while an urgent care level problem would be the inability to wait 2 to 6 months to get help because of the backlog in the mental healthcare system.

Emergency versus urgent can be confusing. The funny thing is that the patients who need our services understand what we do intuitively. They are never confused about what we do.

I see all the stuff online about how you like to treat teenagers and young adults. Are those the only people you treat at this urgent care clinic? I do enjoy seeing teenagers and young adults, and that’s what I often write about on my blog and in my book STUCK in the Sick Role. But at Sigma, we see people of all ages. My writing centers around mental health care topics that I think require more discussion. Specifically, I think the education people receive about their mental health condition at the time of their first diagnosis can alter the course of their illness and even the course of their lives. And since most people first seek care for a mental health problem in their teen or young adult years, I’m often writing about that time of life.

Oh, so do you have somebody there who treats high blood pressure and broken bones at this “urgent care clinic?” Nope. We only do mental health. It’s right there in the name.

How can you be an urgent care if you only do mental health? Urgent care means walk-in clinic. The mental health part indicates that that’s all we do.

Are people only allowed to come one time? What do they do after that? Many patients come to Sigma for a series of sessions. They may come for one month for short-term stabilization, or sometimes it’s a six-month period while waiting to get in with a psychiatrist in the community.

I bet you hand out a lot of Xanax, right? No again. We don’t hand out addictive medications at Sigma.

So when people come to your clinic, do they just see a therapist, or what? When people come to Sigma, they are evaluated from a psychological perspective and medical perspective. That means everyone is assessed by a prescribing medical professional who specializes in mental health. Often our therapists participate in the assessment process, but patients don’t “just see a therapist.“

Don’t people have to bond with you for a long time to be your psychiatric patient? How can that be a temporary thing? A trusting long-term treatment relationship is often an important part of mental health care. However, people who come to see us are often desperate for any help. Many simply want to refill of their antidepressant and can’t find a clinic to renew it.

Are the patients violent? Are you scared of them? Goodness no. We have never had anyone in our clinic that was violent or scary. I think that this idea comes from discrimination against people with mental health conditions, and maybe also from the idea that we operate like a mental health emergency room.

Are patients brought to you by police? No, we don’t accept patients from police. If someone is taken into police custody and then transported for mental health evaluation, that care takes place in a mental health emergency room associated with a hospital. Our patients are help-seeking people who come to us by choice. No handcuffs involved.

Have other burning questions? Post them in the comments.


Posted on April 16, 2018 .