We have put together a short list of answers to questions that often come up about treatment. If you are considering coming to us for treatment and you have more questions please fill out the new patient inquiry that is connected to the Information for New Patients page.
A psychiatrist is a medical specialist (M.D.) who has completed medical training and has gone on to study psychiatry. As a medical doctor, a psychiatrist can prescribe medicine. A psychiatrist is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in the field of Psychiatry.
A psychologist is someone who has completed an undergraduate degree and gone on to receive a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in Psychology. Psychologists must also complete a supervised internship and pass a rigorous state licensing exam.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner is a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) that has met higher educational and clinical practice requirements beyond the basic nursing education and licensing required of all registered nurses. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are qualified to address both the psychiatric and medical needs of adults with mental illnesses and those who have common medical illnesses with concomitant mental health problems. Nurse practitioners prescribe medications and work with supervising physicians.
Most clients have sessions between twice a week and once a month, depending on the treatment program. Sessions will be 45 to 50 minutes long or 20 to 25 minutes long depending on which clinician you are seeing and the nature of the problem. The staff will make every effort to schedule appointments at convenient times.
We have two telephone numbers: (415) 551-0520 is our main number, it has a voice recognition program so that you can leave a message for a specific person at Gateway by speaking their name, also, if your message is urgent you can say urgent and get instructions on how to contact us urgently. You can also call (800) 891-1509 which is the number for our answering service (for very urgent matters after hours if you aren't able to reach someone through the main number). Please note that the telephone is not a good substitute for talking face-to-face. However, there may be times when a brief consultation on the phone makes sense.
Coming regularly and on time is an important aspect of your work with any clinician at the Mood Disorder Clinic. Once we make an appointment, we set aside time for your use. If you miss or cancel an appointment with less than seven days notice, you can expect to be charged for that appointment. You will not be charged if we are able to fill the appointment, which is often possible if we receive more than a couple of days' notice. You should be aware that insurance companies and health plans often do not cover missed sessions. In that case, you will be responsible for the full cost of the session, not just the deductible.
We distinguish between an emergency (something needs to be done right now in order to avoid possible injury or loss of life) and an urgent request. In the event of an emergency you should call 911. If you have an urgent need for consultation you should either call the main number (415)551-0520 and say "urgent" or call the answering service. A clinician will call you back within an hour. We are contacted immediately for all urgent calls but sometimes the message doesn't get through (cell phones and pagers are not perfect). Please call back if you haven't heard from someone in an hour.
If we are not immediately available and the matter is very urgent, you should call your County's crisis line or psychiatric emergency facility. The telephone number in San Francisco is (415) 206-8125 for San Francisco General Hospital. SFGH is staffed 24 hours a day with crisis counselors and psychiatrists.