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Your first psychiatrist appointment can be scary and intimidating. Especially if you’re new to psychiatric care. I know I felt a slight unease before working with a psychiatrist. So, I’m here to tell you that what you’re feeling is entirely normal. First, however, there are basic actions to execute before your appointment.

Before Your Psychiatrist Appointment

The first and most important piece of advice I can give you is RELAX. Trust me, I understand how stressful and intimidating it can be—especially if it’s your first time. But, with proper research and preparation, you can calm those jitters and nervous fears.

Identify Your Goal for Treatment

What are you seeking to get out of treatment? Are you looking to obtain a specific diagnosis? Do you want to work with a psychiatrist for counseling purposes? Were you referred by another medical professional? All of this information will help them understand your situation better. Furthermore, it allows them to properly diagnose and treat you.

Another vital part of identifying your goal for treatment is to write down your questions and concerns. You may become nervous during your psychiatrist appointment and forget questions you wanted to ask. Or you may fail to share important information. Taking the time to write everything down beforehand will prevent this.

asian woman in gray shirt with chin resting on hand thinking

 Understand What Your Insurance Covers

Understanding what your insurance covers let you know what you’re responsible for paying. Additionally, it will let you know what prescription medications are covered if you’re prescribed medication. So, you should call your insurance company before your appointment to gain clarity.

Key questions you should ask include:

  • Is psychiatric care a covered service?
  • Is there a co-pay or co-insurance?
  • Is there a limit to how many appointments they’ll cover?
  • What psychiatric medications do they cover?

On the other hand, if you don’t have insurance, you’ll need to discuss fees with your psychiatrist. Medical professionals provide a self-pay discount if you’re paying out of pocket in some instances. Additionally, you’ll need to look into prescription programs like Good RX that help lower out-of-pocket costs.

Choose Your Psychiatrist

Having insurance coverage makes this step a little easier. Being proactive and seeking psychiatric care means you get to choose a psychiatrist from providers that work with your insurance. However, if you’re uninsured, you’ll discuss their fees and payment options with them before scheduling your appointment.

Regardless of insurance status, your psychiatrist should meet some general standards. For starters, their credentials should be solid. Their education, background, and experience are indicators of their ability to provide exceptional care.

Typically, they share their education and experience on their website. Or, if you’re choosing a psychiatrist via your insurance, many will provide their expertise and education. If you can’t find it visit docinfo.org to gather more information.

Additionally, take note of any specialties they may have. For example, do they specialize in a specific psychiatric field? Or, do they focus on treating a specific mental disorder or illness? Again, educating yourself about these things can help you choose the right provider.

The last helpful resource is to read their reviews. Doing so provides a preview of what you can expect. For example, is there a long wait time? Was the staff rude or unprofessional? How did patients feel about the service they received? All of this feedback will help you choose the right professional.

woman with laptop notepad and pen in mouth lost in thought

Are You Open to Medication?

Another vital thing to consider is whether you’re open to medication management. I know that it’s a hot-button topic when it comes to mental illness and medication. Both from the patient’s perspective and the societal stigma associated with psychiatric medication.

Furthermore, medication can come with unpleasant side effects during the adjustment period. Therefore, increasing the possibility of your symptoms worsening before improving. 

This is why I encourage you to research medication used to treat mental disorders. Specifically, medicines used for your disorder or suspected disorder. Look at well-established articles from psychiatrists and psychologists. Listen to those with mental disorders share their lived experiences. And write down questions and concerns to ask during your appointment.

What To Expect During Your Psychiatric Appointment

You’ve scheduled your appointment, you’ve prepared questions to ask. And you have an idea of what you’re seeking to achieve. Now it’s time for the actual psychiatrist appointment. But, unlike meeting with your primary care provider, psychiatric appointments are different.

Some basic things you can expect include discussing your medical history, talking about current medication or supplements, and undergoing a psych evaluation.

Your Medical History

First, they will ask you questions regarding your medical history and family history. This allows them to get a clear picture of your current state of health. Typically they will ask you about any disease, chronic illness, surgery, or health complication you’ve experienced previously or currently.

They will also inquire into your family history concerning the conditions above. Typically, you’ll complete this form before your appointment. However, they will most likely review it with you during your session.

It’s essential, to be honest and transparent during this process. If necessary, bring a copy of your current medical record. Furthermore, you’ll want to disclose all medications and supplements you’re currently taking. This way, if they recommend medication, they can avoid prescribing drugs that may interact with what you’re currently taking.

african american woman writing on a notepad

The Psych Evaluation

I’m not going to sugarcoat how uncomfortable and awkward the evaluation portion of your appointment can be. There are a lot of questions, and it can feel exhausting. You may even feel like you are answering questions wrong. Or you may struggle with feelings of vulnerability and become emotional. All of this is entirely normal. You’re opening up to a practical stranger and answering personal questions. So, it’s natural to feel apprehensive and exposed. 

But don’t let this stop you from sharing all of what you’re feeling and being completely honest. See this as your opportunity to finally be heard. If you become emotional and cry, that’s ok. Try to elaborate on these emotions and feelings.

Were there certain life events that occurred in which these feelings began to show up? Or, has this been something you’ve struggled with for a long time? Whatever the case, be transparent and discuss your pain points, feelings, and symptoms. 

You may even find it beneficial to create a list of symptoms or significant events ahead of time. That way, you’re not caught off guard during your appointment. In addition, doing so can help you go into more detail regarding when you first noticed symptoms and how often they occur. Remember, your psychiatrist is there to help you get better; they’re not judging you.  

Don’t Be Scared Ask Questions

After going through the psych evaluation, they will allow you to ask questions. So, don’t be afraid to jump on this opportunity. This is why it’s beneficial to write down any questions you may have when preparing for your appointment. This way, you can get your questions answered. And understand more about what you can expect from your treatment. 

Gain Clarity Over Diagnosis or Treatment Plans

Getting a diagnosis can be a combination of feelings. If you received a tentative diagnosis and you’re not fully clear on why ask. Before leaving your appointment, you should fully understand why you received your diagnosis, the prescribed treatment plan, and the next steps.

Additionally, they should explain the medication options to you. If you’re not sure about a specific medication, have them explain it to you.

woman talking during psychiatrist appointment

Take Notes!

If you easily forget things you discuss with others, take notes. Write down essential instructions that they’re giving you. For example, write the names of medications or your diagnosis to research and study it later.

After Your Psychiatrist Appointment

Making sure you’re comfortable with the psychiatrist you choose is also essential. Set aside time to review your treatment plan, progress, and relationship with your psychiatrist. It can take a few sessions to become comfortable.

However, you should be progressing towards your goals and have a comfortable rapport with your psychiatrist. If you’re not happy with how things are going, don’t be scared to get a second opinion. So, explore your options and see if you can find a psychiatrist that will better fit your needs.

Mental Health Is A Journey

Mental health is not a marathon. It’s a journey. It can take you a while to find a psychiatrist that helps you achieve optimal health. Additionally, it may be a bit of a financial struggle to maintain consistent psychiatric care. If this is the case, speak with your psychiatrist about this. Maybe they can provide solutions that can help ease the financial burden.

As it pertains to the cost of prescriptions, there’s an increase in savings programs such as Good RX that can help you find coupons to lower the cost of your medication. Furthermore, you may consider looking into local initiatives that help those with lower income afford health services such as psychiatric care.

Regardless, you shouldn’t give up. You deserve to resolve your mental health concerns and achieve a better quality of life. So keep going until you find a psychiatrist that can help you reach your goals.