Your first psychiatrist appointment can be scary and intimidating. Especially if you’re new to psychiatric care. I know I felt a little unease before beginning to work with a psychiatrist. So, I’m here to tell you that what you’re feeling is completely normal. However, understanding some of the basics of what you should do leading up to your appointment. And, what to expect during your psychiatrist appointment can help calm your nerves. Hence, why I’m going to share some practical tips for your first psychiatrist appointment.
Before Your Psychiatrist Appointment
The first and most important piece of advice I can give you is to 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 such as your primary care provider or therapist? All of this information will help them understand your situation better. Furthermore, it allows them to properly diagnose you and determine the best treatment plan.
Another important part of identifying your goal for treatment is to write down your questions and concerns. During your psychiatrist appointment, you may become so nervous that you forget the questions you wanted to ask. Or, the information you wanted to share. Writing everything down beforehand will help ensure you’re able to gain clarity and have your questions answered.
Understand What Your Insurance Covers
If you understand the benefits that are covered by your insurance plan you’ll know what to expect regarding payment and prescription coverage. However, if you do not you will need to reach out to your insurance provider.
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?
Knowing these things beforehand will help you with choosing your psychiatrist. Additionally, it gives you an idea of what you can expect to pay.
On the other hand, if you don’t have insurance you’ll need to discuss fees with your psychiatrist as well as with your local pharmacy in regards to medication. In some instances, medical professionals provide a self-pay discount for those that are paying for their care out of pocket. You’ll definitely want to understand the terms of this if you elect to pay out of pocket for psychiatric care.
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 be discussing with them their fees, and payment options before scheduling your appointment.
Regardless of whether you’re insured or uninsured, there are some general considerations to bear in mind. Such as researching their credentials. Is there a field of focus they specialize in or do they offer general psychiatry. For example, there’s geriatric psychiatry, child, and adolescent psychiatry. And, some psychiatrists may primarily work specifically with certain disorders. They may specialize in helping those overcome addiction, eating disorders, managing ADHD, or bipolar disorder. Educating yourself about these things can help you choose the right provider.
Two additional beneficial factors to consider are their experience and level of 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 experience and education. If you can’t find it visit docinfo.org to gather more information. The last helpful resource is to read their reviews. This will give you some idea of their level of care.
Are You Open to Medication?
Another important thing to consider is whether you’re open and okay with medication management. I know that when it comes to mental illness and medication it’s a hot-button topic. Both from the patient’s perspective as well as the societal stigma associated with medications for mental illness. 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, medications 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, then write down questions and concerns you can ask during your psychiatrist appointment.
You’ll also want to discuss the long term cost of medication during your psychiatrist appointment. This is important when it comes to planning and budgeting your long-term care.
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 a little bit 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 up they will ask you questions regarding your medical history and family history. This is for 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 aforementioned conditions. Typically, you’ll complete this form prior to your appointment. However, they will most likely review it with you during your appointment.
It’s important, 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 do recommend medication they can avoid prescribing drugs that may interact with what you’re currently taking.
The Psych Evaluation
I’m not going to sugarcoat how uncomfortable and awkward the evaluation portion of your appointment can be. There’s 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 completely normal. You’re opening up to a practical stranger and answering some really 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’re struggled with for a long time and can’t pinpoint why? 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 or feel pressure during your appointment. 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 mentally they’re not judging you. Quite the opposite they want to help you.
Don’t Be Scared Ask Questions
After going through the psych evaluation they will leave space for you to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to jump on this opportunity. This is why it’s beneficial when preparing for your appointment you write down any questions you may have. 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 you leave 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 certain medication or have questions about how to take it. Have them explain it to you so you understand. The purpose of asking questions is to understand what you can expect from treatment. And, you’ll know what’s expected of you during treatment as well.
If you easily forget things you discuss with others take notes. Write down key instructions that they’re giving you. Write down the names of medications or your diagnosis so you can research and study it later.
After Your Psychiatrist Appointment
Making sure you’re comfortable with the psychiatrist you chose is also important. Set aside time to review your treatment plan, progress, and relationship with your psychiatrist. It can take a few sessions for you to become comfortable with your psychiatrist. Additionally, it can take a while before you find a medication that works best for you.
However, you should be progressing towards your goals and have a comfortable rapport with your psychiatrist. If you’re not happy with your treatment plan, find that they’re not listening to you and don’t feel comfortable with them. Or, you feel as though you’re not making progress towards your goals. All of these may be a sign that you may need another psychiatrist. 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 by no means a marathon it’s most definitely a journey. It can take you a while to find a psychiatrist that can help you achieve your goals. Additionally, it may be a bit of a financial struggle to maintain consistent psychiatric care. If this is the case speak with your psychiatrist in regards to 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. Keep going until you find a psychiatrist that can help you reach your goals.
Eager To Learn More About Mental Health?
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m an esthetician and beauty advisor turned writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you