Preparing For A Psychiatric Appointment

Seeing a psychiatrist is something many people find intimidating. When your doctor or therapist has referred you to a psychiatrist, it is typically because they believe you're struggling with something specific that may need to be managed with medication and/or a specific therapeutic modality. As such, this appointment is really important, even if it makes you feel a little nervous. You can both calm your nerves and ensure the appointment goes well by preparing in advance. Here's how.

Gather your list of medications.

A psychiatrist will need a complete list of medications you're taking in order to give an accurate diagnosis. You may want to just gather all of your prescription and non-prescription medications, plus supplements, into a bag and bring the bag along. Or, you can create a list of medications and the doses you're taking on paper. Include herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications, even if you think that have nothing to do with your mental health. On occasion, drug interactions and certain herbs can contribute to psychiatric issues.

Talk to your family about a history of psychiatric diagnoses.

Call up a few family members, and talk to them about your family's history of psychiatric diagnoses. Don't assume that if someone had a diagnoses, you would already know about it. Mental health diagnoses carried a lot of stigma in the past, and family members may have diagnoses they haven't talked openly about before. Knowing what conditions run in your family can help your psychiatrist arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Even knowing there is no history of psychiatric diagnoses in your family can help — if this is, indeed, your case.

Prepare an "elevator pitch" of your symptoms and concerns.

When you first sit down with a psychiatrist, the first thing they'll typically ask you is some version of "what brings you in today?" These questions are pretty open-ended, so preparing an answer in advance can help ensure you accurately and concisely explain what's ailing you. Write down a few sentences, and repeat them to yourself a couple of times so that you're able to state them, confidently, when you're sitting nervously in the psychiatrist's chair. Make sure your statement clearly and fully explains what's been bothering you.

If you take the time to prepare, your first psychiatric appointment should go smoothly and productively. Working with a psychiatrist can be really rewarding, so this should be something you look forward to!