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Getting Ready for Your First Psychiatry Appointment with Jen Smith, MSN, RN-BC

Getting Ready for Your First Psychiatry Appointment with Jen Smith, MSN, RN-BC

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. When it comes to mental health awareness an understanding of how to navigate psychiatry and therapy appointments can help with the anxiety that might come with starting a new treatment. With that in mind, we asked our provider team what they want people to know about getting mental health care.

In this article, we’ll be sharing tips from Jennifer Smith, a registered nurse and nurse educator at Heading Health with centers in Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth, on how to prepare for your first psychiatry appointment.

Here are Jen’s tips before your first session:

Tip 1: “Feel free to write down a list of questions you want to ask your provider.”

It’s helpful to remember that your providers are on your team, and there to support you exactly as you are. While it can be nerve-wracking, there is nothing to fear.  Remember that you are doing something positive for yourself, and the agenda and goals you have for your health are important. Your Psychiatrist will be eager to learn more about you and your needs. 

Before your appointment, take some time to think about any questions you may have for your provider. Writing them down can help you remember them and ensure you get the answers you need. You might want to ask about your diagnosis, treatment options, medication side effects, treatment duration, follow-up appointments, and self-management strategies.

Tip 2: “You can take notes too! Write down notes from your provider.”

You might have a vision of a doctor with a clipboard, or a screen where they are writing down information in your chart.  Sure, that’s an important part of keeping track of your needs and information from your session.  But the provider isn’t the only one who is allowed to write down information. You can keep notes too.

During your appointment, your provider will likely discuss your symptoms, medical history, and treatment options with you. To help you remember important details and discussions, take notes. You can use a notebook or note-taking app on your phone. 

Some practices, like Heading Health, have digital communication systems that allow patients to ask questions of their provider through a secure patient portal. This can be helpful when you have questions between appointments. 

Tip 3: “There will be tasks including paperwork. Complete paperwork prior to the appointment, bring a list of medications and a summary of your health history.”

Before any medical appointment, even those that take place via telehealth, there is necessary intake paperwork that has to be filled out. This includes insurance information, consent, medical history, and sometimes it also includes information about appointment and care preferences.  Completing this paperwork prior to the appointment is best.

When it is time for the actual appointment bring a list of medications you’re currently taking and a summary of your health history. This information helps your provider understand your medical background and any medications you’re currently taking. 

Make sure to include the medication name, dosage, and frequency. Additionally, include any medical conditions you have, surgeries you’ve had, and allergies you have.

Tip 4: “Remember, it’s totally ok to be nervous.”

It’s natural to feel nervous before your appointment. After all, you’re discussing something personal and may not know what to expect. However, your provider is there to help you and provide the best possible care. If you’re feeling nervous, try taking deep breaths and remind yourself that you’re taking an important step towards improving your mental health. 

It might be helpful to tell a supportive friend or family member about how you’re feeling before and after your appointment. Or, keep a journal about your experience. It can be helpful to express feelings or anxieties about the process and may even be helpful to reflect on it later.

Tip 5: “Keep in mind that you know yourself better than anyone else. Be your own advocate.”

Remember that you know yourself better than anyone else. Speak up about your symptoms, ask questions, and share your concerns. If you’re not comfortable with a particular treatment option, let your provider know. If you feel like you’re not being heard, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. By advocating for yourself, you’ll ensure that you’re receiving the best possible care.

It’s also ok to speak up if something feels out of sync. Often times bringing up concerns about communication or fit during care can feel daunting. But, it’s important to speak up. Your care team wants to know if you feel like the work you are doing together is gelling, and also won’t be offended if it’s time to match you with a provider that might be a better fit either within the same practice or by referring out.

In summary, preparing for your first psychiatry appointment involves writing down your questions, taking notes, bringing a list of medications and health history, acknowledging that it’s normal to feel nervous, and being your own advocate. By following these tips, you can have a successful first appointment and start your journey towards better mental health. Remember, seeking mental health care is an important step towards taking care of yourself, and you deserve the best care possible.