What Happens at the First Visit to a Psychiatrist

What Happens at the First Visit to a Psychiatrist

by Dr Sagnik Mukherjee

Posted on 4th December, 2023 at 6:48:50 PM

Starting something can be uncomfortable. Addressing a mental health issue can be difficult. In the past, going to mental health professionals was not expected. There was a stigma associated with mental health disorders. With advanced treatment options and better awareness, people are more ready to see psychiatrists. However, the initial visit to a psychiatrist can be confusing and even daunting. Information about physical health and treatment is common knowledge. Many people are new to mental health conditions and psychiatrists.

You probably have a lot of questions running through your head like “Do I need to sit on that couch and pour my emotions out? Will I have to take psychiatric medications?”

Medication management seems so scary to people that they avoid going to a psychiatrist.

Medications for psychiatric conditions are unpopular for their side effects. With the advancement in the field, these side effects are minimal, if any. Yet, people hesitate to go to psychiatrists because it is an unfamiliar place. Understanding how a typical first visit will look like can help many.

Is it going to be only about me talking out my issues? How is it different from talking to a friend?

Psychiatrists use established therapies to help their patients. While talk therapy is standard, the type of therapy depends on a lot of factors. Your condition can require behavioral therapy. Some issues are best suited for only talk therapy. Most of the psychiatrists will use a combination of therapies. In case of severe mental disorders, you may need the crutch of medication. On your first visit, your doctor will be able to give you a primary treatment plan. A treatment plan should be mutual. Adherence is better when the goal is agreed upon mutually.

I have been taking medicines for another medical condition. Will my current medications impact my treatment?

Psychiatrists are trained healthcare professionals. Mental wellness and physiological health are interrelated. Best to be prepared with details of your family history for your first psychiatrist appointment. Your medical history will impact the results of your psychological treatment options. You might find some questions unrelated to the issue. Doesn’t a doctor check your blood pressure even if you do not have high blood pressure? Mental issues can give rise to physical complaints.

Similarly, some rashes, aches can have a psychological reason. A psychiatrist must consider your existing health conditions while discussing medication options. In the first visit itself, you need to discuss allergies and possible drug interactions. 

Do I have to share my deepest secrets? Do I have to spill out all my feelings and emotions?

The first session can be difficult. You are not familiar with your psychiatrist. Also, building trust takes time. Most psychiatrists will use the first session to decide on the primary goal of therapy and treatment. Mental health treatment takes time. A therapy session will begin to show results after a while. So do not get overwhelmed on the first day. We all have our vulnerabilities and inhibitions. A reputed psychiatrist will respect your boundaries.

Do you know your rights as a patient? Do you know what privileged communication is?

Keep your list of questions ready before the first visit. At the moment you may forget to ask important things. A therapy session is private and intimate. If you are not comfortable with recordings, you have the right to decline. A good psychiatrist will tell you your right to privacy. Also, reputed doctors will let you know under what circumstances you lose that right. If your psychiatrist does not discuss the right to privacy, you need to ask.

The cost of treatment is as important as the quality of treatment.

Depending on the cost of every session, you can discuss your budget. Many patients hesitate to discuss the cost aspect. It would help if you got a brief idea about the number of sessions you may need. 

Your first psychiatrist appointment should be about mutual comfort and understanding.

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