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How To Talk to Your Psychiatrist

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Why Can’t My Psychiatrist Be More Like My Therapist?

“My psychiatrist doesn’t listen to me!”

“I just walked out with 2 more prescriptions!”

“15 minute med checks…give me a break!”

These are some of the complaints I hear on a

weekly basis from clients who see psychiatrists

for psychotropic medications to help them manage

symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, and more.

This Is A No-Psychiatrist-Bashing Zone!

Lest you think this is going to be an all-out

Bash-the-Psychiatrists blog post, think again!

Psychiatrists provide a much-needed area of

medical expertise, and I rely on them to help

my clients when that expertise is required.

I hope to give you a little more information about

psychiatrists that may help you know what they do,

what they do best, what they don’t do, and what you

need to do if you are their patient to get the best help.

1. Psychiatrists are M.D.s

Psychiatrists go to medical school and get a medical

degree, with training mainly in the area of diagnosis

of mental disorders and psychopharmacology…the use

of psychotropic drugs to treat mental illness.

Very few psychiatrists get any training in talk therapy

anymore, so when you walk into their office, it will feel

more like walking into your cardiologist’s office than it

will your therapist’s office.  What do I mean by that?

They will not be very “touchy-feely.”  They will focus

on your symptoms, not your feelings.  Being able

to communicate what you are experiencing

effectively will help your doctor to plan a better

medication treatment strategy.

2.  Speak Their Language

Before you see your doctor, it would be helpful

for you to keep a record of symptoms you have been

experiencing.  You will want to be able to answer

specific questions regarding your mood, energy,

sleep, appetite, sex drive, sociability, and daily

functioning.  You can keep a record of symptoms

in a notebook or with a mobile app.  There are

apps available to record symptoms for a variety

of issues including Bipolar Disorder, PTSD,

Anxiety, Depression, and OCD.

3.  Have Reasonable Expectations

Your psychiatrist is not going to do therapy.

Your psychiatrist is not going to help you gain

insight into your problems or teach you better ways

to cope with your disorder.  That’s what therapy is for.

Your psychiatrist is trained to know which

medications may provide some symptom relief

or management for your unique set of symptoms.

Your psychiatrist is going to prescribe medication.

That is what your psychiatrist is going to be good at.

If you expect your psychiatrist to be good at

something else, that may not be a reasonable

expectation.  You might be disappointed.

4.  Be An Active Part of the Treatment Team

In order for you to effectively manage whatever set

of symptoms you are experiencing, you have to take

an active role.  You are not a passive patient being

“operated on.”  Recovering or managing your disorder

requires that you, more than anyone else on your

treatment team, be active, assertive, and involved.

If you don’t understand why your doctor has chosen

a certain medication, ask for clarification.

If you don’t like the side effects and want to try a

different medication, tell your doctor what is and

is not acceptable to you.  Be open to hearing what

your doctor has to say about the pros and cons of

various medications.  There are no “miracle”drugs,

and medication compliance on your part is very

important in giving them a chance to help you.

Never forget that your psychiatrist and your therapist

need to work FOR you and WITH you.

If you don’t understand something or you are not okay

with something, be assertive and let them know.

Better communication can lead to better outcomes…

and who doesn’t want that?




4 Responses to “How To Talk to Your Psychiatrist”

  • Pam:

    I see a psychiatrist who does not have the greatest bedside manner. For this reason, I get nervous when I see him and desperately need to explain my symptoms which are not easy to describe. He does understand what is wrong with me, but it is not a common illness, and we are having a difficult time finding a medication that will help me. I wish I felt more comfortable with him to relax enough to describe in the best way, what I am feeling. Any suggestions on how to best relate to him for my benefit, would be appreciated.

    • Pam:

      Wow! That’s my name too and I can kinda relate as well.. That’s pretty weird how I stumbled across this on my search and found someone with the same name going through something similar as myself… Small world…

  • Cassy:

    Hi this is Cassy! I am so Happy to say I have a awesome Psychiatrist who understand me. I don’t ever feel judged by her. It starts with you! What I mean is Psychiatrist what to see you do your share of homework to. Be more educative about what you have learn why you take what for what, look up for interaction with other medcation. Let your
    Psychiatrist know that you realize that they are at stake to for perscibing these meds to you. He or she wants you to be responsible for taking like it spouts to. Once they see you applying your self let me say this took a long period of time. They will be able to understand and recognize that you are serious about your recovery plan and you willing to fight to the end. Nobody said it would be easy but Psychiatrist like to see inprovement and see that you are trying. If they have had you for 2 years and you are at the same where you were the 1st day. They might think what they are doing isn’t doing any good. It has takin me over 2 years and more to get where I am now. I still fall but that is where the Psychiatrist steps in reassure you that you got this and because of med change and getting off med this is why you are acting like this. But we will work on getting back where you were before you had another episode. Because we have a mental illness our time span is short and we get frustrated and overwhelmed. But just getting reassure. Is all what we need! I hope I can help other out what I have learn and from reaseah. Psychiatrist what us to be more knowledgeable what is going on. I am only 27 years old and I have learn so much from doing research and going to group and trusting my Psychiatrist that she has my best instance. Hope you have learn from this. Because it took me a long time to get where I am now.

  • Sarah:

    I start seeing a new psychiatrist next week. A little nervous but also kinda excited. They told me that this initial appointment is going to take about an hour and to expect at least a half hour for each follow up. Knowing that it is going to take so long makes me hopeful that we can get alot accomplished with each visit and that they really take their time to understand my needs.

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