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Preparing for an appointment

It may help you feel at ease and get the help you need if you know what to expect and how to prepare for you appointment before you visit a mental health or substance abuse clinician. Here are some suggestions to help you prepare for your appointment.

Preparing for That First Appointment 

First, think about what is bothering you. Think about how long it has been bothering you. Has it changed or gotten worse? If you have already tried some things to treat the condition, have any of them seemed to help?

We suggest you take a few notes about your condition with you to your appointment. Write down how you feel and what is troubling you. If there are significant events or dates when something related to your condition happened, write a brief history to help you remember details. Don’t worry if your concerns seem embarrassing to you, your behavioral health professional has heard them before and will not be surprised. Remember, healthcare providers want to help. If you have any documents -- notes, test results or other documents -- that seem relevant, bring them along. If you are seeking help for your child, drawings or writings that he or she has done that illustrate your concern would be good to bring, too. Bring a list of all the medications you are taking, including medication for physical conditions, with the prescription name, dose and frequency. Also, include any over the counter and/or herbal medications/remedies you are taking. Then think about what questions you might have -- about your situation, the mental health professional and how they work, cost, etc. -- and write them down, too. That way you will remember to ask.

Next, think about what outcome you want — maybe it is clarifying why you feel a certain way, maybe it is figuring out how to stop, start or change something or maybe it is dealing with a current or pending crisis. Whatever it is, do you have a goal in mind? Write it down and talk about it.

You can also bring along a family member or friend if that makes you more comfortable or if you want someone to help you remember things. If you are bringing in a child or other person and want to have a chance to talk separately with the mental health professional, request that when you make an appointment or give them a note when you arrive and ask to have this time. Tell them if you think it should be before or after the main meeting.

Remember, your time will be limited. Making some written notes will help you use the time well.