If you or someone you care about is having a hard time with mood swings, feelings, emotions, situations or memories, you may decide it’s time to seek professional help. If sadness, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, racing thoughts, problems with sleeping or eating or, any other symptoms start to interfere with your work, social, or personal life, or if you experience a sudden change in mood that makes you feel “not yourself,” a professional may be able to help.
When receiving treatment from your health care professional, you have a right to expect certain things no matter who you are, what challenges you face, or how much money you have.
- Privacy, confidentiality, and respect
- Sensitivity to your needs and cultural background
- An understandable explanation of what is the matter and all of your treatment options
- Freedom to express yourself
- Freedom to find another professional if you are not satisfied with your treatment or don’t think it’s working as well as it should
Choosing the Right Type of Health Care Provider
How do you decide which type of professional is right for you? To get a better idea of your own needs, it might be helpful to answer some questions about your needs, concerns, and preferences.
What are the main things I’m looking for help with?
Example: I need help working through issues with my family, I’m having trouble sleeping, I can’t stop getting angry all the time, there are problems in my marriage or relationship.
Am I looking for talk therapy?
If so, what kind of therapist do I need someone who will listen to me, someone who will help me set goals, someone who will help me learn coping skills?
Do I have any concerns or questions about taking medication?
What has my health history been like?
Include recurring physical problems such as headaches or stomachaches, and habits such as drinking, illegal drug use, prescription drug abuse, or self-abuse (cutting). Also include any treatment you’ve had with a psychologist, therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist in the past and how it helped you.
What options do I have to pay for treatment?
You may need to call your insurance company or Medicare/Medicaid provider to find out what is covered. If you will be paying out-of-pocket, you may want to make a budget and see how much money you can afford to spend per week or month.
A collaborative relationship with your health care providers (HCPs) can be very helpful in working toward your wellness. A good relationship should be collaborative, with open communication.
A good health care provider pays attention to your needs, goals, and background. You and your HCP should have a partnership in which you both have input.
Is your HCP on your side?
Even if you have had bad experiences with HCPs or mental health treatment in the past, go into your first appointment with the belief that your HCP is concerned about you and wants to help you find your way to mental health.
Between treatments, keep a running list of things you need to talk about at your next appointment. Sometimes you can shorten a list by looking for patterns. You might notice, for example, that many of your bad days come after sleepless nights, or that certain places or things tend to trigger your symptoms.
To help you tell the difference between the normal ups and downs of your life and real improvement as the result of your treatment, track your progress. You only need a few minutes each day (e.g., when you are taking your evening medication) to write down a few overall thoughts about how you felt and acted, your sleep, meals, medication dosage, and other life events that day. This helps you and your HCP to find patterns and identify things that may be triggering your symptoms. It also helps you see how well treatment is or is not working.
DBSA offers a personal calendar that you can download and print to keep track of these things. You can also use our free online tool, the DBSA Wellness Tracker, to chart your moods, symptoms, lifestyle, medication, and overall physical health. It allows you to generate reports to see patterns.
Resolving Disagreements or Concerns with Your HCP
- Set a schedule. Agree to try one method of treatment or medication and re-evaluate your health in a few days, weeks, or months. If you still have symptoms or side effects that interfere with your life, you and your HCP agree to try another treatment. This is helpful when you and your HCP disagree on which treatment to try.
- Start with what is easiest. You and your HCP may not be able to agree on everything right away. Start with the issue on which you are closest to an agreement. For example, your angry outbursts may need to be controlled in order for you to keep your job. This means you need to treat the symptoms of irritability and racing thoughts. You and your HCP can agree on this.
- Let your HCP know when you have difficulty explaining symptoms. When your symptoms are at their worst and you need help the most, it is often the hardest to talk with your HCP. If you let your HCP know that you are having difficulties, you can work together to find a way to communicate.
- Let your HCP know how you feel about labels. If diagnoses make you uncomfortable or upset, let your HCP know this. Agree that you will treat symptoms as they arise, and ask if your HCP can hold off on a diagnosis until after you have tried at least one treatment.
- Be honest with your health care provider regarding your concerns about your illness and its treatments.
- Ask questions. Find out what to expect from treatment. Know how long it will take your treatment to work, what side effects it might have, and what you can do about them.
- Be sure your HCP knows what wellness means to you. Let your HCP know you want more than just relief from the worst symptoms; you want a productive, quality life.
- Keep track of your progress over time. You know yourself best. You see yourself most. You can best tell your HCP how you are feeling and how your illness gets in the way of your life.
- Educate yourself about your illness. Learn as much as you can about the symptoms of your illness. If you have questions about your illness, ask your HCP.
- Know the difference between your symptoms and your true self. Your health care providers can help you separate your true identity from your symptoms by helping you see how your illness affects your behavior. Be open with them about behaviors you want to change and set goals for making those changes.
- Educate yourself about your treatment. The more you understand your treatment and feel involved in your choices, the less likely you are to become discouraged or feel hopeless. Find out what treatments are available now and what is being developed for the future.
- Talk with your HCP first if you feel like experimenting with your medication or dosage. Explain what you want to change and why you think it will help you.
- Educate your family and involve them in treatment when possible. They can help you spot symptoms, track behaviors, and gain perspective. They can also give encouraging feedback and help you make a plan to cope with any future crises.
- Work on healthy lifestyle choices. Remission is also about a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular sleep, healthy eating, and avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and risky behavior.
- Stay with your treatment. Sometimes it is hard to take your medication as directed if it makes you feel spacey, sluggish, or not yourself in other ways. When these things happen, talk to your HCP about the medication’s effects on you. You might need to take a lower dosage, a higher dosage, or a different medication. You might need to switch your medication time from morning to evening or take it on a full stomach. There are many options for you and your HCP to try.
End Result: Wellness
You and your HCP both want the same thing for you: wellness. Your common goal is for you to be able to reclaim a stable, healthy life. You have a say in your treatment, and your HCP needs to understand and hear your needs and concerns.
If you feel your HCP is not listening to you, keep bringing up your concerns until they address them. Remember, you have rights as a patient. You have a right to be treated with respect and to receive good treatment no matter who you are, what your diagnosis is, or what health benefits you have or do not have.