Collaborating with your health care providers (HCPs) can be very helpful in working toward achieving your wellness. You and your HCP should have a partnership in which you both have input and open lines of communication. A good health care provider pays attention to your needs, goals, and background. Remember: No one knows what it feels like to be you or live in your body, so you are the most important decider when it comes to your treatment.

Working with your Health Care Provider

Your relationship with a mental health professional is a partnership. You will work together to create a   that works best for you. You should never feel like you can’t ask questions. A good provider will listen and encourage you to ask questions. Remember, if the provider isn’t a good fit for you, it is always okay to find a better fit.

DBSA does not endorse or recommend specific providers, but we can provide education and resources to help you with your search. The resources listed below may help you find a provider to work with.

Remember, these resources are a starting place only. Finding a provider that is right for you takes time. Also, remember that getting a second opinion is always okay. When working with a provider, be sure to know your rights. You have the right to have mental health treatment that is/provides:

  • Private, confidential, and respectful
  • Sensitive to your needs and background
  • A safe space for you (e.g., you can express yourself and show up as your authentic self)
  • Culturally competent—a provider that is sensitive, educated, and understanding of your cultural background
  • Explanations of the types of treatments that you are receiving
  • Open to discussing other treatment options as well as stopping or changing treatment at any time

Questions to Ask

Starting treatment is a big step, so knowing what questions to ask your health care provider can be helpful. Below we’ll outline some questions that can help prompt your communication with your provider. Know that there is never a ‘wrong’ question you can ask your provider, so try to be as open and honest in your communication as possible. Ultimately, your ability to communicate effectively with your provider will influence your road to wellness, so it is an important element to consider.

When Starting Treatment:

  • What is the best way to communicate with you outside of regularly scheduled appointments?
  • What number should I call if I am having an emergency?
  • Do you accept my insurance? Do you offer a sliding scale for payment? What will my co-pay be?
  • What is your approach to therapy? Can you tell me a bit more about your training and what type of clients you work with?
  • What are your expectations of me during therapy? What can I expect from you?
  • How do I create goals for my treatment?

When Considering Medication:

  • What dosage should I take and at what time of day?
  • What side effects should I expect with this medication?
  • Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • Is there a less costly generic version of this medication?
  • If this medication isn’t helpful, what do you think the next steps might be?
  • How will I know if this medication is working effectively?
  • If I am interested in becoming pregnant at some point, will this medication affect my pregnancy?
  • Will this medication interact with any of the other medications or supplements I take?
  • What are the risks involved with this type of treatment?

When Deciding to Leave Therapy:

  • What progress do you think I’ve made in my time working with you? Do you think I should continue treatment in some form?
  • What would you recommend for continuing my wellness journey?
  • Do you have any additional resources you think I should consider using?

Resolving Disagreements with Your Health Care Provider

There may be times when you and your health care provider (HCP) do not agree about your progress or next steps in treatment. Like any relationship, it is important to collaborate and treat one another with respect. If you find yourself concerned or disagreeing with your HCP, consider the following recommendations that may help.

Set a Schedule

Agree to try one method of treatment or medication (that you choose) and re-evaluate your health at pre-determined intervals- a day, a week, or a few months. If you still have symptoms, use those check points to talk to your health care provider. Remember, you are in charge of your wellness and your HCP is there to support you and provide information and options.

Let Your HCP Know When you Have Difficulty Explaining Symptoms

Sometimes it can be hard to name exactly what you are feeling and that is okay. When your symptoms are at their worst, it can be harder to show up to therapy. If you are feeling that way, tell your therapist about it. They likely will be able to offer suggestions on how communication might go more easily for you as you work together to advance your therapeutic relationships.

Be Honest

Staying honest with your health care provider can be hard, especially when symptoms of depression or bipolar cause additional feelings of shame, guilt, or worry. However, working from a place of honesty is ultimately to help yourself. Your therapy is for you and you alone, so don’t be concerned about the judgements or perceptions of your therapist because they are there to support you fully through challenges, setbacks, and successes.

Ask Questions

There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially as it relates to your health care. If you have questions for your provider, don’t be afraid to ask them.

Be Sure Your Provider Knows What Wellness Means to You

To move forward with treatment, it can be helpful to paint a picture for your provider that describes how you will know that you are living in wellness. This might change and evolve over time, but setting the time to describe the symptoms you want to reduce and wellness you want to enhance will help to solidify your treatment goals.

Keep Track of Your Progress Over Time

Tracking your symptoms, moods, and journaling are all helpful tools to help you see all the progress you’ve made. It can be hard to remember everything that happens, so taking notes on how you feel, even during hard times, can be helpful so you can reflect on your growth over time. DBSA has free tools that can help you track your progress. Check out the DBSA Wellness Tracker here.

Educate Yourself

Learn about the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. Learning more about your mental health condition or other mental health conditions can be helpful in understanding the symptoms you are experiencing. Remember: If you ever have questions about your diagnosis, how your health care provider evaluated you to determine your diagnosis, and/or recommended treatments, you can always ask those questions.

Talk About Your Medications and Supplements

Be sure to tell all your health care providers about the medications and supplements you take. It is important to be sure that every provider you work with is aware of what medications you take so they can keep this in mind as you evaluate your symptoms and progress towards goals. Even supplements like vitamins should be mentioned.

Stick with Your Plan

While this can be hard to accomplish all the time, it always helps to try to be as consistent as possible with your treatment plan. Especially as it relates to taking medication, you want to ensure you have consistency. It may be helpful to set reminders in your phone or leave notes for yourself to remind yourself to take your medications or do other small things that you know will help you reach your wellness goals.