A collaborative relationship with your health care providers (HCPs) can be very helpful in working toward achieving 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 Health Care Provider on your side?
Even if you have had negative 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. When we are mindful of our patterns, symptoms, and habits, we can get to know our needs, and express our experiences clearly to our providers.
Tracking your progress can help you tell the difference between the normal ups and downs of life and real improvement as the result of your treatment. You only need a few minutes each day (e.g. before bed) to write down a few overall thoughts about how you felt and acted, your sleep, meals, medication dosage, and other life events that occurred. This helps you and your HCP 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 Wellness Tracker that you can download and print to keep track of these things. By tracking daily, you’ll be able to see possible behavior patterns that can help both you and your HCP improve your treatment planning. The more insight and knowledge you have about your treatment, the better chance you have at improving and maintaining wellness.
Resolving Disagreements or Concerns with Your HCP
There may be times when you and your health care provider 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.
Set a schedule
Agree to try one method of treatment or medication (that you choose) 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 can agree to try another treatment. This is helpful if you and your HCP disagree on which treatment to try. Remember that you are in charge of your wellness, and your HCP is there to support you and provide information and options.
Start with what is easiest
You and your HCP may not agree on everything right away. Start with the issue on which you are closest to agreement. For example, your sleep patterns may need to be regulated in order for you to keep your job. This means you need to treat the symptoms related to your sleep and energy. 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, share this with your HCP. 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 HCP
Stay open with your HCP regarding your concerns about your condition and its treatments.
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 can best tell your HCP how you are feeling and how your symptoms get in the way of your life.
Learn about your condition by using reputable sources such as the American Psychological Association or the American Medical Association. Learn as much as you can about your signs and symptoms. If you have questions about your condition, 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 condition 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 you may even want to research what treatments are being developed for the future.
Talk with your HCP first if you are interested in 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 identify 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
Wellness is also about living a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular sleep, healthy eating, and connection to community.
Stick 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. Sometimes therapy can feel uncomfortable. When these things happen, talk to your HCP about the effects your treatment has on you. There are many options for you and your HCP to try.
Communicating With Your Health Care Provider
What Questions to Ask
- If you are choosing medication as a part of your treatment, which options are available to consider.
- What dosage(s) of medication should be taken, what time(s) of day, and what to do if you forget to take your medication.
- If your medication needs to be stopped for any reason, how you should go about tapering off of it. (Never stop taking your medication without first talking to your doctor.)
- The possible side effects of your medication(s) and what you should do if you experience a troublesome side effect.
- If there are any foods to avoid eating while taking the medications you are prescribed.
- Whether there is a generic form of your medication available and if it would be right for you.
- What alternatives exist if your current medication isn’t helpful and your next steps to move forward.
- How often you will need to see your doctor and how long your appointments will take.
- How to change your dosage, if this is to be done before your next visit.
- If therapy is recommended as part of your treatment, and what type.
- If there are things you can do to improve your response to treatment such as change your diet, physical activity, or sleep patterns.
- How you can reach your doctor in an emergency.
- The risks associated with your treatment and how you can recognize problems if they occur.
- The risks involved if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are nursing.
Play an active role in finding your treatment and managing your condition. No one knows better than you do how you are feeling and how your symptoms or the events in your life are affecting you. Never be afraid to get a second opinion if you don’t feel your treatment is not working as well as it should.