How can I prepare for a first appointment with a prescriber?

The first appointment with a provider to talk about mental health medication can be daunting. 

A little preparation before your appointment may help you feel more comfortable talking with your prescriber and prepare you to self-advocate. After all, you are the expert on yourself and your goals, needs, and preferences.

You may wish to consider the following suggestions for preparing yourself for a first appointment with a prescriber:

Gather information beforehand about your medical history. Be familiar with and ready to share your history of prior diagnoses, symptoms, and medications (including any side effects). If you need assistance getting this information together, your previous medical provider or your pharmacist can help. If available to you, have some information about family medical history to share. 

Prepare by doing a little at-home education on mental health.You may wish to start by visiting NAMI’s “About Mental Illness” webpage for some information about mental health conditions, symptoms, and possible treatment options. Learning some basics will help you ask a few targeted questions during your appointment. 

Make a few notes about what you’ve been experiencing. Consider reflecting on the reasons you are seeking mental health support and write down some thoughts about what you want from your recovery journey and symptoms you’ve been experiencing. A few examples of concerns that might help your prescriber understand you better include: 

  • “I feel sad all the time. I cry nearly every day.”
  • “I get so anxious about talking to other people that sometimes I can’t make myself go to work.”
  • “Sometimes I have so much energy that I only sleep 2 or 3 hours a night for days at a time.”
  • “I feel anxious a lot; I’ve noticed that people are following me.”

Create a list of questions to ask about working together. Some possible questions to ask a potential prescriber could include: 

  • Have you worked with people similar to me? For how long? 
  • What is your approach to treatment? 
  • How will we work together to set goals and assess my progress? 
  • What are my medication options? What kind of improvements can I expect to see? What should I do if I’m not seeing improvements?
  • Can you carefully explain any side effects, including physical impacts, such as sedation or weight gain or activity restrictions such as alcohol consumption?
  • How can side effects be addressed? 
  • How often will we meet? Are you available between appointments to address medication and other concerns, such as refills and emergencies? 
  • What’s the best way to reach you for a routine request? How do I reach you in an emergency? 

Assess the relationship “fit”. After the first few appointments, it is important to consider whether you connect with your prescriber. Ask yourself:

  • Did you feel comfortable talking to them?
  • Did you feel like they cared about what was important to you? 
  • Were you able to express what was important to you?

Remember that you're recruiting team members who can help you with your treatment long-term. With a little persistence, you'll find people who will listen to you, take your perspective into consideration and work with you to improve your sense of well-being.

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