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Before Your First Visit

Preparing to See a New Psychiatrist

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Updated June 19, 2014

When you go to your first appointment with a new psychiatrist, psychologist or other therapist, you're going to be nervous and your head is going to be racing. You'll be scared because you feel you are way out of control and something major has changed.

Anxiety often magnifies anticipation into the feeling that there are ten scary issues - when really there is just one that needs to be controlled, and the rest will follow. The technique is actually very simple - it's all a matter of preparation.

Sit down a day or two before your appointment and make a list of everything you are feeling, with details about triggers and how your life is affected by each item. For example:

  • I have to walk to the other end of Wal-Mart when babies are crying because I can't take the noise.

  • I don't always believe people are who they say they are.

  • I can get very angry, to the point of rage. (If there are patterns to things that trigger your anger, include them.) Several friends are angry at me because I have become inappropriately angry.

  • I feel very lonely and an extreme need for support. As a result I spend a lot of time crying.

  • I can only get a few hours of sleep a night - or - I am sleeping 18 hours a day - whatever your sleep habits are at present, always include this information in your list.

Other possibilities - if you're feeling paranoid, you need to list not just the feeling but what you feel paranoid about and how it affects your life. The key issue when listing these is to tell how they have impacted your life. DO NOT put labels on these feelings - let the doctor do that! Doctors often allow their patient's labels to block their own thought processes and sometimes thus allow the patient to make the diagnosis. Again, you just want to list what you are feeling and how your life is affected.

I really recommend you take the time to do this. In school I used this process every single day when my assigned patients said, "My doctor just isn't hearing me."

When you break down the feelings and how they are affecting your daily life, you paint a very clear picture for the doctor. You can't do that on the spot in a 25-minute visit when your brain is spinning and you don't know what to say first. So make the list. Then make three copies - two for yourself and one for the doctor. Leave one copy at home (it's just in case something happens to the copy you take for yourself) and take the other two with you. When you see the doctor, give him the list. You won't have to remember everything you wanted to tell him on the spot. You won't have to go away beating yourself up because you forgot to say something. You won't need to worry so much at all!

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