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Dr. Paul LatimerIt’s not easy to get an appointment to see a psychiatrist, who are in short supply. Patients often face wait times of many months, which can feel like a very long time when struggling with a mental health issue.

So when you do get an appointment with a psychiatrist, its essential that you be prepared. Here are a few simple tips that will help you get the most from your psychiatrist and make it easier for your psychiatrist to help you:

Talk openly about the problem or issue for which you’re seeking advice.

Your doctor can’t be expected to read your mind. If you truly want help, you have to be willing to talk.

Bring a list with the names and doses of all current medications.

This information is very important to get an accurate picture of your medical history and is essential before your psychiatrist can recommend an action plan.

Bring a list of medications and other therapies you have previously tried.

For the same reasons as above, it is very helpful to know what treatments you may have tried and why they were discontinued.

Find out if anyone else among your biological relatives has a psychiatric condition, including suicide and drug abuse.

Most psychiatric conditions do have a strong genetic component and it helps to know a family history.

Bring relevant past records, if possible, or know where these can be obtained.

Again, the more complete a picture you are able to provide, the more accurately your psychiatrist will be able to diagnose and recommend next steps. If you don’t have your medical records, it is still helpful to provide the names of previous doctors where information could be found.

If you have had lab work done (blood, urine, brain scans, etc.), bring the results or have your doctor forward them to the psychiatrist.

Complete any pre-interview questionnaires.

Some psychiatrists will ask you to complete detailed questionnaires prior to your first interview. Although they might seem lengthy, these provide important background information and help to give an idea of potential issues at the outset of a working relationship.

Be prepared to stop smoking cannabis, drinking excessively or using other non-prescription drugs.

If you are serious about receiving treatment for a mental health issue, drug and alcohol abuse are only going to be barriers for you. If you’re not willing to stop, it will be difficult for a psychiatrist to help you.

Be prepared to meet without children, spouses, friends, other counsellors or lawyers in the room.

In order for an effective doctor/patient relationship to be built, there needs to be an atmosphere of calm and trust without interruptions. Psychiatric interviews often include discussion of topics that are very personal and can be inappropriate for children or friends.

If you’re interested in family or couples therapy, this should be discussed with your psychiatrist ahead of time.

Be sure to arrive for your appointment on time.

Aside from being courteous, arriving on time will help ensure you receive your full interview in an unhurried manner.

Ultimately, the goal is to get the most out of an appointment with your psychiatrist. And that requires you giving your doctor all the help and tools necessary.

Dr. Latimer is president of Okanagan Clinical Trials and a Kelowna psychiatrist.

psychiatric care

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