Preparing for Appointments

Getting help for a mental health condition doesn’t just depend on what your doctor and other providers do. It also depends on what you do. Educating yourself about your condition and taking responsibility for your care can play a big part in your recovery.

Inform yourself. Learning about your condition helps you understand what is happening to you and how treatment can help. You can learn a lot by reading and by joining support groups with other people like yourself, either in person or online. Organizations dedicated to mood disorders, anxiety disorders and other conditions are another great source of help. See the Helpful Resources section for Websites and phone numbers, or check Mental Health America’s mental health information pages.

Prepare. It’s essential to prepare for appointments, especially when shared decisions are involved. Time can go by quickly and you may not remember all you meant to tell the doctor.

It’s also helpful to keep a notebook for your mental health treatment. Between appointments, write down how you are doing, problems with medication and questions you want to ask. Take it to your appointment. During the appointment, write down what the doctor recommends, decisions you make with your doctor, and the time of your next appointment.

Your goals matter. A mental health condition can sometimes disrupt your life and make it hard to manage day to day. Setting goals for yourself can help you get a handle on your life again. Start with short-term goals that are doable and will help you feel better. Having longer term goals can help you look forward to recovering and keep you focused on the future. What activities in your life are most important to you now? What are your goals for the next two weeks? The next six months? The next year?

To get treatment that is right for you, let you doctor know what your immediate and longer term goals are. Your doctor can suggest treatment options that will help you reach your goals, and interfere with them as little as possible.

Follow up. It’s up to you carry out the plan that you and your provider decide on. If your doctor prescribes a medication, ask how long it will take to work and what side-effects to look out for. Stick with the treatment long enough to give it a chance. If the medication is not effective or has serious side-effects, don’t just give up. Contact your provider and decide together what to do next.

Plan for recovery. There is ample cause for hope that you will get better and recover: Treatment works, and there are many practical steps you can take to recover your health and life. Mental Health America’s Destination: Recovery is a good place to learn about recovery and how to make it happen. It can be very helpful to develop a personal action plan for your recovery. You can also make an advance plan, called a psychiatric advance directive, to communicate your wishes during a crisis.

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