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Psychiatry: What to Expect at Your First Appointment

psychiatrist talking to new patient and taking notes

Maybe you’ve been thinking for a while about getting some more support. Maybe you’ve been referred by your primary care physician or another provider. Or, maybe a loved one is encouraging you to make an appointment. It’s a good idea to get some background information on what psychiatry is, how it can help you, and what to expect at your first appointment.

What Is Psychiatry?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have studied to become experts on mental illnesses. This unique combination of medical and mental health training allows them to diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe medications for treatment. Detailed knowledge of how medications interact with one another and which symptoms can be indicators of an unrelated condition is needed in order to safely prescribe and manage medications.

Your First Appointment

In some ways, your first psychiatry appointment will differ from your return visits. Your doctor will need to get to know you; not just what symptoms you’re experiencing, but also situational factors, the dynamics of your relationships, and your mental health history.

Presenting Symptoms

The initial consultation will center around- you guessed it- the symptoms that brought you in. It can be uncomfortable to talk about symptoms and behaviors that are distressing, but it’s important that you be honest with your doctor. Tell them how long you’ve been experiencing the symptoms, if anything seems to make them better or worse, and how the symptoms are impacting your life.

Family and Individual History

Gathering a detailed history will be important for making a treatment plan. The risk of developing some mental health conditions is higher for those with a blood relative who carry those diagnoses. Your own history is just as vital. Your psychiatrist will likely ask you about any traumas you’ve experienced, as well as any previous diagnoses of mental illness. Stressors that you’re experiencing are also relevant; even small, everyday stressors can contribute to mental illnesses.

Treatment Plan

After learning about you and your symptoms, your psychiatrist will talk to you about your options going forward. This may include further evaluation, starting or altering medication, or getting recommendations for talk therapy. If medication is on the table, you’ll have a chance to hear about the benefits and potential side effects of each one. You can decide on medication and begin immediately, or you can take some time to think about your options. You and your doctor will revisit your treatment plan periodically. Future appointments may be shorter but will give you the opportunity to discuss what’s working and what’s not. Often, it takes some trial and error to find a treatment that works for you. Your mental health is incredibly important. For more information on psychiatry and other mental health topics, please visit our website and contact us.