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What To Expect In Your First Psychiatrist Appointment - Initial Session

Published: January 06, 2014
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I'm a 16-year-old male that will be seeing a psychiatrist soon. I've been in therapy before but that was a few years ago and I was wondering how I should prepare for the new psychiatrist. What kinds of questions should I expect, and how should I answer them? Are there any words or phrases that could help clarify my meaning that I should use? If it helps, I'm going in for depression. Thank you. (Also, I'm sorry if you got this multiple times.)
Signed: Initial Session With A Psychiatrist - What Can I Expect?

Dear Initial Session With A Psychiatrist - What Can I Expect?,

You ask a great question about what to expect when having your first psychiatrist appointment or consultation. Every psychiatrist conducts his/her sessions somewhat differently, so there will be slight variations in how he/she runs the first psychiatric session. But here is a general idea of what you can expect during the first visit to a psychiatrist:

Paperwork

Your first psychiatric appointment may start with some paperwork – gathering identifying information (like date of birth, home address, phone number, etc.) and insurance information. The psychiatrist may take this time to go over various practice policies, such as the cancellation policy.

Family Involvement

Depending on how the psychiatrist likes to conduct his/her consultations with children and teens, the initial visit the psychiatrist may start with just you alone, or the psychiatrist might want to include your parent(s) for some or all of the first session. If you have a preference in terms of wanting to meet with or without your parent(s), you can certainly state your preference to the psychiatrist at the beginning of the session.

Questions For You

The psychiatrist will have many questions for you so that he/she can develop an accurate diagnosis, as well as an effective treatment plan based on that diagnosis. You will probably be asked about the following: during the first psychiatric appointment.

  • Treatment history: Have you ever been in therapy or taken psychotropic medications in the past?
  • Physical health: Are there any medical health issues? Are you currently taking any medications? Do you have any allergies?
  • Signs and symptoms: Since you are being evaluated for depression, the psychiatrist will most likely list various symptoms to see which signs and symptoms you have experienced. The psychiatrist will also want to know when you first experienced your symptoms, how long they lasted, and how intensely/frequently you experienced certain symptoms.
  • Suicidal assessment: Since you are being evaluated for depression, the psychiatrist may ask you if you have ever thought about suicide or attempted suicide. Some people can feel very threatened or anxious about this question – but know that this is a very routine question during an initial consultation.
  • Family history: The psychiatrist may ask if there is a history of mood disorders, or any other types of mental illnesses, in the family.
  • Lifestyle: The psychiatrist may ask about eating habits, sleeping patterns, exercise, drug and/or alcohol use.
  • School: Mental health professionals will often enquire with children and teens about school – if they like school, how well they do in school, if they have favorite subjects, and if any areas of school are difficult. You may be asked if the child study team at school ever evaluated you and if you are classified or receiving any kind of special services at school.
  • Social life: Very often with children and teens, mental health professionals will want to know about your social life. Do you have close friends, how much time do you spend with friends, do you have any problems or ongoing conflicts with peers at school? As a 16 year old, the psychiatrist may ask about dating. 
  • Family life: The psychiatrist may want to know what your life at home is like – the nature of your relationships with your parent(s), sibling(s) and whether there are any stressors at home (i.e., divorce, separation, a sick family member at home, financial difficulties, etc.).
  • Goals: The psychiatrist will want to get a clear idea of what your concerns are and what goals you would like to set for yourself – what you would like to get out of treatment.

 

Don’t worry about how to answer these questions or whether or not you are giving a “right” answer. Just do the best you can in giving your answers, and if you feel confused by the question or don’t know the answer, it is absolutely okay to just say so.

Questions For The Psychiatrist

You are more than welcome to ask to ask questions of your mental health provider. It is completely normal and appropriate to do so during your first psychiatric appointment, and you should absolutely leave feeling like you have an understanding of all that you feel you need to know. You don’t have to ask all of the following questions, but look over the following and consider whether any are important for you to ask. And if you don’t want to ask any questions the first session, that is fine, too.

  • What is your academic background? How long have you been in this field? What is your experience in working with people with depressive disorders?
  • What are your fees? Do you take my insurance and how does that process work? (These questions and concerns will most likely be handled by your parents).
  • Since you are meeting with a psychiatrist you may want to ask if he/she does ongoing therapy, medication management only, or both?
  • If the psychiatrist does therapy and recommends therapy for you, you can ask if he/she does individual only or also family therapy. You might also enquire as to what kind of therapy he/she does – cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, hypnotherapy, etc.
  • What are the policies as far as scheduling, missed or cancelled appointments, and emergencies?
  • How long do sessions last and how often will you be meeting?
  • How long will you be in therapy?
  • As a 16 year old, what are the policies regarding confidentiality as far as sharing information with your parents?
  • If the psychiatrist does not do ongoing therapy, but medication management only, can he/she give you some referrals for a reputable therapist?

Wrapping Up

If the psychiatrist spent time with you alone during the consultation, he/she may very well invite your parent(s) back into the office to wrap things up.

At the end of the consultation the psychiatrist will probably give their opinion as to whether or not you have a depressive disorder (or some other mental health illness). The psychiatrist will let you know if he/she recommends any other evaluations, such as meeting with a certain medical professional if a medical condition needs to be ruled out. The psychiatrist will also give his/her treatment recommendation. Treatment recommendations might include medication management, individual therapy, and/or family therapy. The psychiatrist will let you know what he/she will do – will he/she only be there for medication management and refer you to a therapist for weekly therapy sessions, or will he/she do medication management and therapy, or just therapy, themselves.

If medication is recommended, the psychiatrist will explain what medication he/she would like to prescribe, how it can be helpful to you, and what to expect from the medication. The psychiatrist will give you information on how to take the medication (often and how much), and will invite you and your parent(s) to ask any questions you may have about the medication.

The psychiatrist will probably conclude the first session by asking if you have any additional questions or concerns, and then will set up any needed future appointments and give you any needed referral information.

 

 

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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