We at Alliance Clinical Associates are committed to providing a high standard of patient care. As a group, we have taken the time to prepare thorough answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that we encounter.
The following material is a compilation of the input from physicians, psycholoists and therapists at Alliance in hopes it will assist you in getting the most out of your therapy sessions.
How do I get the most from my physician’s visit?
First of all come prepared.
• Before the first appointment, make a list of all the medications you are currently
taking with the correct names and dosages as well as a list of the previously tried
medications with the names and dosages. If you have complicated prescriptions,
bring the bottles to your appointment.
• Bring in a written record of the medical problems that you are experiencing, including
an estimate of the duration of your symptoms. If you have several problems, prioritize them in order of importance for review with your psychiatrist.
• It may be helpful to make a chart using a calendar of symptoms including any
changes in sleep patterns or mood levels throughout the week or month. Bring in that written record for your doctor’s review.
• Bring any information you feel would be important about your family’s medical and
psychiatric history to the first visit.
• For child or adolescent visits, bring in the IEP and old report cards. When applicable,
bring in the teacher checklists.
• Think about what questions you would like to ask the doctor during the appointment
and write them down. Prepare questions in advance. Especially list concerns you have when you’re feeling bad, as you may be feeling differently on the day of your visit. Be sure your written questions adequately address your concerns and frustrations.
Secondly, on the day of the appointment, be as honest as you can. Fight any urge to downplay or minimize your symptoms or to “not burden your doctor” with the true picture. Remember your doctor can’t treat what he or she doesn’t know. Be prepared to tell your story concisely, highlighting your biggest concerns and complaints.
Thirdly, be willing to work collaboratively with your doctor during the evaluation and treatment. Your doctor will guide you through the evaluation process but your input is vital. A definitive diagnosis may not be possible initially, so be sure to tell the doctor what your expectations are. Clear communication is the cornerstone of any effective treatment.
In summary, here is a checklist of what to bring to the first physician’s visit:
• A list of the medications you are currently taking with the correct names and dosages
as well as previously tried medications with the names and dosages. If you have
complicated prescriptions, bring the bottles to the first appointment.
• A written record of the medical problems that you are experiencing, including an
estimate of the duration of your symptoms. If you have several problems, prioritize
these in order of importance for review with your psychiatrist.
• A chart or simple calendar of symptoms throughout the week or month.
• Any information you feel would be important about your family’s medical and
• Written questions for your doctor that adequately address your concerns and
• For child or adolescent visits, bring the IEP, old report cards and teacher checklists.
How do I get the most benefit from psychotherapy?
Come to each therapy session prepared to be as open and honest as possible about what is troubling to you. Honesty and openness will allow your therapist to help you the most effectively. If you struggle with being open, that’s okay too, just let your therapist know that this is occurring. Honesty with yourself is a process and you can expect to feel some resistance to knowing yourself and to letting another know you more fully.
Be as clear as you can about what issues you wish to address in treatment and what your goals are for therapy. Be sure that you understand the approach your therapist is taking in treatment and ask any questions that you may have, especially about what will be required to reach certain goals. A therapeutic relationship encourages ongoing feedback. Expect to develop a good working relationship with your therapist that is satisfactory to you. Let your therapist know if this is not occurring as well as any aspects of the treatment that are concerns for you.
It is important to meet regularly, preferably weekly, and to commit to the process. If therapy is infrequent, the sessions become a time of catching up between the sessions rather than a working session. Consider each appointment as an important investment in your own growth and recovery.
Between sessions, spend some time reflecting on questions, thoughts, and feelings. Therapy helps you to know yourself better. An internal posture of gentle curiosity is helpful. Set aside your self critic for awhile and look with curiosity at how you slide into certain behaviors and patterns. Be willing to complete homework assignments or journal between sessions. Be as open as you can to the change that is occurring.
Also realize that sometimes in the beginning sessions of therapy, as your awareness of problems increases, it may "feel worse before it gets better." This is a part of the process but, if this occurs, be sure to share this with your therapist.
As therapy progresses, be aware that there might be some difficult interactions between you and your therapist. Commit to working through whatever problems emerge and realize that this is a valuable part of the treatment. A therapeutic relationship is different than a social relationship and provides a safe place for you to rework relational patterns and problems.
What do I do when I have some concerns about the treatment with my doctor
It is important to find a way to address your concerns directly with your doctor or therapist. Before the session, write your provider a note to organize your thoughts and bring it to session. Identify your special concerns. Ask yourself if these concerns have happened before in another relationship or therapy experience.
A working alliance with your doctor or therapist is essential to allow issues to be raised and addressed in a safe environment. It’s okay to tell your doctor or therapist directly about problems; you won’t offend them. Again, a therapeutic relationship is not a social relationship. Clinicians want to know if there is anything that is dissatisfying or problematic to you in treatment.
Often a goal or therapy is to become more aware of and more able to clearly express one’s own needs and feelings and then find ways to get those needs addressed. Being open with your therapist or doctor will not only help them to help you but will provide a “training ground” for you to practice this process in other relationships.
Finally, if the concerns persist, ask your provider about referring you for a second opinion. Clinicians have different clinical approaches and personalities and some may be a better fit for you than others. Being proactive about concerns that arise in treatment is a better alternative than dropping out of treatment with the issues unaddressed.
What are some common pitfalls in mental health treatment?
• Being unrealistic about the amount of time it will take for change to take place.
• Wanting to dismiss problems too quickly to avoid facing the deeper issues.
• Stopping therapy after the medications begin to take effect and your symptoms begin
• Not making the weekly commitment to therapy a priority.
• Not adequately expressing your expectations for treatment.
• Remaining passive during treatment, and expecting that your therapist will "fix you."
• Refusing to be open to feedback.
• And, finally, a potentially dangerous pitfall is refusing to take your medications as
prescribed or stopping or changing medications without checking with your doctor.
How do I maximize my insurance benefits?
Contact your insurance provider before you begin treatment and get clarity about your coverage. Be aware of the number of sessions available to you and plan accordingly.
Be aware that various medications may have different copay amounts. A list can usually be obtained from your insurance company which will help you and your physicians plan accordingly.
ALLIANCE CLINICAL ASSOCIATES
7 BLANCHARD CIRCLE • SUITE 201 • WHEATON, IL 60189 • TEL: 630.653.2300 • FAX: 630.653.2895
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