At some point, you will need to find a new psychiatrist.
Your doctor may be retiring, moving or leaving your insurance network.
So how do you go about finding a new doctor who meets your needs?
First, ask your current doctor if they have any recommendations. If they don’t, its time to Google your way to a new doctor. Simply enter the search terms “psychiatrist (your city, state)”. Many of the doctors that come up will have bios including where they trained and what illnesses they focus on. Find 3-4 doctors that look like they would be a good match.
Second, call the doctors’ offices that you’ve chosen and make appointments. You will probably need a referral from your current doctor.
Third, use Google Maps (TM) to locate each doctor’s office and how to get there from your home. Note the time it takes to reach the office and leave yourself plenty of time to find the building and then to find the doctor’s office.
Fourth, write a summary of your mental health starting with when you first experienced symptoms until now. Ask your current doctor if you can see your treatment notes to help you recall your history. Note any hospitalizations, medications and dosages used, other forms of treatment you’ve tried, your diagnoses and the behavioral methods you use to cope. Give this to your potential new doctor at the beginning of the appointment.
It’s normal to feel anxious when meeting a potential new doctor. After all, you have worked hard to get to where you are and you want a doctor that understands that and will help you cope even better. While you’re sitting in the waiting room, take deep breaths and keep yourself grounded. It often makes me feel better to play on my phone.
“She asked me about my doses of medication, including when I had started each one, what other medications I had taken in the past and why I had changed them. I felt stupid because I couldn’t remember. After all, back when I was going through the dark times, I didn’t care what was happening to me or when things changed.”
Fifth, be sure to take a notebook and pen to write notes in. Use this notebook to write down any questions you have for the doctor. Also write down any medication changes, things your doctor wants you to work on and/or other suggestions/instructions. Write down any medication refills you need.
Sixth, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing paranoia or delusions. They can help with those symptoms and there’s nothing to be embarrassed or scared about. And be sure to tell your doctor if you’re having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harming.
Seventh, after your appointment, write down your impressions of the doctor. Write down what you liked and what you didn’t. It may just happen that the first doctor you see will be the one you choose to switch to. If not, repeat this procedure with the others doctors from your Google search.
I recently had to change doctors. My psychiatrist had to close her practice after I’d been seeing her for 11 years. My first emotion was panic and that lasted a couple of days. I pushed myself hard to call doctor’s offices and make appointments and get my one page mental health summary done. Within a week, I had two appointments, wrote my summary and had gotten referrals from my doctor for the potential doctors I was going to see. Within two weeks, I was seeing the first doctor on my list. He turned out to be very satisfactory and I’m sticking with him.
So don’t panic if you need to find a new doctor. Follow the steps above to a doctor you can work with.
Have you switched psychiatrists? What was it like for you? Please let me know in the comments below.
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