Discussing Mental Health With Doctors | Caregiver Action Network

Discussing Mental Health With Doctors

DoctorsCommunicating with health care professionals can be intimidating. It can be easy to doubt your ability to know what to communicate with the doctor, and how to communicate it clearly and effectively. Working through this guide with your loved one will you help you feel prepared if accompanying them to an upcoming appointment or give you the ability to help your loved one prepare themselves for an upcoming appointment.

What to Discuss

doctors talkThe typical doctor appointment lasts 15 minutes. Preparing a list of issues/concerns to be discussed with your loved one’s doctor at the appointment will make sure that all questions are addressed and an appropriate treatment is provided.

General Symptoms and Changes from Last Appointment

  • Changes in mood
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Changes in appetite
  • Strength of delusions or hallucinations
  • Strength of obsessions
  • Strength of compulsions or time spent on compulsions
  • Number of panic attacks


  • Changes in medications
  • Provide information on any new medications prescribed, any medications stopped since prior visit, and any changes in dosage
  • Difficulties taking medication(s) on time or as prescribed
  • Development of any side effects
  • Changes in response to medication(s)

Communicating Effectively

How you communicate with the doctor is just as important as what you’re communicating.


It is important to build a good relationship with the doctor. Make and maintain eye contact, stay calm, and remain focused on why you are there.
Be prepared. Ask questions and provide the doctor with all of the necessary information. State positively what you need or want using “I” statements.
  • Example: “I would find it helpful if you spoke louder”, rather than “You always speak so softly, it’s difficult to hear you.”
Use facts rather than opinions or assumptions to describe any health issues.
  • Example: “My loved one has been experiencing nausea for the past week”, rather than “I think the new medication is making my loved one sick.”
Use Active Listening
  • Show Your Understanding
    • Confirm your understanding by following up with a reflective statement
      Example: “If I understand you right, you believe my loved one would benefit from therapy in addition to their current medication. Is this accurate?”
  • Ask questions about anything you remain unclear about
    • Example: “Could you give me an example of side effects to anticipate with this new medication?”
  • Gather the information be conveyed in the following ways:
    • Vocally: Tone, volume of voice
    • Visually: Body language
    • Verbally: Words that are spoken
Be Respectfully Assertive
Focus on common goals
  • Example: “My loved one and I would like to see a decrease in the number of panic attacks they experience.”
Help with problem solving
  • Example: “I can send my loved one a daily reminder to take their medication.”