16 Questions to Answer If You Are Seeing a Psychiatrist for the First Time

16 Questions to Answer If You Are Seeing a Psychiatrist for the First Time

Going to see a psychiatrist? Make sure you are ready! Before you come in for your first psychiatrist appointment get prepared by answering the following questions. If you do this, we will spend less time recreating your history and more time talking about the reasons you have come in for the psychiatric appointment. If you are seeing a psychiatrist for the first time try to answer these 16 questions before your appointment.

Questions to answer before your psychiatrist appointment:

  • Why are you are coming in for an appointment now?
  • What are the particular things that are bothering you?
  • What would you like help with?
  • How far are you from your baseline?
  • How would you describe your normal personality? Are you more a cup half-full person or cup half-empty?
  • When did you start feeling bad?
  • When was the last time you felt happy?

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time: Know your family history

Try to learn as much as you can about your family’s medical and psychiatric history. In some families, mental health is a taboo topic and not openly discussed. Try to think if there is one person who may be easier to talk to and ask them.

Knowing your family history before your psychiatric appointment can help us to come up with a more accurate diagnosis and plan.

  • Does anyone in your family have any psychiatric history?
  • Is anyone seeing a psychiatrist? Have they been hospitalized?
  • Has anyone been treated with medication? If so, which medicine and was it effective? 

Psychiatric appointment: Your past history

If you are going to see a psychiatrist, think about your own past mental health history. If you can’t remember details, ask your family if they remember. You can also contact your previous psychiatrist to see if they still have records.

  • Have you seen a psychiatrist before? If you have, find out their contact information (especially their fax number!).
  • Have you been in therapy? Was it helpful? What did you like or not like about it?
  • Have you been treated with medication before? Was it helpful?

If you are struggling to come up with your medication history see if you can get it from your pharmacy. I have had people be able to get a medication printout for the previous 10 years. Although it can be cumbersome to sort through, it can provide valuable history.

Going to see a psychiatrist? Write out a timeline!

Write up a general timeline for your history and the medicine you have tried. Details to include on the timeline are:

  • Approximate dates you took medication and why you took it.
  • What were the doses of the medication?
  • Were there any side effects? Any benefits?

If we have a list of your past medications, we can come up with a more accurate picture of what works for you and what doesn’t.

What you need to do before seeing a psychiatrist:

Don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to have everything figured out and conceptualized before your first psychiatric appointment. The more questions from this list that you are able to answer before you come in, the more time we get to talk about why you are seeing a psychiatrist. Its win-win!

Do your best to organize your thoughts but don’t stress out about it. It doesn’t need to be perfect. You may find it helpful to write down your answers and bring them to the appointment.

Looking for additional mental health resources?

Check out the Mental Health Bookstore and Resources page to get helpful options.

A version of this article first appeared here

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  • Liam Ryland

    Whether you are visiting a psychiatrist or any doctor, write down all your concerns. You can thank me later.

  • Kirstie Devlin

    I still remember the first time my sister told me to visit a psychiatrist. I was mad at her but then realised that she was right.

  • Mitchell Ashford

    Good questions, thanks for sharing all these tips.

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Melissa (Wheelock) Welby, MD

Healthcare Expert

Dr. Melissa Welby is a psychiatrist that participates in people’s process of discovery, empowerment, and search for satisfaction and happiness. She treats a variety of illnesses including depression, anxiety & panic attacks, adult ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorders), bipolar disorder, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and borderline personality disorder. She is also the current president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Association.She completed her Internship & Residency at Cambridge Hospital, affiliate of Harvard Medical School, 2000 to 2004. Dr. Melissa Welby is Board Certified in General Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, 2005 to present. 


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