Depression

Depression: Finding a Doctor or Therapist

Depression: Finding a Doctor or Therapist

 

To get better, you need expert help. Many people with depression have a team working with them. This might include your regular health care provider, a psychologist or therapist, and a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse.

In fact, studies show that combination treatment – antidepressants and talk therapy – is the most effective way to treat depression. But getting the right people may seem intimidating. Here are some answers to common questions about finding a doctor and psychologist or therapist. Below these questions, you’ll find a list of tips for how to prepare for your first appointment,

Depression: Finding a Doctor or Therapist

 

To get better, you need expert help. Many people with depression have a team working with them. This might include your regular health care provider, a psychologist or therapist, and a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse.

In fact, studies show that combination treatment – antidepressants and talk therapy – is the most effective way to treat depression. But getting the right people may seem intimidating. Here are some answers to common questions about finding a doctor and psychologist or therapist. Below these questions, you’ll find a list of tips for how to prepare for your first appointment,

  • What kind of expert do I need to see? People with depression often see a few different experts. You might see a therapist as well as a doctor or nurse for medicine. You might contact your health insurer first to see what types of care they cover. If you are not covered for psychological therapy, you can look for a therapist who offers a sliding scale based on income.
  • Why can’t I just see one doctor? Psychiatrists are the only doctors who usually prescribe antidepressants and counsel patients in therapy. Often they are expensive. So many people prefer to get their antidepressants from their regular doctor, and have weekly counseling sessions with a therapist. Therapists tend to be psychologists, social workers, or counselors, with lower rates than a psychiatrist.
  • How do I find a therapist or a psychiatrist? Ask your regular health care provider for a recommendation. You can also get in touch with organizations such as NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which can suggest experts in your area. Keep in mind that anyone can call himself or herself a “therapist.” Your therapist should be a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, or counselor.
  • What should I look for? Therapists and psychiatrists use many different approaches. Some focus on practical, here-and-now issues. Others go deeper, probing events from your past that might have played a role in your depression. Many use a mix of styles. Shop around. When you first talk to a potential therapist or psychiatrist, ask about his or her approach. See if it’s a good fit. If it’s not, find someone else. If you don’t click with a person, therapy is less likely to help. You may also want to look for someone who specializes in your particular problem. For instance, if you have a substance abuse problem, find a doctor and therapist who specialize in treating people struggling with addiction.
  • What if treatment doesn’t help? Once you’ve settled on a therapist and doctor, you need to give therapy and medication a chance to work. Getting better takes time, often several months. Treatment for depression can be hard at first. Opening up to someone about very personal things in your life isn’t easy. But the majority of people do get better with treatment.

Depression Therapy: Preparing for Your First Appointment

It’s easy to get flustered when you’re first meeting with a doctor and psychologist. So be prepared. Before you first see your doctor or therapist, decide what you’d like to talk about. Think about what you want from treatment. Go in with information and questions.

Here are four key ways to prepare.

1. Write down questions.

Come up with some specific things you want to ask. Don’t assume that your doctor will tell you everything you need to know.

For instance, you might ask your doctor:

  • Do I need medicine for my depression?
  • What kind of medicine will you prescribe?
  • What are the side effects and risks?
  • How often do I need to take it?
  • How quickly will it work?
  • Will any of my other medications, herbs, or supplements interact with this medicine?

You could ask your therapist:

  • What kind of approach do you use? What will our goals be?
  • What will you expect of me? Will you give me specific assignments to do between sessions?
  • How often will we meet?
  • Will this therapy be short-term or long-term?
  • How much does each session cost?

2. Keep a log or journal.

Keeping track of your mood changes in a diary can be helpful to you, your doctor, and your psychologist or therapist. Just jot down a few lines each day. In each entry, include:

  • How you’re feeling that day
  • Your current symptoms
  • Any events that might have affected your mood
  • How much sleep you got the night before
  • The exact doses of any medicines you took

Bring your journal to your first appointment. Show it to your doctor and therapist. If you keep a journal for a few weeks or months, you may start to see patterns to your mood changes that you never noticed before.

3. Don’t forget about your physical symptoms.

You might not think that they’re relevant, but physical symptoms are often signs of depression. Make sure to tell your health care provider about pain, stomach problems, sleep problems, or any other physical symptoms. In some cases, you might need medicines specifically for these symptoms.

4. Get help from friends or family members.

Ask them about changes they’ve noticed in your behavior. They may have seen symptoms that you missed. And if you’re nervous about your first appointment, ask for a friend or family member to come along.

SOURCES: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: “Finding Peace of Mind: Treatment Strategies for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.” American Psychiatric Association: “Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depression,” 2000. Fochtmann, L. and Gelenberg, A. Guideline Watch: Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depressive Disorder, 2nd Edition. Focus, Winter 2005: vol 3: pp 34-42. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: “Psychotherapy: How It Works and How It Can Help.” Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: “You’ve Just Been Diagnosed … What Now?”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 11, 2009

© 2009 WebMD, LLC.

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