Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Working Well with Clinicians

How to have a More Effective Relationship with Clinicians.

We have all been there. You walk away from a visit to the clinician thinking, "I forgot to tell him/her about that thing that happened last week, and what did they say I should do at night?  What does euthymic mean?"

It feels frustrating and disempowering doesn't it? The funny thing is both you and your clinician want the same thing... your wellness!

Here are some strategies to make your next visit more effective for you and easier for your clinician.

Before you go:

  • Think about why you are going and what you want to know.
  • If you make the appointment ask the receptionist to make sure you have enough time to ask all your questions.
  • Make a list of your symptoms and all the things you want to ask about.
  • If you want to, take someone else with you to support you - they may remember some of the things you don't.
  • Take a pen and paper to write things down during your appointment.

At the appointment:

  • Tell your clinician that you have a list of things you wish to discuss and that you may have some questions during your appointment.
  • Be clear and concise about your symptoms.

Questions to ask at a family/whanau meeting:

Family meetings are opportunities for Family/Whanau to share their understanding and knowledge with the mental health team and to provide and receive support during the care and treatment of the relative.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK has developed a useful list of questions which assist families in learning and understanding more about the assessment, treatment and care of their relative. You may find these useful.

Questions such as:

About the diagnosis:

  • What illness does my relative have?
  • If a diagnosis has not been made, what are the possibilities?

If a diagnosis has been made:

  • What signs or symptoms suggest this?
  • What is known about the causes of this illness?
  • What is likely to happen in the future? Could it get better or worse?
  • Where can we get information about this illness?

About the assessment:

  • What tests have already been done?
  • Are there any other tests that might be needed?
  • Are there any physical problems that have been discovered?

About care and treatment:

  • What are the aims of the care and treatment?
  • Who will be involved in my relative's care?
  • How often will my relative see a psychiatrist?
  • What is the plan for treatment?
  • How long do you anticipate treatment lasting?
  • Is psychological treatment, such as cognitive behavioural therapy available?
  • What happens if our relative refuses treatment?

The family and treatment:

  • Will the family be routinely involved in discussions about our relative's treatment?
  • What can we do to help?
  • Are there any local self-help or carers' support groups?

Getting Help:

  • Who is our main contact in the treatment team?
  • How do we get in touch with the psychiatrist?
  • Who do we contact if we are worried about something?
  • Who do we contact in an emergency?
  • How can we get a second opinion if required?


  • What medication is to be used?
  • What are the benefits of this medication?
  • Why have you chosen this particular drug?
  • What are the possible side effects of this particular drug?
  • For how long will my relative need to take this medication?
  • Are there any other drugs that could be used if this one does not work?
  • Are other drugs required to control side effects?
  • What signs do we look for that might mean the dose needs to be changed or adverse side effects reduced?
  • What will happen if my relative stops taking the medication?
  • Do you have any written information about medication or medications?

Hospital Treatment:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of hospital treatment?
  • What arrangements will be made for the care of my relative after leaving hospital?
  • What help can we get to care for children while my relative is an inpatient?

Remember that your clinician wants you to get well. They are people too, often very busy. If you are prepared and clear with them you will form a partnership that works well for all of you.

If you still feel unsatisfied, you have the right to change your GP, or in the case of a specialist - you have the right to request a second opinion.

Like Minds Taranaki gratefully acknowledges the financial support of this website by the Ministry of Health

Feedback is always welcome
Like Minds Taranaki, 06-759-0966, email:


Taranaki Mental Health Sector