Questions to Ask
the Physician / Psychiatrist
(Source: NAMI San Francisco)
The following are questions to ask the treating physician about
your family member which don't conflict with confidentiality
laws in some states. If you fail to learn anything from the
treating physician, try another doctor at the program or
hospital where your family member is getting treatment
- What is the diagnosis? What
is the nature of this illness from a medical point of view?
- What is known about the
cause of this particular illness?
- How certain are you of this
diagnosis? If you are not certain, what other possibilities do
you consider most likely and why?
- Did the physical examination
include a neurological exam? If so, how extensive was it, and
what were the results?
- Are there any additional
tests or exams that you would recommend at this point?
- Would you advise an
independent opinion from another psychiatrist at this point?
- What program of treatment do
you think could be most helpful? How will it be helpful?
- Will this program involve
services by other specialists ( i.e. neurologist,
psychologist, allied health professionals. )? If so, who will
be responsible for coordinating these services?
- Who will be able to answer
our questions at times when you are not available?
- What kind of therapy do you
plan to use, and what will be the contribution of the
psychiatrist to the overall program of treatment?
- What do you expect this
program to accomplish? About how long will it take, and how
frequently will you and the other specialists be seeing the
- What will be the best
evidence that the patient is responding to the program, and
how soon will it be before these appear?
- What do you see as the
family's role in this program of treatment? In particular, how
much access will the family have to the individuals who are
providing the treatment?
- If your current evaluation
is a preliminary one, how soon will it be before you will be
able to provide a more definite evaluation of the patient's
- What medication do you
propose to use? ( Ask for name and dosage level and write it
down.) What is the biological effect of this medication, and
what do you expect it to accomplish? What are the risks
associated with the medication? How soon will we be able to
tell if the medication is effective, and how will we know?
- Are there other medications
that might be appropriate? If so, why do you prefer the one
you have chosen?
- Are you currently treating
other patients with this illness?
(Psychiatrists vary in their level of experience with severe
or long-term mental illnesses, and it is helpful to know how
involved the psychiatrist is with treatment of the kind of
problem your relative has.)
- When are the best times and
what are the most dependable ways for getting in touch with
- How do you monitor
medications and what symptoms indicate that they should be
raised, lowered or changed?