Patient & Family Resource Center

Effective treatment can help you feel and function better at home, work or school. It can improve the quality of life for the person receiving treatment as well as family and friends.

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What should you expect from treatment?

When a health care provider offers information about treatment options, it can be difficult to absorb and remember all the important points. Consider taking a friend or family member to the doctor's appointment, and ask your friend or family member to take notes.

Ask your healthcare provider these questions:

What is your working diagnosis of my condition?

What treatments are usually recommended for people with this diagnosis?

What treatment plan are you proposing for me, and why?

What results should I expect, and by when?

What are the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment plan?

What information should I bring to each appointment to help you assess whether treatment is working?

What symptoms or side effects should trigger a phone call immediately?

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Why do I need a treatment plan?

A treatment plan is a starting point in the journey toward wellness. A treatment plan might involve a single approach (for example, talk therapy) or a combination of several approaches (for example, talk therapy, medications, and daily meditation). Typically, a number of adjustments are required before the best treatment or combination of treatments is found. Even after a treatment plan has been in place for a while, adjustments may need to be made periodically.

When you meet with a healthcare provider to develop or modify your treatment plan, bring a list of questions. It can be difficult to remember everything the healthcare provider says, so it's a good idea to bring a friend or relative with you to take notes.

Getting effective treatment for a mental health condition is very important:

  • The right treatment can help people feel better and function better at home, work or school
  • The right treatment can improve quality of life for both the individual receiving treatment and his or her family
  • The wrong choice of treatment can have serious consequences
Learn more about treatment options

What is your working diagnosis of my condition?
Since there are currently no diagnostic tests (such as blood tests or x-rays) for mental health conditions, health care providers make a mental health diagnosis based on what they learn by talking with you (and perhaps with family members). Sometimes they use a structured interview questionnaire to make sure they ask all the important questions.

Ask your health care provider how he or she arrived at your diagnosis. What information was considered most important in arriving at the diagnosis?

What treatments are usually recommended for people with this diagnosis?
Ask your provider whether there is anything about your health history, risk factors, or symptoms that would suggest a different approach than the standard treatments.

To familiarize yourself with the most up-to-date treatments for mental health conditions, you may want to explore these resources:

  • Healthy Minds page of the American Psychiatric Association web site for information about common mental health conditions and their treatment
  • Family Resources page of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry web site for information about common mental health conditions in children and teens and their treatment, including the latest information on psychiatric medications
  • Help Center page of the American Psychological Association for information about the role of psychotherapy, mind/body approaches, and other treatment approaches for mental health care

What treatment plan are you proposing for me, and why?
Find out whether the proposed treatment plan includes medications, talk therapy, and/or other approaches (for example, daily meditation or alternative/complementary medicines). Why is each element of the treatment plan being proposed? How often will you and the provider discuss your progress and evaluate whether the treatment is working? How long are you expected to follow the plan (for example, how long should you take medication or go to talk therapy)?

If medications have been prescribed, ask whether the medications are FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) approved for this particular use. If not, what is the evidence for prescribing these medications for this condition?


What results should I expect, and by when?
Some medications take a number of weeks before they begin to work, while others take effect right away. Find out when the treatment can be expected to begin working. Ask how your provider will know if the treatment plan needs adjustment.


What are the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment plan?
Inquire about the improvements you should expect from the treatment, as well as the common and less common side effects of any medication that is being prescribed. Ask your provider to explain the risks of the treatment plan versus the risks of not treating your mental health condition.


What information should I bring to each appointment to help you assess whether treatment is working?
Your provider may want you to track your symptoms or medication side effects in between appointments. He or she may give you monitoring forms to track your mood, any side effects, or other relevant information.


What symptoms or side effects should trigger a phone call immediately?
Ask your provider what circumstances would warrant an emergency call to him/her or to 911. For example, symptoms that might constitute an emergency could include suicidal feelings or behaviors, or unusually threatening words or behaviors. Medication side effects that your provider might need to know about right away could include symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or vision changes.