Below are some tips that may help you communicate with your doctor, along with sample questions that should be a regular part of discussions with your doctor.

1. Write your questions before your visit.
Preparing written questions before your visit will help organize your thinking and get the most out of the time you have with your provider. Some sample questions are provided below.

Sample Questions

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What does it mean?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What is my treatment plan?
  • Why is this medication recommended?
  • What symptoms will be helped by this medication?
  • What side effects might I expect?
  • Do you have any suggestions for dealing with side effects?
  • Can I safely continue the medication if I should relapse (if not, are there other medication options for me?)
  • When can I expect relief from my symptoms?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of my medication?
  • What serious reactions are possible, and what should I do if I experience a reaction?
  • What medical tests or lab work will I need?
  • How long will I need to take medication, and will my dosages likely change?
  • Should I change my diet, activities or lifestyle in any way?
  • What follow-up appointments will I need?
  • Do you suggest any other treatments?
  • Do you recommend any support groups for me, my family or friends?
  • How can I call if I need to talk with you or your staff?
  • What should I do in case of an emergency?

2. Tell your provider at the beginning of your session that you’ve come prepared with questions.
This will alert the provider to allocate time for your questions as part of your session. Be prepared with a pencil and your list of questions, so that the time will be used efficiently.

3. It is very important that you share key information with your health care provider, so that the best possible medical recommendations can be to fit your needs and lifestyle.
Make your comments short and to the point. As with your questions, you may want to prepare ahead so that your comments are organized. Remember, you know yourself better than anyone.

Sample Information to Tell Your Doctor

  • If there is a certain type of medication(s) that you’ve used in the past that has been successful in treating your symptoms
  • Any medications that you’ve tried in the past that have not worked
  • Your drug(s) of choice and the last time you used, how much and for how long
  • Events that trigger your substance use. How using one or more substances has helped you/your life
  • How using one or more substances has hurt you/your life
  • If there are certain occasions or situations when your mental health symptoms get worse
  • The last time you were hospitalized (times, dates, locations,and reasons)
  • A full list of your medical conditions
  • If you have any allergies
  • Your personal, professional, physical, spiritual and other goals
  • How an improvement in your conditions will help you meet the above goals

About a treatment facility: Here are some questions you might ask when selecting a treatment provider:

Does the treatment that is provided by the mental health or alcohol and drug treatment center match my needs?

  • Does the treatment provided by the mental health or alcohol and drug treatment center focus on all of my conditions (such as addiction -and- mental health needs)?
  • Is there a component where I can be evaluated by a psychiatrist with addictions experience to determine whether medication treatment is an option for me?
  • What is the treatment center’s policy for prescribing medications to treat withdrawal or help control cravings?
  • What is the treatment center’s policy for evaluating for mental health medication treatments even if I continue to use substances?

Is the treatment center individualized and welcoming?

  • Does staff use a non-confrontational and supportive approach?
  • Is staff welcoming from the receptionist to the therapist? Will I being treated with dignity, courtesy, and respect by all staff at the mental health, or alcohol and drug treatment center?
  • Is staff accessible and available?
  • Do the treatment center services address my cultural and other individual needs?
  • What special training do treatment center’s staff receive to learn about treating both my addictive and mental health needs?
  • In what ways am I a partner in treatment? How are my wants, needs and opinions considered by the treatment center’s staff?

Is there evidence of quality?

  • Is the treatment center’s environment clean, well maintained and physically accessible?
  • What are the treatment center’s provisions to maintain my privacy and confidentiality?
  • Am I informed of my rights and responsibilities and the responsibilities of the mental health or alcohol and drug treatment center?
  • Is the treatment center accredited and/or licensed?
  • How are my opinions considered (for example, will satisfaction surveys be administered and, if so, how often and how will my input be used)?
  • What are the credentials of the mental health and/or drug abuse treatment center’s staff?
    Are services a financial match with my resources?

  • Does the mental health or alcohol and drug treatment center accept my insurance or method of payment?