Questions to Ask a Psychiatrist
about Treating a Patient with Bipolar Disorder
The range of questions would depend on whether this is an initial
appointment, an appointment or meeting to discuss the evaluation and
treatment plan, or just an ongoing inquiry. If it is an initial meeting,
focus on issues of competence and treatment approach.
Here are some general ideas:
Questions for an Initial Appointment:
- Where and when did you go to school? Where did you get your
- Do you have any hospital affiliation? (i.e., does the doctor have
admitting privileges at a local hospital).
- If there is no hospital affiliation, ask where the doctor recommends
hospitalization if necessary and whether or not s/he has enough
connections with the medical personnel at that hospital to have some
input into treatment.
- What's your general view towards hospitalization? In other words,
under what circumstances, if any, would you deem hospitalization to be
necessary? Are there other circumstances under which you might view it
- What is your general approach towards treating bipolar disorder?
- What medications do you typically use to treat bipolar disorder and do you have a particular bias for or against the use of specific medicationss (or a class of medications) in this disorder?
- What's your feeling on the use of psychotherapy to support the
- What's your feeling on the use of ECT with bipolars?
- Will your sessions focus exclusively on medication management or
will there be time for additional feedback and discussion?
- Do you think family/spouse involvement is important in the treatment
- What do you see as the appropriate role for the loved ones?
- What are your feelings on loved ones attending the sessions?
- Will it be possible to reach you after hours in the event of an
emergency or crisis? If so, how?
- As a loved one, will it be possible for me to provide and receive feedback on how treatment is going?
- As a loved one, what kind of feedback would you like from me?
- Nuts & bolts type questions: How much do you charge? What are your billing procedures? What are your cancellation policies? How long are the sessions? How often would you want to see the patient? If finances are a problem, are you willing to work with us on applying for assistance (to public agencies, social security, drug company programs, etc.)?
Questions Following an Initial Evaluation (these assume that the above questions have all been asked and answered)
- What, specifically, is the diagnosis?
- What is the treatment plan?
- What medications will be used? What is the purpose of each
medication? What are the side effects? How long does it take for this
medication to take effect (typically)? Will regular bloodwork be
- If stability isn't achieved with this med, or combination of meds,
what would be the next step?
- In addition to taking the medications, what recommendations do you
have for dealing with this illness? (e.g., regulating sleep cycles,
mood charts, psychotherapy, family therapy, etc.)
Other Guideslines to Chosing a Psychiatrist or Therapist
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