March 8, 2021

One of the most daunting tasks people may have to face in life is making that initial visit to a psychiatric hospital to enquire or address mental health concerns.

This could be due to the fear they have about hospitals, the myths that they might have heard of, lack of awareness about what to expect, how things work and whether they would be helpful, and more.

There could be a sense of nervousness leading up to the first appointment.

Approaching a psychiatric hospital is a step towards a cure and bettering a person’s well-being, and it should not add more stress to them.

To avoid this, it helps to know a few things that one can expect during their first visit and the truth behind the myths created around them.

1)    Expect questions about the patient’s medical history

One of the first things that are asked in psychiatric hospitals is the patient’s prior medical and psychiatric history.

Therefore, carry a file with the medication prescriptions, scans, medical concerns and diagnosis (psychiatric and other), and details about family history in psychiatric issues, if any.

If any other psychiatrist or a medical institution was consulted before, those details must also be provided.

2)    Expect check-in questions about self

Despite submitting all the records, the psychiatrist would want to know about the current issues that the patient might be facing, how the person is feeling, the reason for the visit, and the expected outcome.

So, they might ask open-ended questions about the same and help them open up and make them feel comfortable. One thing to note is that confidentiality is strictly maintained in these hospitals.

3)    Expect feeling different and overwhelming emotions 

During the visit to a psychiatric hospital, the patient might communicate with a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, or a mental health counselor.

And these visits might not go like they usually do with a physician. The questions asked by the medical professionals might elicit strong emotions in the patient as he or she discusses the various concerns they have.

They might also end up feeling sad, angry, teary, etc., especially if those emotions have been suppressed for a long time.

This need not be something to be concerned about. These hospital visits are about mental health and well-being, and expressing one’s emotions is healthy.

All the doctor’s offices will have a box of tissues, and one can use them without hesitation.

Some questions about the patient’s history might elicit past trauma or abuse that they might not be comfortable discussing.

It is ok to let the mental health professional know about it, and they will guide the patient through the process. Again, privacy and confidentiality are given the utmost priority, unless of course, the patient is a threat to themselves or others.

4)    Expect developing goals and plans for the future

Whether it is a consultation with a psychiatrist, a clinical, or a counseling psychologist, they would discuss medications, treatment options, or homework exercises after the initial assessment, whichever is necessary for the patient.

The treatment plans may be medication prescriptions, referrals to other specialists like a psychotherapist or a neurologist, etc.

They could also discuss the level of care and supervision necessary based on the condition of the patient.

In-patient treatment or out-patient treatment options may be discussed based on the severity of the issue.

They could also recommend lab tests, scans, or baseline tests that must be taken to make an accurate diagnosis, before initiating medications.

5)    In-patient treatment or hospitalization is not forced

Suppose the patient who has visited a psychiatric hospital seems to be in a critical condition and needs hospitalization, like in the case of attempted suicide.

In that case, consent is taken from the patient or a family member while getting them hospitalized. The medications prescribed are also explained and are suggested on approval and are not forced. 

6)    The first visit to the first psychiatrist may not always be the right fit

A successful fit of the psychiatrist or a mental health professional depends on the patient-doctor relationship (therapeutic relationship) and their rapport.

Many mental health professionals work with different modalities, schools of thought, and therapeutic intervention models, based on their specializations.

The right therapy or treatment also depends on the fit of these modalities with the client’s personality, attitude, and approach.

Therefore, patients need to visit mental health professionals in psychiatric hospitals with an open mind, observe and provide feedback about how he/she is feeling about the sessions.

They usually consider it and modify the therapeutic techniques based on the patient’s necessities. If not, they will refer them to other doctors or professionals who might be a better fit.


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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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