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How do I prepare for a consultation with a psychological expert?

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Do you feel tired and burned out, and can’t rekindle your ability to cope with stress or rediscover your zest for life on your own? Talk with a trusted professional – it will definitely help. We can help – from finding the right expert to preparing for your first consultation with your doctor or directly with a therapist.

Let people help you. This is the first step in overcoming the symptoms of depression and mental illness. The earlier you get treatment, the greater your chances are of recovering quickly. The following checklists can support you in preparing for a consultation with a doctor, psychologist, or other professional. We also provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding a consultation with a psychological expert.

We address the following questions: 

  1. Where can I find information on help centers and experts?
  2. Can I choose which help center or expert to consult?
  3. What questions will my doctor or psychologist ask?
  4. I am afraid of talking about my depression – what should I do?
  5. Can I keep my mental illness (e.g. depression) and the treatment confidential?
  6. Do I have to take medication?
  7. Will I still be able to work?
  8. In short: The top five tips for preparing for a consultation

Important

If you’re experiencing a mental health emergency, consult a doctor immediately, or contact the "Die Dargebotene Hand/La Main Tendue" organization at telephone number 143.

Where can I find information on help centers and experts?

The Internet is full of information on points of contact and experts for psychological counseling. The immense range of offers can quickly become too much in a crisis and be a source of discouragement. However, don’t lose sight of your goal: A good first point of contact in the event of mental issues is always a doctor you trust. The medical professional can first examine and treat any possible physical causes, and can also refer you after the initial examination to a professional or help center for further psychological assessment. Depending on the problems identified in the first discussion, they can recommend the right therapy for you as a patient.

The most well known psychological problems include depression, burnout, relationship problems, eating disorders, and anxiety. Symptoms may include apathy, lack of drive, social withdraw, negative thoughts, difficulties sleeping, loss of appetite, and loss of libido.

Tip: In addition to your doctor, Pro Mente Sana also has discussion partners who are available to help you for initial clarifications regarding your mental health. There, you can sign up anonymously for a non-binding, free consultation.

Can I choose which help center or expert to consult?

In general, you can always choose which specialist you would like to talk to and consult. However, before the first consultation, we recommend clarifying in detail exactly what the costs are for psychological treatment or psychotherapy. 

Tip: Be sure to contact your health insurance before your first consultation with a specialist. Clarify which costs will be covered. Depending on the insurance terms, many health insurers have a list of recognized therapists. Or, depending on your insurance model, you may require a referral from your doctor.

As a rule, after you register with a practice or psychological help center, you will have a non-binding first consultation with the treating specialist. The goal of this appointment is to get to know each other and to clarify any unanswered questions.

Checklist: Psychologist, psychiatrist, or coach? 

  • Treatment by a psychological psychotherapist is currently only covered by health insurance if you as the patient have the corresponding supplementary insurance. Even if a psychological expert works in delegation for a psychiatrist, the costs for the psychological treatment will be covered by your health insurance. This information is normally listed on the website of the corresponding psychological help center.

  • Psychiatrists are qualified doctors specialized in psychiatry. The costs for psychotherapy at a psychiatric medical practice are covered by the basic insurance of your health insurance provider.

  • consultations with life coaches and other psycho-social counseling usually have to be paid out of pocket. Pro Mente Sana offers free psycho-social counseling for those affected and their loved ones.

Recognized psychotherapists

As a general rule, AXA recognizes all psychotherapists who are members of one of the following associations:

What questions will my doctor or psychologist ask?

The specialist will certainly ask you why you are having the consultation. They will also encourage you to talk about your life. From your depiction of the situation, a conversation will quickly develop. Your psychologist or doctor will then ask follow-up questions on your personal situation to help you and achieve your goal together.

The following checklist will help you be well prepared for your first psychological consultation.

Checklist: Lead questions during your first psychological consultation

  • Why did you ask for psychological treatment?
  • What goal do you want to achieve?
  • What do you expect from your assisting professional?
  • How much time can you or would you like to spend on the therapy?
  • How do you work best? Do you need regularly tasks or instructions?
  • Do you want your loved ones or other contact figures to be involved in the therapy?

At Pro Mente Sana, you will find additional useful information to prepare for your first consultation.

I am afraid of talking about my mental illness – what should I do?

People in a psychological crisis are often plagued by doubt and fear that they won’t be taken seriously.

These doubts and fears are completely normal. It often requires a lot of effort to trust a specialist. Don’t forget: Many people have psychological problems. Approximately half of the people in Switzerland are affected at least once in their life by a psychological crisis. Imagine your knee has been hurting for several weeks – with these physical symptoms, you wouldn’t hesitate to have yourself examined by a doctor. It should be the same if your “psyche hurts.”

Can I keep my mental illness and the treatment confidential?

Many people with mental illnesses are afraid of being stigmatized if their illness becomes known. By law, every psychiatrist and psychologist is bound by a duty of confidentiality. As a patient, you yourself can decide which people know how much about your illness history.

For this reason, it is theoretically possible to keep your mental illness and treatment secret. However, it can take a lot of strength to uphold this secrecy, which in some cases can even hinder your recovery instead of promote it.

Consider that family members and people in your circle of friends can usually tell quickly if a loved one is not feeling well. They suffer with you and go through difficult phases themselves. 

Do I have to take medication?

The specialist may prescribe medication to treat the symptoms of your illness, such as recommending antidepressants or offering the option of taking them. However, the decision regarding whether you want to take medication is yours alone to make. 

Will I still be able to work?

While for some work can be a source of energy that promotes their psychological wellbeing, for others their job can be a source of additional psychological stress. In this case, it is worth looking into whether you could perhaps work less for a period time, use up overtime, or take vacation. Sometimes, it may also be necessary for a while to get a doctor’s note to take sick leave.

In short: The top five tips for preparing for a consultation

The most important expert tip on preparing for your first consultation: Try not to worry too much. It is better to concentrate on what you would like to change in your life so that you feel better. The experts of AXA and Pro Mente Sana advise the following to ensure you are prepared for a consultation with your doctor:

  • Which expert do you want to turn to? Will you first talk with your doctor or look for a psychologist or psychiatrist in a therapist network?
  • If you wish to start with psychological or psychiatric treatment directly: Get informed about which costs are covered by your basic or supplementary insurance.
  • Preparing for the first consultation: What are your reasons for having the consultation or therapy? What symptoms of psychological strain are you exhibiting? 
  • How do you want to talk to your friends and family about your situation?

Also know that you can discontinue psychological treatment at any time. Treatment can only be successful if the patient can trust the specialist and feels comfortable speaking with them.

Important note: These checklists are not intended to replace a diagnosis by a doctor or psychotherapist in any way. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency, consult a doctor immediately, or contact the "Die Dargebotene Hand/La Main Tendue" organization by dialing the number 143.

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