Your health professional sits in the consulting room holding a big bucket of knowledge. Given your situation, they’ll use their professional judgement to dip into this bucket to help you get better.

You also hold a large bucket overflowing with knowledge about yourself. So it’s completely okay for you to ask questions to get stuff out of their bucket that’s going to work for you and your life.

Asking questions is a key part of the relationship that needs to be built with your health professional. The two of you are working together to improve things in your life. Research shows that the quality of the relationship you have together can predict how effective treatment will be.

Any question is okay to ask, but here are five that people find useful to get on the same page with their health professional.

1. Is what I tell you going to stay between us?

You need reassurance that your appointment is a private one. But you also need to know of any limits to confidentiality. Usually, health professionals are only able to break confidentiality if they hold concerns about the safety of you or someone else.

2. What are all of my treatment and support options?

If you receive a diagnosis, depending on the type and severity of your condition(s), there will be different treatments that might help. Generally, these fall into three categories: lifestyle changes, talking therapy and medication. Ensure you talk with your health professional about the options in each category – and their pros and cons for your situation.

4. When will I start feeling better?

This question usually won’t have a definite answer, but you need a timeframe for when you can expect some improvement if the treatment is working. Hope is an essential ingredient in recovering from – or managing – mental health conditions. Finding the right mix of treatments takes patience and some trial-and-error and it’s best to review your progress regularly so you know you’re on the right track.

4. What should I do if I need urgent support?

Most crises, like having thoughts of harming yourself, don’t fit neatly into standard business hours. Develop a plan together of who you will contact if you need urgent support and your health professional isn’t available.

5. Is there anyone else I should be seeing?

Mental health conditions are different for everyone and there is no simple answer for why people develop a condition. For most people there is a combination of reasons and often arise in the middle of stressful life events like financial stress, relationship conflict, unemployment, isolation, alcohol or drug issues or physical health conditions. While dealing with these issues you can benefit from specialist support and it complements the work you’re already doing with your health professional.

It’s important you feel comfortable asking your health professional questions. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your treatment plan and communicate your needs.

Related reading: Treatment – how much does it really cost?

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