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How to Foster a Positive and Effective Doctor-Patient Relationship

The doctor-patient relationship is such a critical one. I view it as a partnership that forms so you have someone on your side against the bipolar disorder. If you don't feel like your psychiatrist or other healthcare provider is on your side, it just doesn't work.

Sometimes, this can happen right out of the gate – as soon as you meet – and other times, a degradation of the relationship can happen over time. Either way, here are a few tips for fostering a positive and effective doctor-patient relationship.

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Tips for a positive doctor-patient relationship with bipolar

Based on my own experience, I recommend trying these tips during any doctor-patient interaction:

Be open to their perspective.

Many of us have had bad experiences with our doctors. This can make us closed off when one speaks. This is understandable but not helpful when it comes to fostering a positive doctor-patient relationship. You want them to listen to you, so you need to listen to them, too.

Give their treatments an honest try.

Some of us reflexively don't want to try specific treatments, and sometimes this is entirely warranted. But all things being equal, giving a doctor's treatment suggestion an honest try is important. Remember, they treat people like you every day and sometimes can see things that you can't. If you refuse their suggestions, you're not respecting their expertise.

Be open and honest with your doctor.

I've been guilty of hiding things from my doctors before. This is a mistake. A doctor can't effectively help you if they don’t have all the information.

Be forthright about what you need.

Doctors can't read our minds and sometimes aren't aware that we aren't getting our needs met. I recommend writing down the critical things you need from an appointment ahead of time and then making sure those are covered before you leave. If you can't get your needs met in one appointment, say so, and see what can be done about booking another appointment or a longer appointment.

Ask questions.

Sometimes, doctors speak in dictums, and it can feel like we're just supposed to be following orders, no questions asked. This isn't how treatment is supposed to work, though. Ask all the questions you need to understand why the doctor is making certain treatment suggestions.

Be tactful.

Sometimes, we have to say things the doctor is not going to like. If this happens, try to be tactful about it. They have feelings (and maybe a big ego), too.

Speak up if you feel like your doctor isn't listening.

It's so hard to deal with a doctor who seems to not listen to you. If this happens, try saying something like, "I may not have been clear. I need to say..." Also, you may want to say, "What are you thinking about...?" These statements try to ensure you are getting feedback on what you're saying while being tactful about it.

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The relationship is a 2-way street

I know it's unfair to put the work of having a positive and effective doctor-patient relationship on your shoulders – after all, you are the one with the illness, and there are 2 people in the relationship. But, unfortunately, sometimes it does fall to us to make it work. We have the most to lose when things go wrong.

Finally, if you can’t make the doctor-patient relationship work, no matter what you do, try to get a new doctor. As I said, your doctor and you form a team that fights the illness. You will never be as successful fighting the illness alone as you will with another person on your side.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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