The Importance of Having a Good Relationship with Your Health Care Provider

September 30, 2012

How many of you are comfortable talking to your healthcare provider?  Do you feel the provider respects you, listens to you and addresses your questions and concerns?  If you answered “no” to either of these questions, I hope the following information is helpful to you in turning the answers from “no” to “yes.”

I believe it is essential that you have a good relationship with your healthcare provider.  In the area of mental health, I have found that the relationship between a patient and a healthcare provider directly impacts the success of treatment and recovery.

I have discovered, in my own situation, that the times I struggled the most with my treatment and recovery, where the times that I did not have a healthcare provider that I was compatible or that I believed accurately understood my condition.  As a result, I have discovered the following things in establishing a good relationship with a healthcare provider.

  • Education is Essential.

The times I had the best relationship with my healthcare provider were the times that I was educated on my condition.  Over the years, there were times that my healthcare provider never told me what he or she believed my diagnosis was.  In fact, several of the providers, particularly the inpatient hospital providers did not even explain why I needed medication or how the medication would help me.  I often was left on my own to try to understand what was happening to me.  It was when I received education about my condition from qualified healthcare providers that I began to better understand what I was facing.

  • Asking Questions is a Necessity.

When it comes to understanding your condition and subsequent treatment, you must ask questions.  I know it is often difficult to concentrate or remember what questions you need to ask so the best thing I have found is to write them down before seeing the provider.  Keep a notebook and write the answers and information down so you can refer to it.  If that is not possible, having an advocate or trusted person that can ask questions for you, is helpful, particularly when in crisis.

  • Working Together as a Team is Critical.

It may not seem possible to work as a team with healthcare providers but it is critical to successful treatment and recovery.  Often, especially when vulnerable, we feel intimidated or inferior to healthcare providers but they are there to work with you.  A good relationship takes cooperation.  This means both sides need to work together to achieve the best outcome.  I think most would agree that the primary goal is to receive proper care and treatment striving for the best possible outcome.  So the provider should strive to achieve the best course of action for you.  He or she should encourage your input in developing a plan.  Keeping in mind that this involves both sides working together, cooperating and listening to each other.  Recognize that there is trial and error involved in coming up with a plan that works best.

  • Recognizing There are Limitations Helps Achieve Success.

No one is capable of meeting all of another person’s needs.  Healthcare may be a science but everyone is unique and different so what works for one person may not work for another person.  There is no perfect healthcare provider or perfect person.  We all have limitations.  Even though each one of us has abilities and talents, it helps to find others that can support us in areas that we are less capable of handling.  But in doing so, we must realize everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  When it comes to healthcare, especially mental health, recognize that providers have limitations and do not have knowledge in every area.  Looking for a provider that has all of the answers or expecting the provider to do all the work will only frustrate you.

  • Receiving Proper Care and Treatment is Your Right.

In my own experience, I have not always received the proper care and treatment.  There were times, early on in my treatment, that I was incapable of seeking out proper care and treatment.  I was ignorant to what my rights were, especially when I had never been hospitalized in a mental health facility before I was struck with postpartum psychosis.  In a crisis situation or when little resources are available, we often do not receive the most appropriate care and treatment.  But hopefully, we have an advocate, whether a family member, trusted friend or other person that can navigate us through the often murky waters of mental health care.  In my own situation, I did, which enabled me to find the healthcare provider that ultimately recognized and diagnosed my condition.   It took time but I gradually learned that I had rights even if I was diagnosed with a mental health condition.

I learned through many trials and tribulations to not give up on myself.  Even during the times it seemed impossible, I held on to the hope that I would ultimately find the proper care and treatment and what would work best for me in my own situation.

I recognize that some of the readers of this blog do not have access to healthcare at all, let alone have access to a healthcare provider that you can have a trusting relationship.  If that is the case for you, I encourage you to take care of yourself in the best way that you can.  Seek out resources that can help you. If you can not do it on your own, find someone that can help you.  There are many organizations and programs that provide assistance in the area of mental health.  Remember that whether or not it seems like it at the time, you are your own best advocate so do not give up on yourself.

I welcome comments and feedback as we can learn through the experiences of others.

Sources and Additional Reading:

Communicate With Your Health Care Team

Talking With Your Healthcare Provider

How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Why Developing Trust with Your Doctor is Important

List of Resources