Choosing a Doctor

Q. What should you look for in a doctor? How can you tell if he/she really understands depression?
If you are looking for a psychopharmacologist to prescribe medications to help control your depression there are a number of things to check. If you are in psychotherapy, it is important to ask prospective doctors about their opinions on the psychotherapeutic treatment of depression. Psychopharmacologists who are hostile to psychotherapy are difficult to deal with while you are in therapy.

It is always legitimate to ask any professionals you are thinking about seeing regularly about their understanding of depression, their beliefs about the causes of depression and their philosophy of treatment. You might ask about how often the prospective doctor has worked with people who have had your particular variety of depression. If you have a rapidly cycling Bipolar depression, for example, you should seek a doctor who has much experience dealing with people who have this problem. Prior to the first visit it is important to clarify with the doctor or the secretary the fee of the initial and subsequent visits, the doctor’s policy regarding missed and changed appointments, whether the doctor will accept assignment from insurance companies. If you have Medicare or Medicaid it is important to make sure that the doctor sees people with these forms of medical coverage.

Another aspect of the style of doctors is the extent to which they include their patients in the decision-making process. You might ask “How do you go about deciding which treatment is right for me?” See if you are comfortable with the method the doctor describes. Much can also be learned from how doctors respond to questions such as these. There is much difference between a doctor who welcomes such questions and answers them fully and one who is annoyed by them and answers them superficially.