HOW TO BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE
Finding the right therapist and/or healthcare provider can be challenging, but it can change your life!
Getting these types of relationships off on the right footing is essential! The best way to do that is for you to advocate for your own needs right from the start. Remember, healthcare providers—whether they tend to your physical or mental health—work for you.
Of course, being your own best advocate is easier said than done. It’s not uncommon to feel anxiety or shame around doctors, nurses, or therapists. The reality is though successful relationships with your healthcare providers are built on safety, trust, and collaboration. Go into any and all of these relationships with that in mind.
What should you expect from your healthcare provider?
You should ALWAYS feel heard and respected. If your question or concern isn’t addressed, ask again. Do not leave your appointment without it being discussed. If your provider continues to ignore your concern or refuses to discuss without explanation, consider whether this provider is a good fit for you. You’re not obligated to stay with a provider.
Know your rights. This includes the standard Patient Bill of Rights, which outlines the treatment every patient in a clinical setting can and should expect.
Understand your health coverage. Yeah, we know how boring and stressful this one is. While most American health insurance coverage leaves a lot to be desired, it’s important to understand what’s covered and isn’t. For example, did you know that most routine exams are covered in full? Also, many people are surprised to learn their insurance covers some portion of elective services, such as therapy. If you don’t have insurance, explore your options via Washington HealthPlanFinder. Depending on your circumstances, free or very low-cost plans are available and year-round enrollment is possible if you unexpectedly lose coverage due to job loss or other life changes.
Going into every appointment, consider what you want to get out of your time with your provider. If it helps you remember, make some notes or questions to discuss and take them with you to your appointment. It’s also good to make some goals, especially if you have specific health care needs you’re working on or want to work towards.
One of the simplest ways to advocate for yourself is to ask for what you need!
A referral to specialist or other providers?
Information from your medical chart?
Respecting your own boundaries is an important part of establishing and maintaining a sense of identity, self-esteem, and crucial to mental wellbeing. Sometimes healthcare offices have patient advocacy services, they can help you with things from setting up appointments to legal concerns.
If there are specific health concerns being addressed, make sure you understand the plan for treatment or next steps. This includes how you’ll be working with your healthcare provider on follow up care.
For any diagnosis you might receive—whether for your mental or physical health—get informed! Ask if your provider has information you can take home with you or where you can find the best information online. Receiving health information can be stressful—no matter what it is. Take the time you need to understand your diagnosis, including how you should move forward with treatment.
If you’re prescribed medication, understand what it’s intended to do and what side effects you might experience, especially if any of these should be of concern. Also, if you’re on other medications, drink alcohol, or use other drugs, ask how your new prescription might interact. Do be honest with your healthcare provider about how much you drink and what other substances you use. This is important information; your provider may react with concern, but there should be no judgement.
If you need the support, bring a friend or family member to your appointment. Even if they’re only able to stay in the waiting room during your appointment, they can help remind you of your goals for the appointment and provide essential moral support!
And, finally, be firm and persistent. This is your time and you deserve to be heard and attended to with kindness, compassion, and care. You are worth it!