***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services
New faces. New names. New environment. All of this novelty is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed.
See below for some tips that might help you figure out how to connect well with your new team as you also learn how to deal with your health issues at the same time. Test out one or more tips to see how it makes a difference in your daily interactions with your team.
1. Learn the names of your team members and how they can help you
Knowing who each team member is and what their role is in helping you achieve your health, mental health and independent living goals is very important. This will enable you to know who to go to when you have certain questions or need help with a specific task.
2. Use a notebook, schedule, binder, phone application or some kind of paper or electronic system (based on your preference) to record important information
Using a tried and true method to document team member names and contact information, electronic patient or client record logins and passwords, current health status and goals, progress to date, questions to ask for future appointments, etc. and other details can be very helpful for you.
Figuring out how to sort, organize and note down all of the tasks, to-dos, and next steps that are jumbled in your mind will help you feel more clear-minded, less stressed, and less overwhelmed.
3. Talk about your main priorities at the start of your session
Whether you are seeing your family doctor, a medical specialist, a physiotherapist, or another type of health professional, it makes good sense to focus on your main priorities, questions and needs in order of importance so you maximize your appointment rather than leaving and feeling as though you didn’t accomplish anything.
4. Ask what to expect now as well as in the short and long term future
Get really clear on what to expect in the present and the future will make a difference in figuring out your current plan and next steps.
5. If you are being referred to new professionals, ask how their roles differ from your current team and what they can do for you
When new providers become involved, finding out how they relate to your existing health care team and how they complement them is valuable. Understanding what role they play will help you know who handles what as your healthcare circle continues to expand.
6. If English isn't your first language and you find that the medical or healthcare words your team uses are hard to understand, ask if there are interpreter services or information handouts available in your language
Understanding health care words, phrases and terms are hard enough for someone who is fluent in English and is just beginning to learn about their new health condition. Tack on English as a second language or a limited understanding of English on top of it and the confusion that may already exist amplifies even more. It's ok to ask your team if they have access to interpreters or have information in your preferred language.
If they don’t, it’s still ok to ask them to slow down when they talk to you or ask them to explain something in a different way if you didn’t understand the first time. Their role is to make sure you, as their patient or client, understand what they are saying.
7. Involve your loved ones if you need extra support
Similarly, sometimes bringing your partner, family member or close friend, or having them join by phone or video-call (as appropriate and necessary) can help you, whether it is for communication reasons or because you value their organizational skills, note-taking skills, and support! Having another person you trust with you in person (if possible) or virtually can be useful, especially if you find it difficult to take in all the information on your own.
8. Keep track of your appointments so you don't miss them
Again, here is where your paper or electronic record system comes in handy! Make a note of your appointments - that’s something you don’t want to miss!
9. Ask about community resources that can help you close to home
When the time comes to explore community supports, or if you are finding it challenging to get to your appointments due to distance or transportation issues, ask about possible community resources closer to home that might be easier for you to get to.
Other providers may not look or operate exactly like the services you currently access, but it’s important to keep this in your mind as you consider your longer-term future and weigh competing factors such as your time, needs and complexities, lifestyle and quality of life.
10. If you are frustrated with your team or don't agree with their analysis or recommendations, try to keep an open conversation as much as you can
Focusing on collaborative teamwork can only help you in your journey toward optimal health and taking care of yourself. Maintaining a positive relationship with your team through your learning, growth and achievements is key. This doesn’t mean your opinions or needs have to be pushed aside - it just means you have to find some way to compromise and work toward a shared goal.
Wishing you well on your mental health journey.
Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT
Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist
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