I find that one of the most difficult places to self-advocate is in the doctor’s office. Here I am, a sick person, trying to tell the person with years of education and professional experience that I’m not interested in their proposed treatment or even proposing my own treatment. That’s a scary situation for me! Fortunately, over time, I’ve learned some ways to maintain confidence when self-advocating in the doctor’s office, and I want to share them with you.


Come with information

This can be a little difficult to do if you aren’t sure what your doctor is going to propose. However, if you have experiences like mine, you might find that your provider continues to push the same treatment plan that you’ve rejected over and over and over again. In that case, or if you’re asking for a treatment they haven’t proposed, come with information. One fantastic resource is the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine Drug Information Portal. This resource collects information from a variety of reputable sources to provide information on various drugs. You will be able to find information about:

  • How the drug works
  • FDA approved and off-label uses
  • Side effects
  • Contraindications
  • Potential interaction with drugs you already take

Coming to your appointment with information in hand shows your provider that you’re taking an active role in your care. It also shows that you aren’t just rejecting treatment for the sake of it. This can be really helpful if they’re hesitant to discuss these things with you.

Write down the reasons behind your request

Having your notes on a small card might seem a little odd, but I tend to get nervous and forget what I was going to say! I find it helpful to write them down and have them available if I forget anything. When you’re making your list of reasons, try to think of alternative proposals. For example:

  • If the drug is too expensive, try talking to your insurance company to find out what other drugs of this class (benzodiazepine, atypical antipsychotic, SSRI, etc.) are better covered by your plan. Bring a list of alternative options with you and ask to try one of them instead.
  • If you don’t like the side effects of the drug, list what those are and how they are impacting your life. Ask your doctor if there are any other similar drugs or combinations of drugs that also address your symptoms without these side effects. Ask to try one of them.
  • If you’re asking for a new type of drug or treatment, write down why you think it would help, how you feel about potential side effects, and what you would like to do if it doesn’t work.

Remember your rights!

Recite them to yourself before your appointment to remind you. Here are some of your rights as a patient/consumer:

  • You have the right to stay informed
  • You have the right to ask for what you want
  • You have the right to change providers
  • You have the right to say no
  • You have the right to look out for your own best interests, whether that be medical, financial, or anything else
  • You have the right to avoid relapse (stated because I have gotten “I know that there is abuse potential, but why don’t we just try it and see what happens, we can always pull you off if you have a problem.” WHAT?)
  • You have the right to try a lot of approaches until one or more of them work


Advocacy 101: Self-Advocacy in the Doctor’s Office with Kate Fitch
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Kate Fitch

I've been with the Network since 2015, when I started as a volunteer. I've been on staff as the Communications Specialist since January 2017. I'm currently in college and pursuing a dual BA in Public Health and Public Administration. I'm most passionate about making sure that people with mental health conditions are fairly represented in the media, at policy tables, and in treatment system planning. In my spare time, I like to crochet, knit, and be the best cat mom ever.

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