Useful Questions to Ask Professionals

Families, partners and friends often feel anxious and psychiatrists are usually busy: this can mean that you do not always know who to ask about your relative/friend’s illness. It is a good idea to have a list of the things you want to know ready before you have a meeting with any of the team involved in your relative’s care. This checklist is designed to help you get the information you need concerning the diagnosis, treatment and care plan of your relative/friend.

These questions have been included as a framework for you to use: you may not find them all helpful and there may be others that are not included. This assumes that your relative/friend is happy for the member of the team to discuss these issues with you. However, if your relative/friend is unwilling for information to be shared there will be a problem with confidentiality. It is probably best to work through this issue prior to any meetings so that you are aware of where you stand. It may be helpful to have a confidentiality agreement or an advance ‘plan of action’ set up whilst your relative/friend is agreeable and cooperative so that you can deal more effectively with confidentiality issues and emergencies when they are unwell.

For more information on the issue of confidentiality, click on this excellent guide from the Partners in Care campaign.

Questions to ask about the diagnosis

  • What illness does my relative/friend have?
  • What symptoms/signs suggest this?
  • What is known about the causes of the illness? Why has this happened to them?
  • What is likely to happen in the future? Will it get better or worse?
  • Where can we get more information about this disorder?
  • If there is no diagnosis yet what are the possibilities?
  • How long will it be before there is a diagnosis?
  • What help will I get with dealing with the behaviour/symptoms in the meantime?

About the assessment

  • What tests have been done?
  • Will any more tests be needed?
  • What are the results of the tests? How will these be acted upon?

About care and treatment

  • What are the aims of the care and treatment?
  • Who else will be involved in the treatment?
  • How often will you see our relative?
  • What is your plan for treatment? How long will it last?
  • Would talking therapies of any sort be helpful? If so, are they available locally?
  • What happens if our relative/friend refuses treatment?
  • Before discharge, how will we be made aware of what care plan is being put in place and who is responsible for working on this?
  • How can we be involved in the care planning process?

The family and the treatment

  • Will the family/friend be involved in discussions concerning the treatment of our relative’s illness?
  • What can we do to help?
  • Can we be referred to any service which will support us as a carer / family?
  • Are there any local self-help or carers’ groups?

Who to get help from, who to contact

  • Who do we contact if we are worried about something?
  • Who is the care co-ordinator or key worker?
  • How can we get in touch with you?
  • Who do we contact in an emergency?
  • How can we get a second opinion (you are entitled to this)?


  • What medication is to be used?
  • Is it a low / high dose?
  • What should the benefits of this medication be short-term and long-term?
  • What are the possible side effects of this medication in the short-term and long-term?
  • Why have you chosen this particular drug?
  • How often will the medication be reviewed?
  • Will it be necessary to take it for life?
  • Are there any other drugs that could be used if this one does not work?
  • What signs/symptoms might mean that the drug should be changed?
  • What will happen if he/she stops taking the medication?
  • Do you have any written information about this medication?

Hospital treatment and discharge

  • Who is the Consultant Psychiatrist?
  • Who is the named nurse?
  • What happens if there is no bed available?
  • How long will he/she need to stay in?
  • Is there a patient advocacy service in the hospital if my loved one needs it?
  • If they get short-term leave from hospital, when and how will I be informed?
  • What arrangements will need to be in place in order for our relative/friend to leave hospital?
  • Do you know of any other self-help techniques / approaches that will help their recovery after leaving hospital?
  • If transport is difficult, can our relative/friend be treated near us?
  • Can arrangements for benefits be installed/reinstated immediately on discharge so financial security/housing does not become a problem?
  • Who will inform utilities etc. that someone is admitted/discharged so that there is no danger of non-payment summons being incurred?
  • If it is not appropriate for our relative/friend to return home, what other options are available in our area? Who can advise/inform us about this?