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Preparing for your first telehealth visit: Tips from Ravi Shah, MD

Let’s face it: first visits with a mental health professional can be intimidating. You are about to share difficulties with emotions with someone you’ve never met. In this post, our CMO Ravi Shah answers some of the most common questions and concerns we hear from people who want to get mental health care but are afraid to take that first step. 

Why do you collect so much information before the visit? 

In short, doing so will save you time and money. A comprehensive mental health initial evaluation requires us to know a lot about you, your current situation, your medical history, and your past. You can provide much of this information yourself in writing prior to the visit. Our mental health professionals will review this information before meeting you. 

Naturally, you as a person are much more than facts about your past. By gathering more information up front, we allow you and the provider to focus the visit on really understanding  your story, your challenges, and your goals. This way the clinician can also take the time to explain your medication and other options for treatment and even answer questions about side effects or other concerns you might have. 

What kinds of questions will I be asked?

Our mental health experts will start by verifying your identity and asking a few basic questions about your life, where you live, what you do for work or school, etc. Then they will ask you to describe what is bothering you the most and follow up questions that are related. They may ask some questions which you have already provided, but it’s important they understand the context behind your story. They will also ask you important questions about your mental health history like symptoms of bipolar disorder, severe substance use disorders, and other related questions to ensure that Mantra is a good fit for you. 

What’s the best setting for a first visit?

For the telehealth to work optimally, we recommend you be somewhere where you have a strong WiFi connection as cellular data connections may interrupt the flow of the visit or create delays in audio or video transmission. Beyond that, you want to find a place that is private (ie no one else in the room), and where you can speak freely. The best evaluations happen when you can be completely honest with your care team. For people who work in open-floor layouts, sometimes people find a phone booth or lactation room to use for such visits so that they can maintain privacy. 

If the clinician believes a medication may help you, then they will have it delivered to your door in beautiful (and reusable!) packaging. In addition, we’ll have a coach follow-up with you to set goals for your treatment and follow-up on your medications. We are here to help you on your journey by answering questions or concerns as well as making sure the medications are making a meaningful difference in your life. If they're not (or they're causing more harm than good), then we'll help you adjust, change, or stop them as appropriate.

What’s better, telehealth or in-person treatment?

That depends in part on your condition and in part on your preferences. For many, telehealth visits feel less frightening and easier to work into their schedule (in terms of time and money). For patients with more severe mental illness, in-person care may be more appropriate. Ultimately, we believe good care can be delivered in either format, but the key is that if you are suffering, please get help in a way that works for you. At Mantra, we believe everyone deserves world-class mental health care. 

Have more questions about your first visit at Mantra? Ping me at @RaviShahMD