Find a psychiatrist

Your first appointment

My name is Samantha and I'm a psychiatrist.

I work at a hospital and I would see you if you were referred by your GP, your general practitioner or any other specialist or even your counselor.

And you know, you might have a whole range of symptoms such as depression or anxiety or even memory problems.  

We would have a chat about what's going on and how I can help you. 

So it can be quite scary for someone to, come and see a psychiatrist for the first time -  they may not have seen one before.

There's often a lot of stereotypes and I guess notions about what psychiatrists are and what we do. Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time can be a bit intimidating because the appointments are generally quite long. So we would have someone seen for about minutes and I think that's not unusual.
And the reason for that is because we often want to gather quite a lot of information. 

When someone comes to their first appointment I think hopefully they have a bit of an awareness of why they've come. So, if for example they've come because they're feeling depressed you know it would be useful to have some information about their previous treatments for example.

 If they can, collate letters, or if they've written notes about how they've been feeling over the, last couple of days or couple weeks it can be really useful. 
Sometimes when you're put on the spot it can be really hard to think about you know what happened last week or the week before, so that can be really useful. 

I also think it's really good to have a list of questions. Because at the end of the appointment when I do ask, "do you have any questions?" that can be really hard when you're put on the spot to have questions like, "when do I see you next?" “what's going to happen?" "is this information going to my GP?" So you can prepare that way, and a lot of patients actually do bring a lot of notes and lots and lots of papers. 

Some people have often looked on the internet about particular treatments already, or ask about a particular diagnosis they think they've got. So people often do prepare. I think it's really good that they come in prepared with information. 

As a psychiatrist I'm really interested in finding out a lot about the person themselves and about their background and their story, because this really helps guide what kind of treatments and what kind of things they would be interested in doing and how we can help manage these symptoms. 
And so we would ask things about obviously what they think the issues are, we'd ask about their family, their family history.

We often ask about their personal history and perhaps things like growing up and going to school and university and work life. Perhaps even relationships. If the person does have a history of depression or anxiety I would obviously ask a lot about that because we do want to know about what's happened to them in the past, what things have helped them, what hasn't. Because these things are going to help us try and help them in what's going to happen for their ongoing treatment. 

I think it's actually really important that a patient does bring someone with them, if they want to. So, the reason for that would not just be for support but often as a psychiatrist I'm actually really interested in hearing what the family member or the spouse wants to say as well.

Try to think about seeing a psychiatrist like seeing any other specialty. Yes we do ask lots of questions and it might seem like an interrogation, but we're not analysing you, we're not making you sit on the couch and and turn your back to us, we're not doing anything like that. 

You know, we're just really interested in finding out who you are, and why you're here.

What will happen?

Your first appointment with a psychiatrist will usually be 1–1.5 hours long.

Your psychiatrist will:

  • listen to you talk about your concerns and symptoms
  • ask questions about your general health
  • ask about your family history
  • take your blood pressure and do a basic physical check-up if it's required
  • ask you to fill out a questionnaire.

There will usually be a lot of questions. The long appointment gives the psychiatrist time to listen to you and hear your whole story.

They might also want to speak with other health professionals or members of your family.

Your psychiatrist may order some more tests to help them understand what is going on.

Getting a diagnosis and treatment plan

It might take a few appointments for your psychiatrist to make a full diagnosis.

The next step is to work out a treatment plan.

A treatment plan is a combination of therapies that suit your health needs, personal preferences, family situation and age.

You and your psychiatrist will work together to develop a treatment plan that's right for you.

The psychiatrist might provide the treatment themselves, or they might recommend you see another health professional – for example a psychologist.

More about the treatments used by psychiatrists

What should I do before my first appointment?

Call the clinic
Read any information provided
Prepare some questions
Collect up your paperwork

Can I bring someone with me?

You can bring a family member or friend to an appointment if you want. They can wait for you outside or come in for all or part of the appointment.

You don't have to bring someone if you don't want to.

What about confidentiality?

Anything you talk about with your psychiatrist is confidential.

Your psychiatrist may need to share some of your private information with other healthcare professionals.

Your psychiatrist might suggest involving family members in your assessment. They will discuss this with you first.

A psychiatrist may be required by law to share information or a person's medical record with others. Generally, your psychiatrist will tell you first if they need to do this.

What happens next?

After your first visit, the appointments might be shorter. Your psychiatrist will focus on checking your progress and adjusting treatments.

If your psychiatrist is providing you with psychological treatments (talking therapies), you will probably see them regularly.

Your psychiatrist might recommend you go back to your GP for regular check-ups. They may also arrange for you to see a psychologist, social worker or other therapist.

If your referral was for a second opinion or management plan only, you usually won't need to go back for another appointment.


  • It can be useful to do some preparation before your appointment.
  • Call the clinic, hospital or health service if you have questions before your appointment.
  • You get a say in any treatment that is recommended for you.
  • You can bring someone with you to an appointment.
Page last reviewed Dec 2016 | C1016V1

This is a general guide only, and does not replace individual medical advice. Please speak to your doctor for advice about your situation. The RANZCP is not liable for any consequences arising from relying on this information. Subject matter experts, people with lived experience of mental illness and carers all contributed to this fact sheet.