Not that I like telling people what to say or do or anything, but a little extra preparation never hurt anyone.  If you read this post on how to find a Complimentary and Alternative (CAM) or integrative medical practitioner and made an appointment, read on as I have a few pointers to help you make the most of this new relationship.

Before the Visit

Grab a notebook because if this is your first visit to a integrative medical provider or CAM practitioner you may need it. You will most likely note right away the length and depth of questions and details about your overall health these practitioners ask.  And, you are about to ask a few yourself! 

Below are tips to get ready for your first appointment:
  • Have a written list of all allergies, surgeries, treatments, major illnesses or injuries, prescriptions and dosage, over the counter drugs and supplements you take regularly as well as general diet guidelines and exercise routines you follow.  Share this information with your practitioner.
  • Get up to date on your family medical history.  Call your relatives before your appointment, if necessary, to obtain the information. 
  • Write down why you made the appointment and what you hope to achieve.  This goal will help you later evaluate if you have achieved your goal.  Sometimes after months of treatments, you can lose sight of why you chose an alternative approach in the first place.
  • Make a list of all your symptoms and health complaints even if they seem unrelated.
  • Make and bring a list of specific questions you want to ask the practitioner while there and take notes on the responses.  

Pertinent Questions for the Doc

Keep that notebook handy, as the practitioner has asked you a lot of questions, now it’s your turn.  Here are some you should ask.  Be sure to write the answers down in case you forget and want to refer to them later.

  • Are there research studies that show effectiveness of this treatment plan?  If so, how many?
  • Where can I find information on these studies?
  • How long before I would be expected to show improvement?
  • What risks and side effects are involved with this treatment?
  • How many sessions will I require?
  • What are the costs?
  • Do you accept insurance and if so, which policies?
  • Does this treatment interfere with my other treatments, prescriptions, etc?
  • When should this treatment not be applied?
  • What should I do and not do during the treatment?
  • How do you prefer to work with patients?  Do you guide patients through self-care and decision-making or do you prefer to make most decisions?
  • What kind of after-hours or emergency care do you provide, if any?  

After the First Visit

Here are some suggestions for soon after your first appointment:

  • Look up any published studies the practitioner referenced for your treatment plan.. The best equation would be a practitioner that offers research results with clinical expertise.  Keep in mind, however, some forms of therapy are not evaluated through studies for many reasons, including the cost of clinical trials.
  • Review your notes and make sure they are complete in case you want to reference something later.
  • Contact your insurance company to confirm coverage.

During the Treatment 

Once you decide on a treatment plan best for you, follow these tips:

  • Follow all instructions your practitioner has given you.  After all, you are taking your time and money to optimize your health and if you do not do as the practitioner advises completely, you will not be able to honestly evaluate if this treatment is working.
  • Ask yourself if the practitioner is consistent in what he or she says and does.  Or, does he or she bounce around too much and suggest new experimental therapies every new visit?  
  • If a new course of action is suggested, remember to ask about positive and negative study results and to ask why the treatment is being suggested.
  • In that same notebook you started, take notes about how you are feeling in between visits to better assess this course of action and how it is working.
  • Stay positive and give the treatment the time required.  
  • Trust yourself.  Follow your intuition and instinct. If something feels off, speak with the practitioner about your concerns and make sure you are getting an adequate answer to them.
  • Ask yourself if you still feel the same about the practitioner now then when you first started working with him or her?  Is it better to move on at this time or stay with this practice?  
  • Evaluate those goals you set for yourself in the beginning and see how you are doing reaching them.
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