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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

What Should I Tell My Psychiatrist or Psych NP: Insights from an Integrative Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in Washington, DC

Psychiatrist in Washington, DC



  1. Health and family history are important pieces of background information

  2. Your concerns, goals, and objective should shape treatment options

  3. Integrative psychiatry provides a strong basis for treating individuals holistically


Navigating the journey of mental health care can be a complex process, filled with uncertainties and questions. As an integrative psychiatric nurse practitioner in Washington, DC, I frequently encounter patients who are unsure about what information is relevant or helpful to share during our sessions. Understanding what to discuss can significantly enhance the therapeutic process, paving the way for a more personalized and effective treatment plan.

Here, I'll guide you through the key areas you should cover with your psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner (psych NP) and explain why an integrative approach can be particularly beneficial for treating mental health conditions.

Health History

Health paperwork

When you step into my office or meet with me virtually, I see you as more than just your symptoms or your diagnosis. Your health history is a vital piece of the puzzle that helps me understand you better. This includes not just your physical health, but your mental health history as well. Here's why this detailed information is so important:

  • Patterns and Trends: Understanding your past health experiences, including any diagnoses, treatments you’ve undergone, and how you’ve responded to those treatments, helps identify patterns or trends that could influence your current mental health. This insight allows for a more tailored treatment plan.

  • Physical Health and Mental Health Connection: Physical health problems can significantly affect mental health, and vice versa. For example, chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Conversely, mental health conditions can take a toll on physical health. By having a comprehensive view of your health history, we can address these interconnected issues more effectively.

  • Medication Management: Knowing your medication history, including any side effects you’ve experienced, is crucial for safe and effective treatment planning. This information helps in avoiding medications that haven’t worked for you in the past and in minimizing the risk of adverse reactions.

  • Risk Factors: A detailed health history helps identify any risk factors you may have for developing certain conditions. This could include genetic predispositions, lifestyle factors, or exposure to environmental stressors. By recognizing these risks early on, we can work together to implement preventive strategies.

In essence, your health history provides a foundation upon which we can build a comprehensive, personalized care plan. It’s not just about treating symptoms; it’s about understanding the underlying causes and factors that contribute to your overall well-being.

Family History

Mental health conditions can have a genetic component, making your family history a valuable source of information. Share any known mental health disorders within your family, including close relatives like parents, siblings, and grandparents. This information can help us identify patterns that might be relevant to your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Genetic Blueprint

Family genetics

Family history serves as a genetic blueprint that can offer predictive insights into your own mental health. Certain mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia, have been shown to have genetic components. By understanding the mental health conditions that run in your family, we can be more alert to early signs and symptoms in you, potentially leading to earlier intervention and more targeted treatment strategies.

Treatment Planning

Understanding your family history enables us to consider all these factors in your treatment plan. For instance, if there's a known genetic predisposition to a certain condition, we might monitor you more closely for symptoms or consider preventive strategies. Recognizing patterns of trauma or substance abuse in your family can guide us in offering targeted therapies or interventions designed to break cycles of behavior and foster healing.

Moreover, this knowledge empowers you. It can provide a sense of clarity and understanding about the origins of certain challenges you face, reducing feelings of isolation or self-blame. It also allows us to leverage your family's strengths, drawing on patterns of resilience and support that have benefited your ancestors and relatives.

Voicing Your Concerns

In the realm of integrative psychiatry, addressing your concerns goes beyond merely acknowledging them; it involves a deep, empathetic dive into the specifics of what you're experiencing, feeling, and fearing. This aspect of your care is paramount because it directly influences your treatment path and impacts your journey towards healing and balance. Let's explore why voicing your concerns is so crucial and how we tackle them together.

Creating a Safe Space for Open Dialogue

First and foremost, my role as an integrative psychiatric nurse practitioner is to ensure that you feel safe and supported enough to express your concerns, no matter how big or small they might seem. This safe space is the cornerstone of our therapeutic relationship, allowing for open, honest communication. It's important for you to know that your concerns will be met with understanding, not judgment.

Tailored Treatment Approaches

Your voiced concerns guide us in tailoring a treatment approach that aligns with your needs, preferences, and life circumstances. For instance, if you're experiencing anxiety about medication side effects, we might explore alternative treatments or adjust our strategy to find a balance that you're comfortable with. Your concerns help illuminate the path forward, ensuring that our chosen treatments resonate with you on a personal level.

Building Trust and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration

Addressing your concerns is also key to building trust and collaboration in our therapeutic relationship. When you see that your worries and fears are taken seriously and addressed directly, it reinforces the trust between us, making the therapeutic process more effective. This collaboration is essential for creating a treatment plan that not only addresses your mental health needs but also aligns with your values and life goals.

Setting Goals and Objectives

In integrative psychiatric practice, setting clear goals and objectives with you is more than a formality—it's a crucial step in your mental health journey. This process is collaborative and tailored, designed to reflect your personal values, aspirations, and the specific challenges you face. Let's delve into how we approach setting goals and objectives and why this step is pivotal in achieving holistic well-being.

Personalized and Collaborative Goal Setting

The process begins with a conversation, one where your voice leads. We discuss what you hope to achieve through therapy and treatment, considering both short-term objectives and long-term aspirations. These goals are deeply personal and can range from managing symptoms of a mental health condition, improving relationships and communication, enhancing coping strategies, to achieving specific life milestones. The key is that these goals are yours, reflecting what matters most to you in your life and recovery.

SMART Goals Framework

To ensure that your goals are clear and reachable, we often employ the SMART framework, making goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This approach helps in creating a roadmap that is both ambitious and grounded in reality, providing clear milestones and checkpoints along the way.

  • Specific: Goals are defined clearly and concisely, making it easier to focus efforts and stay motivated.

  • Measurable: We establish criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal, enabling us to track your achievements and adjust the plan as needed.

  • Achievable: Goals are realistic and attainable, designed to stretch your abilities while also considering your current resources and constraints.

  • Relevant: Each goal is relevant to your life and aligns with your broader objectives and values, ensuring that the outcomes will be meaningful to you.

  • Time-bound: We set realistic timelines to achieve goals, providing a sense of urgency and helping in planning and prioritization.

Holistic and Integrative Objectives

Our goals and objectives are not limited to symptom management or behavioral changes; they encompass a holistic view of your well-being. This might include:

  • Physical Health: Objectives may involve adopting healthier lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, improved nutrition, or better sleep habits, recognizing the deep connection between physical and mental health.

  • Emotional Well-being: Goals can focus on developing emotional intelligence, resilience, and coping mechanisms to navigate life's ups and downs more effectively.

  • Social Connectivity: Objectives may aim at enhancing interpersonal relationships, building a supportive social network, or engaging more fully in community activities.

  • Personal Growth and Development: We might set goals related to personal interests, career aspirations, or educational pursuits, acknowledging that fulfillment in these areas contributes significantly to overall mental health.

Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation

Goal setting is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. As we work together, we continuously evaluate your progress towards these goals, celebrating successes and learning from challenges. This dynamic process allows us to adjust and refine your objectives as needed, ensuring that they remain aligned with your evolving needs and life circumstances.

Your Hobbies and Interests

In the context of integrative psychiatry, your hobbies and interests are not just pastimes; they are considered vital components of your mental and emotional well-being. Engaging in activities that bring you joy, fulfillment, and a sense of accomplishment can have profound effects on your health. These pursuits, whether artistic, physical, intellectual, or social, serve as natural antidotes to stress, anxiety, and depression. They enhance your quality of life, provide valuable outlets for expression and relaxation, and can significantly bolster your resilience against life’s challenges.

Hobbies and interests - piano

Hobbies and interests can be as diverse as the individuals who pursue them, ranging from creative arts like painting, writing, and music, to physical activities such as hiking, yoga, or team sports. Intellectual pursuits like reading, chess, or learning a new language stimulate the mind and keep it sharp, while social activities, whether it's being part of a club, volunteering, or attending events, strengthen your sense of connection and community. These activities are not merely escapes from the daily grind; they are essential components of a balanced life, offering moments of pleasure, achievement, and immersion that are critical for mental health.

The Therapeutic Power of Engaging in Passions

Delving deeper into hobbies and interests, we find their therapeutic power lies in their ability to foster a state known as "flow" – a state of being completely absorbed and immersed in an activity. This mental state, characterized by a profound focus, creativity, and a sense of temporal distortion, is highly therapeutic. It allows for a temporary suspension of worries and stresses, providing a mental break that can be incredibly rejuvenating. Additionally, hobbies often challenge us in healthy ways, encouraging personal growth, skill development, and a sense of progress that are all beneficial for self-esteem and confidence.

Why Integrative Psychiatry?

Integrative psychiatry stands out because it doesn’t just focus on one aspect of the individual; it considers the full spectrum of physical, emotional, environmental, and spiritual influences that affect a person's mental health. This approach allows for a more personalized and effective treatment plan that can include a combination of medication management, therapy, lifestyle modifications, and complementary therapies. By treating the person as a whole, integrative psychiatry aims to not only alleviate symptoms but also address root causes, promote resilience, and enhance overall well-being.

Holistic tree

Your journey through mental health is deeply personal, and it’s my privilege to guide and support you through it. By sharing your story, including your health history and beyond, you enable us to work together towards healing, growth, and a more fulfilling life. Remember, in this safe space, every part of your story matters. Let’s embark on this journey together, embracing the holistic approach to uncover the most vibrant version of you.

Wrapping it Up

In the realm of integrative psychiatry, the emphasis is placed on a holistic approach to mental health care, one that considers the entirety of an individual's experience—including health history, family background, personal concerns, life aspirations, hobbies, and lifestyle. As an integrative psychiatric nurse practitioner based in Washington, D.C., the approach I advocate for transcends conventional treatment paradigms by focusing on the whole person rather than just the symptoms of a condition.

Understanding a patient's comprehensive health history is foundational, as it illuminates potential influences on mental well-being and informs the customization of care. Similarly, exploring family history sheds light on genetic and environmental factors that may impact an individual's mental health, guiding preventive strategies and interventions.

Setting personalized goals and objectives, using the SMART framework, ensures that treatment plans are aligned with an individual's values and aspirations, encompassing not only symptom management but also broader aspects of well-being such as physical health, emotional resilience, and social connectivity.

Addressing personal concerns with compassion and empathy is crucial, creating a safe space for patients to express fears and worries, thus enabling a more tailored and effective therapeutic approach. Furthermore, recognizing the therapeutic power of hobbies and interests highlights the significance of passion and engagement in promoting mental health, offering avenues for joy, stress relief, and personal growth.

Integrative psychiatry's strength lies in its comprehensive, person-centered approach, blending medical, psychological, and lifestyle interventions to address mental health in a nuanced, empathetic manner. This method not only seeks to alleviate immediate distress but also aims to empower individuals towards achieving long-term wellness, balance, and fulfillment, underscoring the belief that mental health care should be as unique and multifaceted as the individuals it serves.

Ryan Sheridan, NP

This blog post aims to inform and empower those seeking psychiatric care in the D.C. area and beyond, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive, integrative approach to health and well-being. If you're interested in learning more, reach out to me via email or contact me here.


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