Talking to Your Healthcare Team

IBD-related symptoms can cause disruptions of activities and have an ongoing impact on daily activities, including dietary restrictions, lifestyle changes, and maintaining close proximity to a bathroom. These may interfere with work, school, parenting, social and leisure activities, relationships, and emotional well-being. Therefore it is very important you address the emotional impact of your disease with your doctor.

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When to seek a mental health professional When you are newly diagnosed with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, it can be hard to understand how these diseases can change your life. Seeing a clinical psychologist can be a helpful no matter if you are newly diagnosed, or have had the disease for years. Learn more!

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Working with a Psychologist for IBD Sadness, uncertainty, anxiety, are all emotions common to many patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Dr. Tiffany Taft walks us through the benefits of working with a health psychologist, and how this expertise can help you learn to cope with IBD.

Tips for bringing up concerns with your doctor:

Before the appointment

  • Write down your symptoms and questions
  • If you have a difficult time bringing emotional questions up during clinic visit, send your concerns through patient portal (eg: MyChart) or by email prior to your appointment
  • Find information from trustworthy sources that might help explain what you are going through and bring it to your doctor appointment
  • If it is helpful, take a relative or friend to the appointment

During the appointment with your doctor

  • Explain your symptoms, previous history of any emotional /psychological problems, and any medications you may have used in the past
  • Ask questions to make sure you understand what your doctor is telling you
  • Let your doctor know if you are worried about following up with a psychologist or any other mental health provider
  • Request any additional information or resources
    • Written instructions
    • Websites
    • Brochures
    • Phone apps

After the clinic visit

  • Always follow your doctor's instructions
  • Make appointment to see the psychologist / mental health provider immediately
  • If you have trouble with making the appointment, reach out to your doctor's office for more information or assistance

What to expect with a mental health therapist

A mental health therapist, much like your gastrenterologist, must be a good fit for your needs. This requires a relationship with your thereapist that is based on trust and level of comfort. The best way to begin establishing this trust and comfort is to understand when it is time to consider a mental health therapist, and ensure you ask them questions before a scheduled session begins.

Questions to ask a mental health therapist before your first session

  • What is your treatment approach?
  • Do you accept insurance?
  • How many patients have you seen with inflammatory bowel diseases?
  • Do you have any specialty training in chronic illness?
  • How long does your typical patient work with you?
  • How will you coordinate care with my gastroenterologist, or healthcare team?
  • How often will you talk to them and what will you talk to them about?

The first visit with a mental health therapist is a consultation that is focused on your experiences with IBD. The therapist may want to understand the ways in which IBD affects your daily life, and conversely, how your daily life may also affect your disease. Many sessions with a mental health therapist are short-term and can typically last for 6-8 months but can be longer if needed. This is to ensure that people with IBD are able to take the coping strategies they have learned and apply them to their disease management plan. After treatments are complete, patients are welcomed to return for booster sessions with their therapist to fill in any gaps they may be experiencing.

Effective therapy allows patients to practice the coping strategies learned in between visits. Mental health therapists may provide assignments to reinforce what is discussed during the visits.

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What you can expect during your first visit with a mental health professional Learn what to expect during a visit with a psychologist or mental health professional, and how you can work together to help you cope with the emotional challenges you may be facing.

Related Resources

Fact sheet

Emotional Factors (.pdf)...

Fact sheet on emotional factors


Mental Health and IBD Infographic...

Mental health and IBD infographic