Want to Get Better Results at Your Next Medical or Dental Appointment? Don’t Make This Mistake


No, it isn’t revealing your mental health diagnosis.  Although doing so can go either way to get better treatment.

And no, it isn’t listing every illness or injury you have had in the last 5 years.

When your appointment is wrapping up, please do not ask a “doorknob” question.

What is that?

A “doorknob” question is the one you ask as your provider is about to close the door of the exam room so that you can put your clothes back on.  

Unless the question is “Where is the nearest restroom?”, you have placed the provider in a very awkward situation, one in which any answer you receive will make both of you feel badly.

Providers are fairly stressed these days.  Between pandemic concerns, providers stretched thin, and the mountain of documentation they are expected to complete, this is the WORST TIME to ask a question.  Hands-down, the absolute worst time.

They are often jogging to the next exam room.  They are mentally moving onto the next case.  They may even be thinking that they need the restroom too!


Trauma survivors often have a really hard time thinking clearly under the stress of medical and dental appointments.  They may find that only after being with a provider for a while do they feel comfortable enough to raise a question.  And if they ask it at the very end, they get a rushed, or a frustrated, or even a visibly irritated provider responding.  That is hard to experience without feeling that your doctor or dentist doesn’t like YOU.


No one should place themselves in that bull’s eye.

In my book I try hard to explain how to plan out your actions in an appointment to give yourself the best chance at a successful experience.  I don’t think I was clear enough about not asking “doorknob questions”.  Thus…this post.

Even if your system is not helping you much, please take a moment at home to think about what you want to ask, and use your stabilizing strategies as much as you can.  You could write it down or add it to the notes on your phone.  This will allow you to be able to ask a question sooner, when you will get better results from your provider.  Allow yourself to get used to the space, and get some familiarity if they are new to you.  And of course, if your parts have questions, try to respond to them so that they know you are looking out for everyone inside.  But avoid asking a “doorknob” question at your next appointment.

Want more information on how to make your next appointment better?


I wrote a book just for you!


It is so important to me to share what I know as a healthcare provider.   Care is incredibly important, but not that easy to navigate.  There are chapters in my book that explain why receiving care is exceptionally difficult for trauma survivors.  I don’t stop there.  I am an occupational therapist.  We are focused on function, not theory. I include chapters on how to improve self-care at home, how to handle difficult treatments like surgeries and pelvic/prostate exams, and how targeted practice of your new toolkit in everyday life can help you prepare to handle healthcare appointments with a sense of empowerment!

You can grab a paperback copy (you know you love to highlight/underline/write in the margins!) or a digital download that can be read on any device using their free app if you go to Amazon .

Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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