Diagnostic Evaluations

Diagnostic Mental Health Evaluations

Mental Health EvaluationA diagnostic mental health evaluation or Psychiatric evaluation is a meeting between a mental health evaluation professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist) and a child, adolescent or adult in which the professional tries to obtain information necessary to evaluate or diagnose an emotional, behavioral or developmental disorder.

The major feature of a psychiatric, or mental health evaluation is one or more face-to-face interviews in which the mental health professional asks the patient open-ended and diagnosis-specific questions to elicit answers that may be relevant in diagnosing a mental health condition. The goal is to learn more about the patient’s current problems and symptoms as well as their personal and family psychiatric and medical histories.

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation may be necessary to diagnose any number of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders. An evaluation of a child, adolescent, or adult is made based on behaviors present and in relation to physical, genetic, environmental, social, cognitive (thinking), emotional, and educational components that may be affected as a result of the behaviors presented.

There are three major types of psychiatric evaluations: a general psychiatric evaluation, an emergency evaluation and a clinical consultation.

  1. A general evaluation is intended to collect enough data about the patient to develop an initial psychiatric diagnosis and an initial treatment plan.
  2. An emergency evaluation is performed when the patient has thoughts or feelings that are intolerable, or when the patient displays harmful behavior that requires a prompt response.
  3. A clinical mental health consultation is an assessment requested by another health professional, the patient, a family member or others as a means of helping diagnose, treat or manage a patient with a suspected mental disorder or behavioral problem.

Many times, families, spouses, or friends are the first to suspect that their loved one is challenged by feelings, behaviors, and/or environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious, or sad. This may include, but is not limited to, problems with relationships with friends and/or family members, work, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness, and responsiveness. It is important for families who suspect a problem in one, or more, of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for Mental Health Disorders is available.

The following are the most common components of a comprehensive, diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. However, each evaluation is different, as is each individual’s symptoms and behaviors are different. Evaluation may include the following:

  • description of behaviors present (i.e., when do the behaviors occur, how long does the behavior last, what are the conditions in which the behaviors most often occur)
  • description of symptoms noted (physical and psychiatric symptoms)
  • effects of behaviors/symptoms as related to the following: work performance, school performance, relationships and interactions with others (i.e., spouse, co-workers, family members or neighbors), family involvement, and activity involvement.
  • psychiatric interview
  • personal and family history of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders
  • complete medical history, including description of the individual’s overall physical health, list of any other illnesses or conditions present, and any treatments currently being administered
  • Possibly a physical examination (by a psychiatrist only)
  • laboratory tests, in some cases (may be used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including the following: blood tests, x-rays, and possibly DNA testing.
  • educational assessments
  • speech and language assessments
  • psychological assessments

Once a diagnosis is made, family involvement and active participation in treatment is extremely important for any individual with a mental health disorder. The physician will address questions and provide reassurance by working with you to establish long-term and short-term treatment goals for you and your loved one.