Diagnostic Mental Health Evaluations
A 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.
- A general evaluation is intended to collect enough data about the patient to develop an initial psychiatric diagnosis and an initial treatment plan.
- 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.
- 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.