Would you know what to expect during your first psychiatric evaluation? If you were accompanying a loved one, would you know what to do or say? Would you be able to offer the detailed information needed to help mental health professionals determine treatment needs? Most people would not. So lets discuss what a mental health evaluation is, what to expect, and what to bring.
A mental health assessment is one of the most important parts of a meeting with a mental health professional. An evaluation allows a mental health professional or clinician to evaluate need, level of impairment, or to give them a detailed picture of what the person might need during treatment. You can consider a mental health evaluation or assessment to be similar to a “first date” or interview. The purpose of the meeting is for you or your loved one to understand what treatments can be offered and for the mental health professional or clinician to understand the needs of the person seeking help. Let’s look at the most important parts of this first meeting:
A Mental Status Examination (MSE) is used by the clinician or mental health professional in evaluating immediate need for help or psychiatric intervention. A MSE consists of a mental health professional using their eyes, ears, social skills, and clinical experiences to evaluate level of impairment. A professional will look at a person’s clothing or ability to dress themselves, tone of voice, level of eye contact, level of insight into need for treatment, judgment in personal matters, thinking patterns, and orientation (if the person is capable of knowing what time zone they are in, where they are, and why). These are very important for a clinician or mental health professional to evaluate to determine if the person seeking help is experiencing psychosis, suicidal, or homicidal thoughts.
A “safety plan” or behavioral contract is usually developed for children and adolescents. Adults may be offered what is known as a “behavioral contract” or a wellness plan which lists crisis contact information, important phone numbers, and coping skills to help the individual cope with stressors or events that may send them over the edge. Safety plans, wellness plans, or behavioral contracts are all used to help the individual regulate their emotions and reach out for help before engaging in drastic behaviors such as suicide, harming others, or self-injurious behaviors like cutting.
Consents or authorizations allows the individual to share information about his or her healthcare history. Information on medication history, success or unsuccessful treatments, medical history, etc. are all needed for mental health professionals to treat the individual seeking care. Without consents or authorizations, it will be difficult for a mental health professional to receive much needed information to complete the person’s picture of health care. Even more, consents are also important for extended family members or individuals such as spouses who may need to help the individual make important healthcare decisions. The consent gives permission to all who sign it to make decisions on the behalf of the individual seeking care. Without consents, everyone’s hands are tied and nothing can be done.
An assessment or evaluation includes a series of questions about family history, trauma history, abuse history, substance use/dependence, social history, relationships, family discord, reason for seeking help, current needs, previous mental health treatment, previous and current medication use, history with suicidal thoughts, criminal history (if applicable), etc. The assessment/evaluation allows the mental health professional to understand why the individual is seeking treatment.
A treatment plan is necessary for all mental health professionals to construct using a variety of information received from the individual seeking treatment, other health professionals such as medical doctors, and sometimes extended family, friends, or teachers. The last portion of paperwork during the assessment, treatment planning should be done with patience and an interest in understanding and catering to the needs of the patient or client. Treatment plans are used to help the helping professional and person in need design a course of action, choose appropriate treatments, and set goals and expectations for therapy sessions. Treatment plans are updated frequently throughout treatment.
For more information on the step-by-step process of mental health evaluations, visit my sister-site here.
I wish you well