What Is a Mental Health Evaluation or Assessment?
Suncrest Counseling has licensed and trained professionals who are qualified to administer and report Mental Health Evaluations. A mental health assessment gives your doctors and mental health providers (e.g., therapists) an overall picture of how well you feel emotionally and how well you are able to think, reason, and remember (cognitive functioning). During your assessment, you will be asked questions by the clinician performing the evaluation, you and important people in your life (e.g., parents, spouse) will be asked to fill out questionnaires, and you will be asked to do some thinking “tasks.” Your evaluation will likely be conducted in two to three sessions with the mental health counselor or psychologist conducting the evaluation.
Why Complete an Evaluation?
Reasons to conduct a mental health assessment may include:
- Evaluate someone who is having problems at school, work, and/or at home. For example, a mental health assessment may be used to find out if a child’s difficulties in school are because of a learning disorder (e.g., reading problems), a behavioral disorder (e.g., ADHD, conduct disorder, family conflict), and/or emotional disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD).
- Help to understand how mental health problems are contributing to other problems like physical health issues, relationship disruptions, or even addictive behaviors.
- Check the mental health and cognitive functioning of a person who has been hospitalized or arrested for a crime, such as drunken driving or physical abuse.
- Get an accurate diagnosis of a person’s problems based on standardized assessment measures that will inform and focus treatment interventions.
Preparing for a Mental Health Assessment
For some assessments, you may be asked to bring a family member or friend with you, someone who can describe your symptoms from their view. For assessments of school-aged children or adolescents, your child’s teacher may need to answer questions about how your child acts at school. You will be asked to provide any results or documents from any psychological/educational testing that may have been done in the past,
Many medicines can cause changes in your ability to think, reason, and remember. Be sure to tell the evaluator about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. Talk with the person conducting the assessment about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, how it will be done, or what the results will mean.
What is the Process for a Mental Health Assessment?
Interviews and Questionnaires
During the initial clinical interview, the assessor pays attention to how you look, how you move, what type of mood you seem to be in, and how you behave. You will be asked to talk about your symptoms and complaints. You may be asked questions to check how well you think, reason, and remember (your cognitive functioning). He or she may ask you questions to find out how you think, how you feel about life, or whether you are likely to commit suicide. You will also be asked to complete questionnaires about any of these concerns as well.
A mental health assessment will include one or more verbal or written tests. You will be asked some questions and will either answer out loud or write your answer on a piece of paper. Your answers are then matched and compared to a “standardization sample” of hundreds of people of similar age, gender, etc. who also took those tests.
Assessments with young children vary depending on the age of the child and the suspected problem. Young children may be asked to draw pictures to express their feelings, or they may be asked to look at pictures or images of common subjects and talk about how the pictures make them feel. Parents or teachers may be asked to answer questions about a child using a checklist.
How Long do Mental Health Assessments take?
The time it takes for a mental health assessment varies depending on the reason for the assessment. In general, time spent with the evaluator usually ranges from between 3 to 5 hours total.
Results from a Mental Health Assessment
A mental health assessment gives those involved in your care, such as family members, doctors, teachers, or therapists, a clearer overall picture of how well you feel emotionally and how well you are able to think, reason, and remember different kinds of information. It can also put any current challenges in a developmental context so you can better understand not only how you are functioning but why you think, feel, and act the way you do.
Results from a mental health assessment can provide an important “snapshot” of how you are functioning at the present moment. These results can be very helpful in establishing a “baseline” measurement upon which future mental health evaluations can be based.
What Can Mental Health Evaluations Help Diagnose?
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, bipolar disorders and eating disorders
- Developmental problems, such as learning disabilities, intellectual disability, and autism
- Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug abuse and dependence
Recommendations based on the results of your testing can help focus therapeutic interventions on your most pressing and immediate concerns. If you are currently taking or thinking of taking medications to help with your challenges, a mental health evaluation can assist medical practitioners in deciding what medications would be most helpful. When appropriate, results from testing can also qualify you for accommodations in settings like a job or at school.