If you are facing a mental health assessment, you are likely wondering what that entails. Deciding to seek counseling services to help you get your mental health back on track is incredibly brave, but feeling slightly overwhelmed with the unknown is completely normal.
It’s okay to have questions about mental health assessments and care – gathering as much information as possible beforehand will help you feel comfortable and empowered throughout the process. After all, the more you understand, the less you have to fear.
In this article, we’ll provide some basic information about the assessment process and discuss some possible outcomes.
What is the purpose of a mental health assessment?
When you go to a doctor’s office, nurses will triage you before sending in the doctor. They get a brief history of your condition, listen to your story and write down your symptoms before presenting the case to the doctor. This is done to maximize your time and allow the doctor to determine what kind of care and diagnostics you may require to get you back to full health.
When it comes to caring for your mental health, the approach is generally the same. Mental health assessments will give the counselor an idea of what level of care you might need, as well as what kind of mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.) you might need to see.
There are several reasons a person may require a mental health assessment. A few common ones include:
To diagnose or check on the status of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, anorexia or dementia
To distinguish between physical and mental health issues
To evaluate a person who has been experiencing problems at work or school
To assess a person who has been arrested for certain crimes, including physical abuse or driving while intoxicated
Following your assessment, you will be referred to a professional who can best help you on the road to mental health.
However, some common elements of a mental health assessment include:
Physical exam: A doctor may take your medical history and inquire about the health of your family members. They’ll perform some basic tests to gauge things like balance and reflexes, and they may ask what medications you’re currently taking
Laboratory tests: Blood and urine tests can reveal multiple problems; if your doctor suspects a neurological issue, they may also run tests like an MRI or EEG
Interview: You may have an informal interview with a doctor. You’ll be asked about your symptoms, and you may be asked additional questions to determine brain functioning like how well you can think, interact and remember
Psychological testing: Written and verbal assessments are an important component of a mental health assessment. These tests often take the form of a questionnaire. There’s no studying or preparation required — just answer the questions accurately and honestly
While it can feel intimidating, remember that there are no right or wrong answers during these interviews and assessments. You want to be as honest as possible; do your best to let go of any feelings of shame or embarrassment. You have much to be proud of in seeking out mental health treatment.
Will you be admitted?
A mental health assessment isn’t like taking a final exam at school — you don’t pass or fail the assessment. Instead, the mental health professionals who perform the assessment use your testing results to arrive at a diagnosis and determine the best treatment plan for you. This plan will depend on the severity of your condition, the amount of distress you may be experiencing and the risk of harm to yourself or others.
Sometimes, being admitted to a treatment program is the best course of action. The intensive help and round-the-clock support available in an inpatient setting keep people safe and stable while they navigate the recovery process. For other individuals, residential treatment may not be necessary. Depending on your circumstances, a treatment plan that includes therapy, medication or both may be the most effective way to address your mental health condition.
Ready to begin your recovery journey?
The idea of a mental health evaluation can sound intimidating, but there’s no need to shy away from a process that is meant to help you. A mental health assessment gives a thorough picture of your current psychological state, helping health professionals choose the right treatment plan for your needs. Once you know what’s going on with your mental health, you can focus your energy on treating and managing your condition.