If your doctor or health professional has recommended a mental health assessment, there’s no need to worry—the process is straightforward and painless. Mental health issues are more common than you might think; research suggests that nearly one in five adults in the United States deal with some form of mental health disorder each year.1
A mental health assessment is an important diagnostic tool that can help you get the treatment you need. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the main elements of the mental health assessment process.
What Is the Purpose of a Mental Health Assessment?
A mental health assessment can have any of these purposes:
- Diagnose or rule out a suspected mental health disorder
- Identify a learning or intellectual disability
- Help doctors distinguish between physical and mental health issues that may cause similar symptoms
- Evaluate the mental health of a person who has been referred for problems at work, school, or their personal life and relationships
- Evaluate a person who has been arrested for crimes such as drunk driving
People often seek out a mental health assessment because they are experiencing psychological, emotional, and/or behavioral symptoms. Other people may refer them for evaluation, such as a doctor, teacher, or employer.
What Happens During a Mental Health Assessment?
The elements of your mental health assessment will depend on your specific case. However, there are a few common things that usually happen during the mental health assessment process.
Psychological testing: You don’t need to study or prepare for psychological testing, but these tests provide mental health professionals with valuable information during an assessment. The tests usually come in a questionnaire format, and they may be either verbal or written. It may be helpful to bring a friend or relative with you to provide further information about your symptoms.
Interview: A doctor or mental health professional may interview you as part of your assessment. They may ask you about the symptoms you’re experiencing and whether you have any concerns. The interview will also help the doctor see how well you can think and remember and how you interact with people.
Physical exam: Physical health and mental health are connected, so a basic physical exam is an important part of a mental health assessment. The doctor may ask about your medical history and any health issues among your family members. They’ll probably ask about any medications you’re taking, and they’ll test certain things like your reflexes and balance.
Lab tests: Urine tests and blood work are common elements of a mental health assessment; in some cases, thyroid function testing or toxicology screenings may also be performed. If there’s a possibility of a neurological problem, your doctor may also order tests like an EEG, CT scan or MRI.
What Happens After a Mental Health Assessment?
After a mental health assessment, your doctor will be able to use the results to confirm a diagnosis and choose the right course of treatment for you. Your treatment plan will depend on your specific diagnosis and circumstances. If you’re experiencing severe distress or if there’s a threat of harm to yourself or others, hospitalization may be the best treatment option. In other cases, a treatment plan that includes therapy and possibly medication may be a good fit for your needs.
There’s no need to struggle with the symptoms of mental illness—effective treatment is available. Having a mental health assessment will give your doctor an accurate picture of your emotional and psychological state, allowing them to select the right treatment for you.2 Once you have a diagnosis and treatment plan, you can learn how to manage your condition and start getting better.