A mental health assessment is conducted at the initial intake session for therapy services. It is completed with one of our clinical outpatient staff with the aim to get a complete picture of the emotional state and overall health status of the person seeking mental health services. The assessment includes a wide variety of questions ranging from your general history including where you were born, to current stressors and mental health symptoms you are experiencing. This assessment helps providers to identify areas of focus for therapy, and examine an appropriate mental health diagnosis.
Lasting approximately one hour, a psychiatric evaluation gets to the heart of why you need help. We ask questions to help guide us toward selecting the most appropriate medication and other treatment options for you. Reasons to seek our help may include experiencing feelings of sadness, worry, fear, hearing and seeing things you can’t explain, or feeling overly suspicious of others. You can bring anyone with you to this appointment if you feel they will help us better understand how you’ve been acting and feeling.
Purpose A psychological evaluation is usually done upon the request of a person or third party who is seeking assistance in identifying mental health, behavioral and/or educational problems as well as assistance in developing ways to remediate or treat the identified condition. The psychologist doing the evaluation uses a combination of techniques to help define a person’s emotional state, personality, capabilities and/or other aspects of psychological makeup. The scope of the evaluation is based on the referral questions; tests and interview questions are targeted to best address the identified purpose. Psychological evaluation is also helpful as a follow-up tool to measure progress or change.
Method Assessment of psychological functioning entails measurement of a range of competencies and attributes that can be evaluated through multiple methods. Psychologists have a choice of many well-standardized and psychometrically sound tests with which to evaluate an individual. Some are “self-administered” – as when someone “takes” a “paper and pencil” test – and others are administered by an examiner. Conclusions regarding a person’s psychological status are never based on a single test score or number. It is the psychologist who integrates the various tests results and other information into a cohesive profile.
A Psychological Evaluation often entails a clinical interview prior to or after the administration of tests. Clinical interviews are more open and less structured than formal testing and give those being interviewed an opportunity to convey information in their own words. Interview questions address the individual’s present experience, personal and childhood history, recent life experiences, work and school history, and family background. In the case of a psychological assessment of a child the parents are often interviewed and may complete standardized rating scales relative to their child’s emotions and behavior. Similar scales are often given to school personnel to gain information on how the child behaves in the school setting.
Cautions and Considerations Psychological evaluation should never be performed in a vacuum. A part of a thorough evaluation of an individual should be consideration of possible medical factors. A medical examination to rule out the possibilities of physical, disease or neurological causes for the individual’s symptoms may be necessary prior to conducting a psychological assessment.
Typically psychologists seek to integrate the information gathered from a psychological evaluation into a comprehensive and complete understanding of the person being tested and then treatment recommendations or implications for other aspects of an individual’s life are developed from that understanding. There are important limitations to bear in mind relative to the use of psychological evaluations. The evaluation provides a “snapshot” of the client at one point in time. A client is usually seen only once or twice in the course of the evaluation process and there is not the benefit of observing a client’s functioning over a longer period of time. Further, the evaluation is based on the available information. Therefore, if limited background information is provided, the results will be limited as well and, of course, the truth of the information provided to the psychologist affects the validity of the evaluation results.
Often a psychological evaluation has to be approved in advance (pre-certified) for coverage by a third party payer apart from the treatment coverage that may have been previously determined. Thus the specific benefits design pertaining to psychological evaluations in an individual’s insurance plan needs to be clarified and then the third party payer has to “pre-cert” the particular purpose, billable time allowed and methods employed before coverage is established. Psychological evaluations can vary from an hour for one self-administered “paper-and-pencil” test to more than a day depending on the purpose for the evaluation.
Psychological evaluation is an assessment process that uses a combination of techniques to help arrive at hypotheses regarding a person’s emotional state, personality, capabilities and/or other aspects of psychological makeup. It is also referred to as psychological testing or conducting a psychological battery. Such assessment is most useful when a referral source wants assistance in identifying mental health or educational problems (such as in clarifying a psychiatric diagnosis) and ways to remediate or treat the identified condition. The scope of the evaluation is based on the referral question; tests and interview questions will be targeted to best address that specific inquiry. Psychological evaluation is also helpful as a follow-up tool to measure progress or change. A psychological evaluation is performed by a licensed psychologist, or a psychology trainee (such as an intern). Psychologists are the only profession that is expertly trained to select, perform, interpret and integrate the results of psychological tests.