If you or someone you love is facing a mental health assessment, you’re not alone. Studies indicate that nearly one in five American adults struggle with some type of mental illness each year.1 However, you may not know exactly what to expect at your assessment. You might not be sure what kind of testing is involved, and you may wonder if these assessments always lead to being admitted.
It’s normal to have questions; gathering as much information as possible before your mental health assessment will help you feel comfortable and empowered throughout the process. 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?
There are a number of 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
What Happens During an Assessment?
Mental health assessments don’t follow a one-size-fits-all formula—the components of an assessment will vary between clients. 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 gauge 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.
Will You Be Admitted?
Having 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 the results of your testing 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.
In some cases, 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 keeps people safe and stable while they navigate the recovery process. For other individuals, residential treatment may not be necessary. Depending on your individual circumstances, a treatment plan that includes therapy, medication or both may be the most effective way to address your mental health condition.
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.2 Once you know what’s going on with your mental health, you can focus your energy on treating and managing your condition.