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Psychiatric Evaluation

If someone is struggling with mental health issues, a psychiatric evaluation can be the first step in getting the insights and support needed to overcome mental health challenges.

A psychiatric evaluation (also called a “psych evaluation,” an “expert comprehensive evaluation” or a “clinical independent evaluation”) is a type of assessment conducted to provide insight into someone’s mental health.

Psychiatric evaluations are performed by psychiatrists certified by one of the following professional organizations:

  • The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or
  • The American Board of Osteopathic Neurology and Psychiatry.

In an emergency situation where a certified psychiatrist is not available, a mental health clinician may also conduct a psychiatric evaluation.

Types of Psychiatric Evaluations

Psychiatric evaluations are conducted under different circumstances. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the four types of psychiatric evaluations are:

General Psychiatric Evaluations

This psych evaluation typically aims to determine if a person has a mental illness that needs specialized care by a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist obtains the necessary information by interviewing someone (and sometimes their family members). Answers are gathered orally or in writing.

In addition to an interview, the psychiatrist can review the person’s medical history and order necessary lab tests to determine if an underlying medical condition is present. Additional testing can include:

  • Blood tests
  • Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, particularly in the brain
  • Educational assessments
  • Speech and language assessments
  • Psychological assessments

Emergency Psychiatric Evaluations

An emergency psychiatric evaluation is usually performed when an individual:

  • Is agitated and uncooperative
  • Shows violent or self-injurious behaviors
  • Poses a threat to self or other people

A majority of people who receive emergency evaluations have recent trauma or drug use. Examples include people who have used cocaine which resulted in stimulant-induced hallucinations. In the emergency department, a non-psychiatric physician first evaluates the case. If the physician rules out medical causes, they may consult a psychiatrist.

Psychiatric Evaluation via a Clinical Consultation

These are the most common types of evaluations, and are used to help diagnose people having problems with their behavior or thinking. Someone who thinks they have a mental disorder may request a clinical consultation type of psychiatric evaluation. But some people may not be able to seek help due to their illnesses. A clinical consultation may be performed at the request of family members or a doctor. However, the psychiatrist has to inform the person about the evaluation.

Where a person gets a psychiatric evaluation often depends on their circumstances. People can get psychiatric evaluations in different settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Emergency departments
  • Outpatient facilities, such as office-based practices like LifeStance Mental Health Care Clinics
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Home care services
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Schools
  • Prisons

Psychiatric Forensic Evaluation

A psychiatric forensic evaluation is conducted to provide information to a court or legal system in cases where mental health issues are relevant to the legal proceedings. The findings may be used to determine competency to stand trial or assess a person’s mental state at the time of an alleged offense.

The Process of Psychiatric Evaluation

Psychiatric evaluation involves a detailed assessment of a person’s mental and emotional health. The evaluation typically involves the following steps:

  • Initial interview: The psychiatrist or mental health professional will conduct an initial interview to gather information about the person’s mental and emotional state, symptoms, and history.
  • Physical examination: A physical examination may be conducted to rule out any medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms.
  • Psychological testing: Psychological testing may be conducted to provide further insight into the person’s psychological functioning and inform diagnosis and treatment planning.
  • Diagnosis: Based on the assessment, the psychiatrist or mental health professional will provide a diagnosis of the person’s mental health condition.
  • Treatment planning: The psychiatrist or mental health professional will develop a treatment plan based on the person’s diagnosis, symptoms, and goals.
  • Follow-up: The person will be monitored and evaluated regularly to assess treatment progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.