Northwestern Medicine explains that a psychiatric evaluation, also known as a psychiatric assessment or psychological screening, is the process of gathering information about an individual within a psychiatric service, with the purpose of making a diagnosis. Tests and assessments are two separate but related components of a psychological evaluation. A psychological test is used to measure an individual’s different abilities such as one’s aptitude in a particular field, cognitive functions (e.g., memory, spatial recognition, etc.) or even certain traits. These tests are often referred to as “norm-referenced tests” and are based on scientifically tested psychological theories. They have been developed and evaluated by researchers and proven to be effective for measuring a particular trait or disorder. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “psychological assessment can include numerous components such as norm-referenced psychological tests, informal tests and surveys, interview information, school or medical records, medical evaluation, and observational data.” It provides the diagnosing medical professional with a complete picture of one’s emotional state, as well as one’s strengths and limitations, all of which are essential to providing an accurate diagnosis.
A psychiatric evaluation is generally comprised of a series of formal or structured psychological tests and clinical interviews “designed to identify and describe emotional, behavioral, or learning problems” conducted by a licensed psychologist. One common assessment technique, for instance, is a clinical interview. This involves a personal exchange between clinician and client, where the diagnostician will ask in-depth questions about one’s reported symptoms (e.g., how long they last, how intense they are, etc.), how the symptoms interfere with one’s daily life, and will make observations of one’s attitude and behavior to gather information needed for diagnosis. Psychological questionnaires are another tool used to help determine a diagnosis. Mental health professionals also closely adhere to the criteria provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This manual contains descriptions, symptoms, diagnostic criteria as well as statistics concerning, the typical age of onset, the effects of treatment, and common treatment approaches.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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