Psychiatric evaluations are the mental health equivalent of a physical exam with a physician. Such evaluations are performed by psychiatrists to assess a person's mental status, thought processes, cognitive abilities and potential treatment options. As a diagnostic tool, psychiatric evaluations may determine specific diagnoses or highlight the need for further testing and evaluation to determine diagnosis. A psychological or neuropsychology exam may be included as part of a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, depending on the type of evaluation required.
An outpatient psychiatric evaluation is conducted in a psychiatrist's office or other outpatient mental health facility. A comprehensive evaluation includes a personal interview, mental status exam, prior medical history to include both physical and mental health, as well as additional diagnostic exams. A psychiatrist's goal for outpatient evaluations is typically diagnosis and treatment plan recommendations. Additional psychological testing may be indicated to complete a psychiatric evaluation or confirm a diagnosis. Such tests include functional assessments, personality testing, as well as IQ and other testing as needed.
A psychiatric evaluation for an adult is different than a psychiatric evaluation for children and adolescents. Adults and children have differing developmental and cognitive abilities, as well as behavior patterns. What might be categorized as abnormal behavior or responses for an adult may not be abnormal for a child or young adult. Likewise, mental illness presents with different symptoms in children compared to adults. For example, bipolar disorder in teens presents with faster shifts in mood swings than exhibited by adults with the same disorder. As such, different criteria are used based on a person's age and developmental ability.
In cases when a person's mental state or behavior warrants emergency treatment or response, an emergency psychiatric evaluation may be warranted. Typically, such evaluations are performed in a hospital emergency room or during intake at an inpatient psychiatric facility. These evaluations include personal interviews, collecting past medical histories and a mental status exam. Due to the nature of such evaluations, diagnosis is not always the primary goal but rather determining whether a person requires immediate admission and inpatient treatment for the safety of the patient or the public.
Following admission to a hospital or psychiatric treatment facility, psychiatrists typically perform a more in-depth psychiatric evaluation. If a diagnosis is currently identified, the purpose of this evaluation is to assess appropriateness of discharge, evaluate current treatments and determine an aftercare plan. In cases when no diagnosis is identified, inpatient psychiatric evaluations are intended to establish a diagnosis or refer a patient for further outpatient diagnostic testing. Primarily, the purpose of an inpatient evaluation is to determine a patient's fitness for discharge.