A psychiatric assessment, also referred to as a psychiatric evaluation or psychiatric screening, is an evaluation that is performed in order to determine, diagnose, or rule out, a mental health, developmental, or behavioral condition or disorder. During a psychiatric assessment, a mental health clinician will ask questions, conduct tests, and perform observations in order to complete the assessment. During the evaluation, the mental health clinician (often a psychiatristpsychologist, or nurse practitioner) will gather information about current symptoms, past symptoms, past complaints, genetics, and other factors involved in a person’s social, education, work, and family life. 

When is a psychiatric assessment used?

A psychiatric assessment is usually administered at the beginning of the mental health treatment process. It can be administered in a hospital, in a school, or in an outpatient setting. Sometimes, a psychiatric assessment is performed an emergency basis. A psychiatric assessment is used to help the mental health clinician, usually a psychiatrist, determine a specific diagnosis. After completing a psychiatric assessment and determining a diagnosis, the mental health clinician can design and implement an effective treatment plan.

What happens during a psychiatric assessment?

During a psychiatric assessment, a mental health clinician will ask you or a caregiver about certain aspects of your life and behavior, including:

  • Your symptoms and behaviors
  • How your symptoms and behaviors impact you at school, at home, at work, and in the community
  • Your relationships with others, including loved ones, coworkers, and neighbors
  • Whether your family members have a history of mental health conditions
  • If you are experiencing any physical conditions or symptoms; sometimes, a mental health clinician may ask for a full medical history

Psychiatric assessments can also involve lab tests, which may include:

  • Blood work
  • Psychological assessments
  • Speech and language tests
  • Other standardized assessment tools