Why Take an Assessment?

Each of us seeks answers when the trials of life strike. And, we seek to understand what is going on within our children when they are having emotional or behavioral problems. Assessment can help us find those answers.

Our group provides a variety of assessments to help guide quality, effective treatment. The most general assessment is a Mental Health Assessment and is a routine part of our service delivery.

Mental Health Assessment

Mental health assessment and evaluation are terms that may be used interchangeably in the mental health field.  Both describe a process used by mental health professionals to take a look at and make determinations about a child or adolescent’s mental health.

In an initial meeting with a mental health professional, or soon thereafter, a mental health assessment (also sometimes called an intake or initial assessment) will be conducted for the purpose of understanding mental health needs and making an effective treatment plan.  A mental health assessment involves assessing clinical symptoms, listening to client/parent reports, and making professional observations.  Sometimes more formal diagnostic tools are used.

Mental health providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to guide their understandng and diagnosis of mental health disorders in their clients or patients.  The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and includes descriptions of all possible mental health disorders in both children and adults.

Because there is no definitive test to diagnose mental health disorders, the process sometimes involves trial and error.  Especially in children and adolescents, it is not uncommon for diagnoses to change over time.

Mental health diagnoses are required by insurance companies as evidence of the need for mental health treatment.  If you are a parent, ask your mental health provider what, if any, diagnosis they have given to your child and why.

In addition to initial therapy/intake assessments, there is a wide array of specialized assessments or evaluations.  Many of these are included below.

Mental Status Examination

Mental Status Examination (MSE) is an ongoing assessment that is done at intake and each subsequent therapy session to provide an objective assessment of a person’s mental health. The purpose of a mental status examination is to assess the current level of functioning and a client’s mental health state.

In a mental status exam, a mental health professional meets face-to-face with the individual to assess the absence or presence of homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts (including any signs of self-injurious behavior), and psychosis.  Psychosis, or impairment in one’s thinking, is detected by one’s

1.) orientation to time, place, and self-recognition,

2.) activity level or aggressiveness and interactions with the interviewer, and

3.) personal goals, thoughts, concerns, family relationships and desires for the future.  A mental status examination is an important part of mental health evaluations.

Psychological Evaluation

Psychological evaluations assess the presence of certain conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and susceptibility to stress.  They can also measure general well-being and provide an overall picture of a person’s mental health and personality.  A typical psychological assessment includes an interview with the youth and his or her parent or guardian and one or more formal psychological test.

Developmental Evaluation

A developmental evaluation is often recommended when a family,  physician,  or school is concerned about a young child’s development. These evaluations usually occur in the child’s home and are conducted by an early intervention specialist and a specialist in the specific areas of concern.  Areas of development that are assessed may include speech, language, and communication; motor development; cognitive skills; self-help and coping skills; feelings and emotions; and relationships with people and social skills.

Trauma Assessment

Trauma assessments can provide families, mental health providers, and school personnel with information about possible exposure by children or youth to trauma and an understanding of how the traumatic experience may be impacting daily functioning.  Assessments may include a clinical evaluation with the youth and family, consultations with current mental health providers, projective drawings completed with the child, trauma-focused standardized assessment measures completed by the child and/or caretakers, and a review of previous records. The clinician then provides a clinical report with treatment recommendations.  Children are generally referred for a trauma assessment by a mental health provider or treatment team.