Comprehensive Mental Health Assessment and Screening Guide

Mental health screenings and assessments provide mental health professionals with the information they need to identify symptoms and diagnose mental illnesses. If you or someone close to you has experienced symptoms of mental health disorders, obtaining a mental health assessment gives you the opportunity to better understand the type of mental health disorder you’re dealing with.

Importance of Mental Health Assessments

There are many different types of assessments that can be administered by mental health professionals during the therapeutic process. The types of assessments at your disposal include everything from mental health screenings to mental health interviews. Assessments are typically used to:

  • Develop a mental health treatment plan
  • Identify symptoms and signs of the disorder
  • Diagnose one or more disorders
  • Help with decision-making
  • Examine treatment progress
  • Assess the client’s strengths
  • Promote positive changes
  • Measure goals

Types of Mental Health Assessments to Consider

Mental health assessments can be highly varied and are used at different intervals throughout the therapeutic process. These assessments can be either non-standardized or standardized. They can also be formal or informal. While most assessments are administered by a therapist, some involve self-reporting. The different types of mental health assessment tools available to you include the following:

  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Checklists
  • Rating scales
  • Questionnaires
  • Standardized tests
  • Mental Status Exam (MSE)

Mental Health Observation

A mental health observation is a standard process that occurs when a doctor or counselor listens or watches a patient while taking notes. These observations are a common aspect of clinical practice. They are used to make sure that clients are safe and can get the help they need.

Mental health observations are often administered when a client has already entered themselves into a treatment program of some sort. Increased observations might be necessary to reduce the risk of the client harming themselves or others. The client might not always be aware of the observation, which can lead to distress depending on the mental health disorder the client is suffering from.

Mental health observations can come in many forms depending on where the observation is held. During a general observation, a mental health professional might assess the patient’s behaviors and moods to identify if any violent behaviors are occurring. Any issues or concerns will be recorded in the professional’s notes.

The observation could also take place intermittently for clients who might be at risk of violent or disturbed behavior. It’s also possible for observations to occur in direct eyesight, which might be necessary when the patient has displayed signs that they are considering harming themselves. The types of notes the mental health professional takes depend on the disorder the client is suffering from.

Mental Health Interviews

Mental health interviews are commonly used to identify a person’s mental health status. Mental health professionals can customize interviews substantially to meet the client’s needs.

It’s possible for mental health interviews to be formal and structured, which means that they would involve a script of questions that had already been written before the interview began. They could also be semi-structured, which involves an informal Q&A discussion. There are also times when mental health professionals will perform interviews with the client’s family to gain a more in-depth understanding of the symptoms and when they first began.

These interviews might include cognitive mental status testing depending on how extensive they are. Mental health interviews are important diagnostic tools that professionals use for language, communication, and thought disorders.

Mental Health Checklists

Mental health checklists are designed to assess a person’s emotional and mental well-being. Most checklists consist of numerous statements or questions that ask clients to consider different aspects of their mental health. These aspects can include anxiety levels, mood, sleep quality, mental fatigue, and thought patterns.

The purpose of a mental health checklist is to make it easier for clients to understand their psychological and emotional state. Mental health checklists are usually self-administered, which means that the client must engage in self-reflection. Keep in mind that these checklists aren’t meant to replace psychiatric evaluations. They should instead be used as a self-help guide.

In many scenarios, checklists are combined with other diagnostic tools to better understand a person’s mental health. This is the initial step in receiving mental health care. The checklist typically includes five distinct steps, which extend to the following:

  • Preparation
  • Filling in personal information
  • Answering a series of questions
  • Reviewing responses to identify specific issues or patterns that should be addressed
  • Consulting with a mental health professional

A mental health professional can use the results of a checklist to start developing a customized treatment plan.

Mental Health Rating Scales

Mental health rating scales can take many different forms depending on the mental health disorder that the professionals are testing for. During the past 50 years, numerous mental health rating scales have been created and polished to provide objective assessments of how severe a client’s symptoms are. Rating scales can be used for practically any mental health disorder.

While a rating scale is most often used to identify changes in disorder severity throughout treatment, it can also be applied to the screening process, which might help with diagnosis. If clients are receiving treatment for their disorder, rating scales can monitor the activity of the illness to determine how the clients are responding to treatment. The most widely used rating scales include ones for:

  • Dementia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Mania

Mental Health Questionnaires

Mental health questionnaires are used to test for a wide range of different mental health disorders and conditions. For example, depression and self-esteem questionnaires are available for anyone who has experienced bad moods and wishes to test for symptoms. Questionnaires are also available for postnatal depression and bipolar affective disorder.

Once you or someone you love completes a questionnaire, the answers may help you determine if you’re experiencing a specific mental health disorder. Even if you believe that your disorder isn’t that severe, you can use the results of your questionnaire to identify if treatment is necessary.

Some mental health questionnaires focus more on a specific symptom. For instance, you can take a self-esteem questionnaire to ascertain if you’re suffering from low self-esteem. This particular symptom increases the chances of developing depression and similar problems. There are many additional questionnaires for you to consider taking, which include the following:

  • Social anxiety questionnaire
  • Health anxiety questionnaire
  • Illness anxiety disorder questionnaire
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) questionnaire
  • Physical mental health questionnaire
  • Eating disorders questionnaires, which include individual questionnaires for insomnia, body dysmorphic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder

You might also be given a Mental Health Quality of Life (MHQoL) questionnaire, which focuses on seven quality-of-life aspects pertaining to mental health. This type of questionnaire centers around self-image, mood, relationships, independence, physical health, future, and daily activities.

Mental Health Standardized Tests

Mental health standardized tests are tests that come with fixed instructions for taking, administering, and recording answers. The scores from these tests or screenings are eventually compared to others. Mental health tests involve a set of questions that individuals can give to their mental health care provider to look for signs of a mental disorder. These questions allow the provider to learn more about the individual’s thinking, memory, mood, and behavior.

Mental health tests make it possible for professionals to identify disorders early. If there are signs of a disorder, more testing can be administered to diagnose specific disorders. The symptoms associated with a mental health disorder can be anywhere from mild to severe. In many cases, the signs indicate a physical illness or disease. However, professionals must still determine what the signs point to in order to ensure clients receive the treatment they need. The most common mental health conditions include:

  • Anxiety disorders, which include everything from obsessive-compulsive disorder to panic disorders
  • Mood disorders, which extend to bipolar disorder, self-harm, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Psychotic disorders

These disorders can impact people of every age, which is why mental health tests can be designed for senior citizens, adults, teenagers, and children. Some of these tests will look for symptoms of common mental disorders while others search for signs that pertain to specific disorders.

In many cases, these tests act as the initial part of treatment that allows you to determine what the next steps in treatment should be. By obtaining mental health tests, you may be able to receive a diagnosis. These tests are also known as psychological evaluations and mental illness tests.

Mental Status Exam (MSE)

The Mental Status Exam (MSE) is another type of assessment that can be conducted by a doctor or mental health professional continually. This exam provides the mental health professional with the ability to observe clients and identify what their current mental health status is. The professional will look at the client’s attitude, activity, appearance, mood, emotions, language, thought process, speech, cognition, and judgment during the exam. Mental health counselors and doctors can then use the results to figure out how clients are currently functioning. From here, they can help clients move toward their treatment goals.

From depression to schizophrenia, mental health disorders are highly varied and can involve many different symptoms. Mental health assessments give you the clarity you need to identify the disorder you’re suffering from, which makes it easier for mental health professionals to create effective treatment plans.

These treatment plans can be made with the help of AutoNotes, which is a behavioral health AI tool that streamlines clinical documentation. It’s possible to generate comprehensive clinical, session, and progress notes with this tool. Sign up with AutoNotes today to gain access to this powerful tool.