A mental health provider providing a psychiatric evaluationWhen you’re experiencing troubling symptoms related to your mental health, such as anxiety, depression, severe mood swings, detachment from reality or obsessions, it can be worrisome.

Is what I’m feeling normal? Or is it a condition that needs treatment?

The mental and behavioral health experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, recognize that it can take courage to ask for help with your mental health, so we want to make it as easy as possible to access mental health care. We know finding an accurate diagnosis for your symptoms is imperative to identifying the right treatment and getting you back to enjoying life.

Diagnosis starts with a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation — the first step in figuring out how our specially trained mental health professionals can best support you and your family in this journey. Determining exactly which mental health disorder may be causing your symptoms can be difficult at times, underscoring the importance we place on the evaluation process.

What’s a psychiatric evaluation?

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is a mental health assessment that looks at someone’s psychological, emotional and behavioral well-being. It’s a key tool used by qualified mental health professionals to diagnose conditions and determine a treatment plan personalized to your unique needs and goals.

The evaluation typically involves a variety of questions and tests, including:

  • Description of behaviors and symptoms, including physical ones
  • Effect of symptoms on work or school performance, relationships and activity levels
  • Past mental health challenges
  • Family history of mental, behavioral, emotional or developmental disorders
  • A complete medical history, including current medications or treatments
  • Lab tests, such as blood tests, imaging (usually of the brain) and speech assessments, to address any underlying conditions

Difference between a psychiatric evaluation and a neuropsychological evaluation

A psychiatric evaluation assesses someone’s psychological, emotional and behavioral well-being. A neuropsychological evaluation might be requested to understand the cause of problems with memory, attention or other cognitive abilities that are related to neurological, medical or psychiatric conditions.

A typical neuropsychological evaluation will require several hours to objectively quantify cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Cognitive areas assessed include attention, memory, executive functioning and others. Mood, sleep, pain and other relevant factors are also typically reviewed. To do this, a technician will administer a paper-and-pencil test and a neuropsychologist will conduct a clinical interview.

Why is a psychiatric evaluation done?

No matter how you enter mental and behavioral health care at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, including through the emergency department, referral from a primary care provider or a self-made appointment, a psychiatric evaluation will be the first step taken. This allows us to identify a diagnosis, assess the level of care most appropriate for you and begin treatment.

A psychiatric evaluation helps diagnose these conditions:

What to expect during a psychiatric evaluation

It’s important to have your psychiatric evaluation completed by a licensed mental health professional, like the ones at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, since performing one requires training, skill and expertise.


Preparing for your psychiatric evaluation

The staff of Ohio State Harding Hospital and Talbot Addiction Medicine want to provide the best care possible in a timely manner. When you visit Ohio State for mental and behavioral care, please bring the following:

  • Photo identification
  • Insurance information
  • Copay, if applicable
  • Completed forms, as directed

Please review or complete these forms before your visit, as directed when scheduling an appointment.

During your psychiatric evaluation

The evaluation is a comprehensive diagnostic tool. It could take several hours to conduct to ensure the provider receives all the information necessary to find the best treatments for you.

During the evaluation, you’ll have an interview with the provider about your symptoms, history, feelings and behaviors. Standardized written questionnaires may be a part of the exam as can imaging or blood tests. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances and condition of the person needing treatment, family members or other loved ones are asked to provide information for the psychiatric evaluation.


After an expert has a chance to review your evaluation, they can use the results to determine the best course of action to help you feel better. Results can help us:

  • Identify a diagnosis – For many people, a psychiatric evaluation can help them find out if they have depression, anxiety or both, or another mental health condition.
  • Choose the correct level of care – The evaluation can determine the severity of symptoms and how safe a person is, allowing us to decide if inpatient care, partial hospitalization or outpatient care would be most beneficial.
  • Create a personalized treatment plan – Will medications help your symptoms? Would you do well in psychotherapy and if so, what kind? Is a more advanced interventional psychiatry method needed? A psychiatric evaluation can help answer these questions.
  • Match you with the most appropriate provider – If you don’t already have a mental health provider, we can decide if a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed counselor or other expert would be best to treat you, and match you with someone who specializes in your condition or area of concern.

Who might conduct my psychiatric evaluation?

Psychiatric evaluations require specialized training to conduct, and they should be performed by a licensed mental health professional. Your psychiatric evaluation may be conducted by one of these mental and behavioral experts:

  • Psychiatrist: a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness, including prescribing medications.
  • Psychologist: someone with doctoral-level training in psychology who diagnoses and treats mental illness and provides psychotherapy.
  • Psychotherapist: a licensed independent social worker or licensed professional clinical counselor who has a master’s degree and is trained diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, as well as case management. Psychotherapists, like psychologists, can help people identify goals, solve problems, improve coping skills, foster self-esteem and promote behavior change.

Sometimes an experienced technician or other provider will assist in the evaluation.

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