A psychiatric assessment is the process of gathering information with the purpose of making a diagnosis. The assessment is usually the first stage of a treatment process, however psychiatric assessments may also be used for the legal purpose of report writing. The assessment includes social and biographical information, direct observations, and information gained from other sources such as a GP, relative or friend. In some circumstances specific psychological tests are performed to further assist with qualifying a diagnosis.
The psychiatric assessment consists of ascertaining current issues/difficulties, present life circumstances, past personal history including biographical details (including childhood development, educational level, employment history, relationship status) medical and psychiatric history. Details are also gained regarding family history. Information will be requested regarding current and past use of alcohol and illicit substances, the use of prescribed medication and forensic history. A mental state examination is performed which reflects how a person presents during the interview, this being seen to be a reflection of a person’s psychological functioning at a particular point in time.
Initial psychiatric assessments generally take an hour, though further time may be required to obtain additional information.