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Mental Health Center

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Mental Health Assessment

How It Is Done continued...

A mental health assessment may include one or more verbal or written tests. You will be asked some questions and will either answer out loud or write your answer on a piece of paper. Your answers are then rated and scored by your doctor.

Written questionnaires generally contain 20 to 30 questions that can be answered quickly, often in a "yes" or "no" format. They usually don't take long to finish, and you can do them by yourself at a regular office visit.

Many mental health questionnaires are available. They look at:

  • Specific problems. For example, for depression, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the Beck Depression Inventory, or the Geriatric Depression Scale can be used to evaluate your symptoms.
  • How well you are able to think, reason, and remember (cognitive function). The Mini Mental State Examination can be used to check your cognitive function.
  • How well you are able to carry out routine activities, such as eating, dressing, shopping, or banking.

Sometimes a more extensive mental health test, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, may be needed. The test may need to be given by a specialist such as a psychologist.


How a child's mental health is assessed varies depending on the age of the child and the suspected problem. Young children may be asked to draw pictures to express their feelings, or they may be asked to look at pictures or images of common subjects and talk about how the pictures make them feel. Parents or teachers may be asked to answer questions about a child using a checklist.

How long does it take?

The time it takes for a mental health assessment varies depending on the reason for the assessment. An interview with written or verbal tests may last 30 to 90 minutes, or longer if several different tests are done. An in-depth test such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale may take 1 to 2 hours.

How It Feels

A mental health assessment is used to find out how you think and feel.

  • If you are being checked for a problem, such as alcohol dependence, you may feel resentment, anger, or hostility and may not want to have the assessment.
  • If you are being evaluated for a health condition, such as Alzheimer's disease, you may be afraid.
  • Because some mental health problems are hard to diagnose, you may worry or become upset if your condition is not quickly or easily identified.

Lab tests do not usually cause much discomfort. A blood sample will be taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm and may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch. Collecting a urine sample does not cause pain.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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