How to Get a Psychiatric Evaluation

For various reasons you might think about getting a psychological evaluation, meaning that you are considering being tested, and if needed, getting treated by a psychologist (or similar professional).

Luckily for all of us, mental illness is no longer considered something that needs to be kept a secret at all costs, so if it helps, it should be done. Unfortunately, your possible illness (you don’t know yet that you actually are ill,) might be getting in the way of you making the right decision.

Ideally, once you get tested you will generally be better off, because you'll know that either you’re perfectly normal, or you'll have a definite identification of your condition.

If you have a positive attitude, you will probably decide to go ahead, because it is always better to know.


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    Before you actually get started, if you can, you should try to get support from someone you trust, such as a social worker, a family member, your doctor, a teacher, or a priest or minister or nun. Let them help you decide.
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    If whoever is supporting you suggests that you should get tested, you have to decide whether to follow that advice, and that’s a very personal decision. Just deciding to get tested is a big point in your favor.
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    Learn just a little bit about mental problems (always a good idea if anyone gets seriously ill). There are several basic kinds of mental health problems:
    • (A) Emotional-- This is fairly clear; it describes people who respond to situations in such extreme ways that they make things worse.
    • (B) Behavioral-- This is a complicated sort of problem that has to do with habits of behavior.
    • (C) Developmental-- This describes problems arising out of handicaps that prevent normal mental growth. Often even a person who is mentally handicapped can tell that he or she is different from other folks of the same age as himself. A minor degree of difference is not abnormal, but only a specialist can tell.
    • (D) Physiological-- This appears as a problem with the brain or the mind but is actually caused by physical problems with the nerves or muscles.
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    Stop making matters worse by feeling alienated. This is a word for that feeling of being all alone. You start thinking that you're the only one who has this sickness, and you will be considered strange and different. This is certainly not true.
    • Most common problems, such as depression, are made worse by the feeling of being alone. Realize that many problems like this are very common, and that should help you fight the problem. But often, intervention is needed; that is, the problem won’t go away until it is treated. But that's nothing to feel upset about. People who have suffered the same problem can help you understand it, and cope with it.
    • Ask around for the best doctor or treatment center to go to. They are NOT all the same, and you need to be able to trust the people who are treating you, such as your counselor or treatment center. If you’re not comfortable with one professional or one treatment center, it’s perfectly okay to find another one. This is important treatment, and you really have to feel comfortable.
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    Know what to expect. What happens during a psychological evaluation?
    • (i) It usually begins with the professional just sitting with you and asking you to explain various things. This usually lasts about an hour. If it is decided that you should be given “psychotherapy,” it is very similar: a talk session, where they try to give you various ideas and attitudes to help you deal with one aspect of your problem or another. They may talk about physical problems, genetic problems (did your parents or grandparents have …?) environmental (When you were growing up, was there a lot of violence, or noise, or hostility, or traveling around, or changing schools...?) educational (did you have difficult in school with …)
    • (ii) They could talk about your feelings or reactions about various things that might have happened to you. For this purpose, it might help you to write down beforehand some of what you’re upset or concerned about, and take it with you for your session.
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    Don’t hold back; bring everything out to the therapist (the doctor or professional), don’t be embarrassed. It is completely confidential; there are laws preventing them from discussing your information with anyone outside your session. Nothing you say is going to surprise them; they’ve probably heard very similar things from other patients. It may surprise you to find how easy it is to open up after you've made the first leap and told them something in confidence.
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    Take all your medications faithfully. This is important. Some of the biggest problems doctors have is with patients who stop taking their medication as soon as they start feeling better. This is especially true of people who suffer from manic depression (extreme alternating “highs” and “lows”). The drug prevents the really terrible lows, but they also moderate some of the excessive highs. You can’t have everything; you have to sacrifice some of the euphoria in order to avoid the deep depression; it’s a trade-off.
    • Organize the medications you take so that you can remember to take them. (Many people use an organizer box that has a little compartment for the pills to be taken each day of the week, and each time of day. Once a week you have to spend half an hour filling the thing up carefully, but then taking the medication is easy.)
    • If you notice any side-effects, notify your doctor promptly.
    • If, however, both you and a trusted friend or other supporter are agreed that the doctor’s choice of medication is most definitely not working, then find another professional, and change drugs ONLY UNDER THE NEW DOCTOR’S SUPERVISION. If you’re suspicious of the motives of your old doctor, find a new one without ties to the old one. However, do not try to manage the drugs yourself.
    • Unfortunately, it has been recently discovered that some doctors have been prescribing certain drugs without a good reason, for instance the drugs for ADD (attention deficit disorder). Whatever decision you take, you should try to talk it over with your trusted supporter or family member, and agree on a path of action, especially if it involves giving up on one professional and going to another.
    • It is generally better to get a doctor who prescribes less medication than one who prescribes tons of medication. Your condition might need heavy medication. But there certainly are doctors who prescribe too much, and it is hard to advise how to deal with them, and to know whether you’re being over-medicated. If in doubt, stay with the program. This is why, if at all possible you should get a friend or advisor on board. Choosing how to handle a feeling of being over-medicated should not be a matter of opinion, but a matter of judgment.


  • Be confident. You're making a bold and positive step, and trying to do something to help yourself feel better about life. This is admirable, and by continuing, you have the potential to live more happily and fulfill more of your goals.
  • Don't expect an instant cure. If life offered us immediate relief for every disease, mental or otherwise, no one would have to suffer. As it is, recovery and progress take their own time. Compare it to cancer in this way - chemotherapy is an agonizing treatment which is almost never brief. You require some help, and you can receive that help readily, but you have to be patient.
  • Check for warning signs. If you're feeling every bit as bad as you were before medication and evaluation after the first month, tell that to your doctor. They can only help if you keep track of how you feel, and let the doctor know.
  • Medical insurance is a tough issue, but plenty of insurance providers are willing to cut the cost for you. Do some research to find out which companies will cover your specific conditions. In addition, many community health centers and large university mental health clinics will allow you to receive treatment on a sliding scale basis (that is, they charge amounts that are proportional to what you can afford).
  • Be as open as possible, no one's going to make fun of you or judge you. You can come to terms with many problems simply by giving them a voice, and it may not be long until you can talk openly about things that used to bother you.


  • Ignore anyone who says you should "snap out of it". It's obvious they haven't had a mental illness and have nothing to judge it by. You can't "snap out" of a heart disease, and you can't "snap out" of a chemical imbalance that causes a psychological condition.
  • Don't shut out the people who are trying to help. That is something that will place an enormous burden on you, to have to deal with your illness all by yourself. Avoid going it alone.
  • Stay away from behaviors that promote your condition. A person who is manic depressive, for instance, should avoid things that make them feel worthless or unhappy. You have the power to choose, even when you feel powerless.

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Categories: Emotional Health and Well Being