Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation for Children

What is a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation may help diagnose any number of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders. An evaluation of a child or teen is made based on behaviors present. These behaviors are reviewed in relation to physical, genetic, environmental, social, cognitive (thinking), emotional, and educational components that may be affected as a result of the behaviors presented.

When should a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation be sought?

Many times, parents are the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors, or environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious, or sad. This may include problems with relationships with friends or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness, and responsiveness. It's important for families who suspect a problem in one or more of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for mental health disorders is available.

What is involved in a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

The following are the most common components of a comprehensive, diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. However, each evaluation is different, as each child's symptoms and behaviors are different. A comprehensive evaluation may require several hours over one or more visits. It will include interviews with the child and parents or guardians. Evaluation may include:

  • Description of behaviors present, for example:

    • When do the behaviors happen and how long does the behavior last?

    • What are the conditions in which the behaviors most often happen?

    • How do the behaviors impact performance in school and other activities as well as relationships with others (for example, family, classmates, or teachers)?

    • What has been tried in the past to help the child's behaviors?

  • Description of symptoms (physical and psychiatric symptoms)

  • Personal and family history of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders

  • Complete medical history, including description of the child's overall physical health, list of any other illnesses or conditions present, and any treatments currently being given

  • Lab tests, in some cases (may be used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including:

    • Blood tests

    • Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, especially in the brain

    • Educational assessments

    • Speech and language assessments

    • Psychological assessments

A parent's concerns when a child is being evaluated

It's natural, and quite common, for a parent to question himself or herself when it becomes necessary for a child or adolescent to be psychiatrically evaluated. Parents may have many questions and concerns as to the welfare and emotional well-being of their child. Common questions parents often ask include:

  • What's wrong with my child?

  • Is my child abnormal?

  • Did I do something wrong in raising him or her to cause this condition?

  • Does my child need to be hospitalized?

  • Will my child require treatment?

  • Will my child "outgrow" these behaviors?

  • Is this just "a phase" my child is going through?

  • What will treatment cost?

  • Where do I go for help for my child?

  • What does this diagnosis mean?

  • How can my family become involved?

If a diagnosis is made based on one or more psychiatric evaluations, parent, and family involvement in treatment is very important for any child or teen with a mental health disorder. Your child's healthcare provider or mental health provider will address your questions and provide reassurance. He or she will work with you to establish long-term and short-term treatment goals for your child.