What Is a Mental Health
or Substance Abuse Assessment?
What Assessments Aren’t
Some believe that the idea of a mental health or substance abuse assessment is to judge whether somebody is “crazy” or an “addict” – this is a myth.
Everybody goes through tough times.
However, sometimes the distress that somebody feels inside – depression, anxiety, avoiding people, having difficulty concentrating (even substance use) – may be more than the normal ups and downs that most people feel.
Plus, if symptoms like these start to get in the way of living the life that you would like or that you would want for a loved one, then it is important to take action.
Your physical health matters – your mental health matters. You matter.
The first step toward health – or getting the help that you need to achieve health – may be a mental health or substance abuse assessment.
Some people believe that a mental health or substance abuse assessment is something shrouded in mystery, but it does not have to be this way. An assessment is when a trained professional – like myself (a professional counselor) – checks whether you have a mental health or substance use challenge that is diagnosable and what kind of treatment could help to address it.
What to Expect
Today a significant number of mental health or substance abuse assessments are conducted through an interview. Therefore, you may expect to be asked a series of questions, some of which are how long you have had the issues or symptoms that you are facing, your personal or family history of mental health or substance use issues, any prior treatment that you may have had, etc.
You will also be asked about your personal history, questions about your lifestyle, marital status, what kind of work have you done, your biggest sources of stress, and others.
Other questions may be about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You may also be asked about specific symptoms. An assessment may also include observations about your appearance and behavior during the interview as well as standardized questionnaires for you to fill out.
Will You Tell Other People About My Assessment and Its Results?
If you are of legal age, because of privacy and confidentiality laws nobody has access to the information that you disclose during a mental health or substance abuse assessment – not even your spouse, your parents, the police, etc. Information may be released to anybody else ONLY if you authorize so in writing via a document called “Release of Information” that includes your signature.
Be aware, however, that the law specifies few rare exceptions to your privacy and confidentiality rights (for example, a court judge-issued subpoena). Even if such was the case, the information about you that is released may be very limited. I will go over these few rare exceptions with you.
What Is a Court-Ordered Mental Health or Substance Abuse Assessment?
If you happen to be currently involved in a legal case (for example, probation, divorce and child custody hearings), the court may order a mental health assessment. Another example is during immigration court cases or proceedings. Reasons for a judge to order an assessment vary – each case is different.
Types of Court-Ordered Assessments That I Do Not Conduct
I do not conduct assessments for individuals with child custody or parenting plans, competency, sexual assault, or those with forensic requirements. I will review your court documents with you before deciding whether to conduct your assessment. Because each court case is different, this is to make sure that the assessment that I provide is one with which I can assist you and the court may accept as related to your court case.
Are you ready to take care of that assessment that you were asked to do? Perhaps you were not asked to do one but are curious yourself.
Whatever the case may be, let’s get it done!