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Importance of initial assessment in determining a treatment plan for mental health

The information that is obtained by mental health staff in an initial psychological assessment is the cornerstone from which a comprehensive mental health treatment plan can be developed.

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The initial mental health assessment is done by a specially trained mental health professional. Specialists include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and licensed counsellors. Assessments can be done with children, adolescents or adults.


The primary goal of the initial assessment is to identify the reason why the patient is being assessed for mental health services.This is done from both the patient's perspective and the viewpoint of the mental health specialist.


Specific forms are used as guidelines for the first interview to capture significant patient history. Indiana's mental health assessment form identifies critical information obtained in all assessments, including the patient's "mental status, drug history, current living arrangement, support systems, psychiatric history, symptoms, and preliminary diagnosis."


ERIC counselling services summarises the link between the initial mental health assessment and the subsequent treatment plan. "Assessment provides direction for treatment and aids in the evaluation process. It is the counsellor's responsibility to gain sufficient information regarding the client and the client's presenting concerns to establish an effective treatment strategy. "


Clarion University describes the elements of a good treatment plan. They all evolve from the initial assessment. Treatment plan categories are "identified problems, goals for treatment, methods of achieving these goals, and estimated time to meet these goals."


A treatment plan is created at the initial mental health assessment. Staff continues to do ongoing assessment throughout the patient's length of stay. Treatment goals are adjusted as the patient progresses. Length of stay is determined by the achievement of the patient treatment goals.

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About the Author

Iris Waichler is a licensed clinical social worker, author and of the award-winning "Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire" and co-author of "A Book is Born." She has also written for FertilityAuthority, the American Fertility Association and "Chicago Parent Magazine." Waichler received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work from the University of Iowa.

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