A psychiatric or psychological evaluation is a process of gathering information about a person with the purpose of making a diagnosis. The evaluation is usually the first stage of a treatment process. The nature of the evaluation will depend on whether it is being done by a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health clinician.
A psychiatric evaluation is done by a psychiatrist who is a physician with special psychiatry training. This evaluation is comprehensive but does have a medical component. The psychiatrist will ask about your physical, behavioral, and cognitive histories, evaluate (by observation and interview) your mood, your reality testing, and mental status etc. The psychiatrist also might order blood tests or other medical exams. After an extensive interview, the doctor will arrive at a psychiatric diagnosis (if appropriate) and may also recommend medicines to help with the problem which they can prescribe. Some psychiatrists provide ongoing talk therapy, but most recommend you find a therapist for that part. They will follow up with med checks as needed to titrate or refine your medicines. While a person might well get anti-depressants from their regular doctor, a good psychiatrist is better able to deal with complex matters and follow you more closely to get the right compound and dosage.
Psychological Evaluations (also known as psychological testing or psych assessment) are offered by doctoral level psychologists. These evaluations will cover much of the same history, mental status, and provide diagnoses when appropriate. Interviews are essential. However, what sets psychological evaluations apart is its use of standardized tests. The results provide a snapshot of behavior, or cognitive functioning, or mood by contrasting the individual results against a peer group. For example, a child may complete a test to assess attention span. A good psychologist collects data from multiple data points (test data, interviews by client and maybe family, observations, etc.) and uses that data to make interpretations and recommendations for ongoing care.
Another option is neuropsychological testing which is administered by a neuropsychologist who is a doctoral psychologist with specialized training in neuropsychology. It is more comprehensive than psychological testing and will include testing for intelligence, emotions, receptive language, memory, social interaction, and screening for Autism spectrum.
In many cases, psychologists who administer tests will then treat patients with psychotherapy. Some psychologists focus only on evaluating patients, and then refer them to other specialists for treatment after they’ve made a diagnosis. In either case, the testing or assessment process will help ensure that the client receives treatment that’s tailored to his or her individual needs.