- Erin Hoffman
When To Seek An Assessment With A Mental Health Professional And How To Get The Most Out Of It
October is National Depression Screening and Mental Health Screening Month. As the winter months approach, now is a great time to check up on your mental health. As the days get shorter, and unfortunately a lot colder, it’s very important to gauge where we are at with regard to how we are feeling. It is not uncommon for mental health conditions to become more severe as winter approaches.
Taking the First Step
If you have been feeling sad, down, anxious, worried or just generally “in a funk” but not sure what it is exactly, consulting with a licensed mental health professional is a great place to start. Mental health professionals are trained to identify symptoms and their impact upon an individual.
What to Expect From Your First Assessment
Here are things a mental health professional will ask you as they are completing an assessment during your first couple of sessions:
For example, depression carries with it not only changes in mood but motivation, energy, sleep, and appetite. The clinician will likely ask you to describe your mood but will also want to know about any changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, motivation, willingness to engage with others and the way that these things are impacting one’s overall functioning. The clinician will want to know the duration of the symptoms as well as the severity. How long have you been feeling this way? When was the first time you can recall it occurring? A common screening question that mental health providers ask is how intense or severe a person’s symptoms are on a scale of “1-10” with 10 being the most severe and 1 being the least. The clinician will likely ask you how these symptoms have impacted your daily activities. This is geared toward creating a treatment plan to address the symptoms but to also determine if any additional services might be helpful for you.
With regard to anxiety symptoms, the clinician will likely ask you when and where these symptoms are most prominent. Do you experience them all of the time or just in certain situations? The clinician might also ask you to describe what being anxious, worried or nervous feels like to you as often it differs from person to person and symptom presentations are unique to each individual. It’s also common for the clinician to ask you about physical symptoms of anxiety as these symptoms often manifest themselves in the body as rapid heart rate, shaking, sweating, feeling hot and experiencing muscle tension.
It can be helpful to create a list on paper of the symptoms you are experiencing. It’s very common to feel overwhelmed in the first few sessions and there is a lot to cover! Your clinician will likely have lists and notes to help themselves remember what to ask you as well. In addition, clinicians may ask you to complete a screening questionnaire during the first couple of sessions to assess for symptoms.
If you have questions about starting therapy, please call intake at 773-234-0423.