What Does Psychiatric Evaluation Mean…and What’s Missing from Most Psych Evals?

Psychiatric Evaluation

When emotional, behavioral, or cognitive issues are interfering with everyday life, a psychiatric evaluation may be beneficial. The idea of undergoing a psych eval might sound intimidating, but the term simply refers to the type of doctor—a psychiatrist or other mental health professional—who specializes in treating a wide range of mental health problems.

A typical psychiatric evaluation usually includes:

  • Talking with the patient (and family members, if appropriate) to understand the concerning symptoms and behavioral problems
  • Conducting psychiatric assessments and getting a medical history of the patient

Based on the information obtained in this process, the doctor will usually give the patient a diagnosis—or multiple diagnoses—depending on the situation, prescribe medication, and have the patient follow up in a matter of weeks to see if the meds were helpful.

Unfortunately, talking to patients and masking symptoms with medications doesn’t always work. In fact, in many cases, this traditional approach to psychiatric evaluations isn’t enough.

The One Thing Most Psych Evals Miss

Oddly enough, most psychiatric evaluations don’t involve looking at the physical functioning of a patient’s brain, even though it is the organ involved in all mental, behavioral, and cognitive health problems. At Amen Clinics, over 3 decades of brain SPECT imaging work shows that mental health is really brain health. And this one thing changes everything about evaluating, diagnosing, and treating people.

Most psychiatric evaluations don’t involve looking at the physical functioning of a patient’s brain, even though it is the organ involved in all mental, behavioral, and cognitive health problems. Click To Tweet

The 6 Must-Haves of a Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation

Whether a person is suffering from memory problems or symptoms related to ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorder, head trauma, PTSD, or any other mental health issue, a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation should include these 6 components:

1. Assessing the 4 Circles of your whole life

It’s important to look at all the important areas of your life that might be contributing to any symptoms you’re experiencing. These areas include the following 4 circles:

  • Biological Circle is how the physical aspects of your body and brain function together. Since your brain is linked to all the organs in your body, if your body is unhealthy, such as having high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or a poor diet, it can adversely affect the functioning of your brain. Certain lab tests—such as vitamin D level, hormonal imbalances, inflammation markers, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and other concerns—may be recommended to see if any physical health conditions are contributing to your symptoms.
  • Psychological Circle refers to the way you think and the influence of any developmental issues there may have been. It includes your self-concept, body image, upbringing, any history of trauma, and the running dialogue you have in your head.
  • Social Circle is about your connections to others, the health of your relationships, and any current stressors—such as problems at work, family life, and financial issues—as well as being part of a larger community.
  • Spiritual Circle is the way in which you see your life being meaningful and having a sense of purpose. It’s also about your connections to the planet, past and future generations, and to God or your spirituality.

The quality of your 4 Circles directly impacts your mental health. Many patients find they can learn a lot from sharing this information about themselves and draw upon their strengths to improve any areas that need some work.

2. Functional brain imaging

Seeing how the brain works with functional brain imaging is the key piece that is missing from most traditional psychiatric evaluations. Understanding the physical functioning of your brain is essential for identifying any underlying causes of symptoms that might otherwise be overlooked. SPECT, which stands for single-photon emission computed tomography, is a type of functional brain imaging that looks at blood flow and activity in the brain and reveals 3 important things:

  • Areas of your brain that work well
  • Areas of your brain that are underactive
  • Areas of your brain that are overactive

Amen Clinics has built the world’s largest database of brain scans related to behavior and has found that SPECT imaging takes the guesswork out of psychiatry. SPECT helps identify root causes of issues, make more accurate diagnoses, and find the most effective treatment plans.

3. Neuropsychological assessments

A variety of neuropsychological tests can help assess cognitive, emotional, and intellectual functioning. The results from such tests give your doctor additional information related to how your brain works.

4. Meeting with a mental health professional

Spending time with a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals, such as an integrative psychiatrist or psychiatric naturopath, is a key component of an evaluation. Discussing your symptoms and going over the results of your assessments will give you a clearer picture of your condition.

5. Getting a personalized treatment plan

To address the root cause(s) of your symptoms, your mental health care provider should create a targeted treatment plan specifically for you. At Amen Clinics, which has helped tens of thousands of patients, each person’s plan is tailored to their needs and may include:

  • Brain-supportive supplements or medication, if needed
  • Lifestyle changes such as targeting your diet to your brain’s needs, doing the physical exercise that works best for your brain, or practicing stress management
  • Psychotherapy, neurofeedback, or hyperbaric oxygen treatment, if needed
  • Other interventions depending on what your doctor thinks will be most helpful to optimize the function of your unique brain

6. Follow-up

After a comprehensive evaluation is completed, it’s important to follow up to talk about how you’re doing with the treatment plan and address any additional questions or concerns you may have.

Emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you! Unlike most psychiatrists, our comprehensive psychiatric evaluations include functional brain imaging, a whole-person approach, and precision personalized treatment plans using the most effective and least toxic solutions. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. I don’t have any health insurance , can I still get help?

    Comment by Steven Clare — July 7, 2021 @ 4:21 AM

  2. My son definitely a candidate for a brain scan . After all I’ve seen of your work I know you could help him he has little to no recognition of what he is accused of . Financially it’s not possible. He is incarcerated and is not getting help for whatever there is wrong in his brain.

    Comment by Sharon D Dickie — July 7, 2021 @ 5:21 AM

  3. Daughter in law needs a complete evaluation as she is showing signs of dementia that runs in her family. She does not have insurance. How can I get her the help she needs? There is a young man in Lancaster area that is studying with you could he be of help? Etc

    Comment by Janet Griffith — July 7, 2021 @ 7:39 AM

  4. Hello Steven, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics offers consultations and different types of evaluations based on the needs of the patient. For information regarding pricing, insurance, and financing options, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 7, 2021 @ 9:17 AM

  5. Hello Janet, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding pricing and financing options for your daughter-in-law. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 7, 2021 @ 9:22 AM

  6. Do you treat dissociation disorder? I’m walking around feeling like I’m sitting in the background watching myself do everything since I was about 17. I’m now 58

    Comment by Jj — July 7, 2021 @ 11:07 AM

  7. I wish there was an Amen Clinic in the Cleveland area! I am intrigued as a nurse and a patient

    Comment by CV — July 7, 2021 @ 4:19 PM

  8. Hello, thank you for reaching out. Yes, we can diagnose and treat dissociative identity disorder. Here is a recent testimonial from one of our patients with this condition: https://youtu.be/R6s_DYAJd8k. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 8, 2021 @ 6:24 PM

  9. my son is questioning me as to why i threw out the comment he needs a psych eval. he was cutting again the other night and i was panicked. he challenged me by saying evals aren’t more common than not. is that tru?

    Comment by angela denapoli — May 12, 2022 @ 7:47 AM

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