The Importance of a Good Psychiatric Assessment

If your child has a fever or complains of a stomachache, chances are a quick trip to the doctor’s office and perhaps a prescription will do the trick. But what if it’s something more serious, something psychological?

If your child is struggling at school or has started having outbursts or developed an executive functioning issue, the problem can be much more difficult to diagnose. Getting a proper diagnosis will be key in getting your child the right treatment and back on track to feeling better. Good assessments are essential to diagnosing a child’s issue and often take a more comprehensive approach. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD the founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Service P.C., a diagnostic and treatment center in Forest Hills and Manhattan which works with a variety of mental health, developmental and educational difficulties, says a good and thorough assessment is key to helping your child get the right treatment.

What Makes a Good Assessment?

A good assessment will look at all the different things that are wrong and aim to address all of them. “It is multifaceted approach that requires several factors. I do a very comprehensive interview that looks at everything from family lineage to family dynamics, to what’s going on at work or at school, whats’ going on social-wise or at home,” Dr. Hafeez says. She designs tests that are either psychological or psychiatric in nature, and they look at educational achievement, executive functioning for ADHD, autism, or other executive processing issues. If reading is a concern, for example, she will perform a test to look for dyslexia. “It is never just one thing. I unearth a ton of information that the parent or patient never saw coming, and so the treatment I design is accurate, long lasting, and can bring about lasting change,” Dr. Hafeez says.

Directing the Course of Treatment

As mentioned above, an assessment is the first step to treating a child’s issue, whether it be a learning disorder or a psychological issue. “A thorough assessment is incredibly important because a treatment plan can’t be made, in any field unless you have a good diagnostic evaluation,” Dr. Hafeez says. This is especially true in psychology or psychiatry; these fields aren’t what Dr. Hafeez calls a “hard science.” For example, you could go to a cardiologist, get a blood panel done and discover your cholesterol is high, so the doctor will give you medication to help lower your cholesterol. However, in psychiatry there could be a number of different issues at play, which is why a comprehensive assessment is so important. “A good assessment will outline a good treatment plan and it is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of approach, “Dr. Hafeez says. “Someone with an eating disorder needs to see a certain kind of therapist, and might need medication for an underlying depression or anxiety disorder. If someone who has a mood disorder or anger issues, they need to see someone possibly for cognitive behavioral therapy.” This would require two different types of doctors who would have to work together to solve the problem.

Getting the Right Help

Once a diagnosis is reached, a specific treatment plan can be set up and the patient can meet with the appropriate doctors. Dr. Hafeez will connect a patient to the right doctors and specialists and works in close liaison with them. Dr. Hafeez makes recommendations based on her assessments that include speech therapy, or accommodations in the classroom, or for extra time on tests like SATs or state tests. If you are a parent who is seeking special education services, a second opinion about diagnoses, resources and accommodations in the classroom and on standardized tests, entrance to specialized schools, colleges, and therapeutic guidance, an assessment is the first step to figuring out what is going on with your child.