What To Expect In A Private Psychiatric Assessment
Sep 28, 2023, 8 min read
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 8 people across the world is living with a mental health disorder. There is far more recognition of mental health conditions now than there ever has been in the past, which is a positive step towards everyone receiving the support they need.
However, when it comes to getting help for mental health issues, it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially if you are unsure which type of mental health condition you may have. Private psychiatric assessments provide a safe, fast and informed way to discover more about how your mind works, and identify the support that could help you to thrive more in your life. Here, we are breaking down everything involved in finding and starting the process of a private psychiatric assessment.
At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about finding out what kind of support you need, we’re here to help.
What is a psychiatric assessment?
A psychiatric assessment is a meeting with a mental health professional that aims to evaluate your current state of mind and symptoms in order to identify any mental health conditions or neurodiversity you may have. It helps a professional to recommend the best treatment and support for you. An assessment like this can give you peace of mind and help you understand how your brain works so you can better handle difficult situations.
Why might someone want/need a private psychiatric assessment?
According to a 2023 report by the House of Commons Library on mental health statistics in England, an estimated 3.25 million people accessed NHS mental health, learning disability and autism services between 2021 and 2022, and waiting times for talking therapies through the NHS can take anywhere from 4 days to 229 days depending on where you live in the country.
For many people, the uncertainty of not knowing how long they may need to wait before being seen by a professional can be frustrating. Others may need more urgent assistance, and the sooner they receive help, the sooner they can get back on track living their lives in a healthy, happy way. In these cases, a private mental health appointment could mean you are brought into the system and assessed sooner than you would be by waiting for an NHS appointment. If you are stuck on a waiting list at the moment, you may find it helpful to read our article on things you can do in the meantime.
A few common reasons for seeking a private appointment include:
- Long waiting times through the NHS
- Looking for a particular treatment that is not offered through the NHS
- The need for a second opinion
- A preference for a particular hospital or clinic that only deals with private patients
- The need for more intensive support, or further support after your NHS therapy has ended
If you are looking for a private appointment to find out if you have ADHD, you may need a slightly different kind of assessment. You can learn more about this in our article: What is involved in a private ADHD assessment?
What conditions are being screened for at a psychiatric assessment?
There are a number of mental health conditions that a psychiatric assessment might look to diagnose and treat, including:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Depression or bipolar disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
- Dementia or Alzheimer's disease
- Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
- Sleep disorders like insomnia
- Addictions like drug or alcohol misuse
If you are unsure of what your symptoms are pointing towards, you may find more insight in our article: “What is wrong with me?” Analysing your emotional patterns and what they mean.
Who should get a psychiatric assessment?
The World Health Organization describes a mental disorder as a “clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour. It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning”.
If this is something that you feel you are experiencing at the moment (or you have always felt this way) you may wish to get an assessment in order to identify any specific conditions and the treatments that may help.
What about psychiatric assessments at work?
Mental health is a critical aspect of employee wellbeing and performance, and it is common for employees to experience mental health challenges at work if they have issues in their personal life, or vice versa.
A private psychiatric assessment can be an effective way to help employees struggling with mental health concerns. It provides an accurate diagnosis which opens the door to an adequate and holistic support plan. It also allows the development of reasonable adjustments plan to allow help the worker have the best conditions to thrive at work, as well as a practical and realistic return-to-work plan.
It is becoming increasingly common for UK businesses to provide access to private psychiatric assessments as part of their employee benefits package, alongside personalised counselling. By making these benefits available, businesses demonstrate a genuine commitment to employee wellbeing while creating a supportive and productive work environment. Poor mental health is estimated to cost UK employers up to £56 billion a year, so giving staff access to rapid support really can make a positive difference to everyone.
Who will conduct the psychiatric assessment?
There are a number of different types of therapists in the UK who specialise in specific areas of mental health, and who are qualified to treat these areas.
Typically a psychiatric assessment will be conducted by a psychiatrist. Unlike some other types of therapists, this is a medically qualified doctor who specialises in psychiatry, meaning they can prescribe medication alongside recommending other types of treatment. You will find psychiatrists working in the NHS, but there are also many practitioners who can offer private support, either themselves or through services like Augmentive.
Many psychiatrists specialise in a certain area of psychiatry, such as childhood and adolescent psychiatry, general adult psychiatry, older person's psychiatry, learning disabilities or psychotherapy (talking therapies), so it is important to find a practitioner with the expertise to help with your specific situation. Our free 15 minute consultation is perfect for this, or you can read more in our article: Finding a private psychiatrist near you
How long does a psychiatric assessment take?
Your first appointment with a psychiatrist will usually take around one hour, but any further appointments could take less time once a treatment plan is in place.
Can I bring someone with me to the assessment?
Most places – whether an NHS appointment or a private appointment – will allow you to bring along a loved one or an advocate for support during your assessment if you would like to.
Do I need to learn or prepare anything for the psychiatric assessment?
Don’t worry, mental health assessments are nothing like a test or an exam. They are always designed to make you feel comfortable opening up about your symptoms and thoughts in order to identify any mental health conditions you may be living with. The aim is to help you reach a better understanding of your own mind and provide a treatment plan if necessary.
Although you will be encouraged to talk about your experiences during your appointment, you will not be forced to open up about anything that you are not ready to discuss. However, remember that the more open and honest you are, the easier it will be for your practitioner to identify the support you need.
You won’t need to prepare anything, but you may wish to think in advance about what symptoms you have been experiencing and anything else you think is relevant to your appointment, to help your psychiatrist get to the bottom of what is affecting you. It can be helpful to write symptoms and notes down so you don’t forget anything in the moment.
What does the psychiatric assessment involve?
During your initial assessment, your psychiatrist will likely ask you some questions to learn more about you, such as:
- General questions about your day-to-day life
- What made you seek the appointment
- Your thoughts and feelings, either currently or in the past
- The symptoms you notice
- The specifics of your mental health, including your medical history
- Cognitive tests to assess your cognitive function (if relevant), which may include things like solving problems, remembering lists, recognising shapes, and more
- Any past diagnoses from your GP, or notes from your loved ones or social workers
A psychiatrist may also choose to do a physical examination which could involve things like checking your blood pressure. This is because sometimes poor mental health can result from certain physical health conditions, and it is important to identify the root cause of any issues.
Keep in mind that if you are looking to be assessed for autism as an adult, this may look a little different. You can read more here: What to expect from an adult autism assessment
What happens after the assessment?
After the assessment is finished and the practitioner has collected all of the information they require to make a diagnosis or suggest further care, they will make their assessment. You may gain insight into your results there and then, or they may choose to send you more information later, or invite you back for a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings.
At this stage you will usually have the chance to ask any questions you have. This could be about your diagnosis if you are given one on the spot, or it could be about potential treatments or something else. You may have a lot of questions about how any diagnosis could affect your life going forward, so take your time here. Ideally you should leave your appointment feeling hopeful for your treatment, not overwhelmed.
Also keep in mind that you can be involved in the decision-making around your treatment plan, so let your psychiatrist know how you feel about this. If therapy is recommended, you may be interested in reading this article: What to expect during your first therapy session.
Will I get ongoing treatment if it’s needed?
You may be recommended a treatment plan to help until you start to feel better or until your condition becomes more manageable. Alternatively, you may be recommended to continue treatment on an ongoing basis to help manage your condition long-term.
Over time your needs can change, so you may be asked back for a regular review of your diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
How do I find a private psychiatric assessment?
Many people choose to reach out to their NHS GP first, but whether you have been added to an NHS waiting list or not, you can still book an assessment through a private healthcare provider by contacting them directly, having your GP refer you, or using a service such as Augmentive. You may find it helpful to read our article: How to find the right mental health specialist.
If you have a question about mental health, like wondering about different types of anxiety, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps.
Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments and reviews to broader private mental health care.