Definition and Overview

A mental health consultation is an assessment of a person’s mental state to determine whether he has or is at risk of developing any mental disorder. This is more commonly performed on children to identify and address issues that may have a negative impact on their mental development. However, it is also beneficial for people who are experiencing symptoms of mental issues. The procedure is done using a wide range of techniques and resources to evaluate a person’s state of mind and identify potential disorders.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A mental health consultation is beneficial for children (for the purpose of preventing the development of mental health issues) and for mental health patients who are suspected of having a mental problem.

1. Early childhood mental health consultation

Mental health consultation in early childhood is found to be most helpful in identifying and preventing potential mental issues that may affect a child. Early childhood is a crucial developmental stage in which children are highly susceptible to social and emotional influences that may affect their behavior. The consultation may also become necessary for children who are already exhibiting challenging behaviors at an early stage.

The consultation with a mental health specialist can be expected to help ensure that the child receives support in his social and emotional development. The appointment should also bring to light any issues there may be with regards to the early care and education of the child and how these issues may affect the child’s growth.

*2. Mental health consultation as a part of treatment for an existing or a suspected mental issue *

This type of consultation is helpful for those who already showing signs of mental illness, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders (social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and some types of phobias)
  • Mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression)
  • Psychotic disorders (schizophrenia)
  • Eating disorders (bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder)
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Personality disorders (antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Sexual and gender disorders
  • Stress response or adjustment disorders
  • Somatic symptom disorders

A mental health consultation for an existing disorder is expected to provide patients with treatment or therapy to help them cope with the symptoms of the disorder and to eventually treat the problem. Meanwhile, a consultation for a suspected disorder is expected to provide a clear diagnosis of the patient’s mental health condition so that treatment, if necessary, may also be prescribed.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A mental health consultation may be provided by primary care doctors, who may eventually refer the patient to a specialist if found necessary. These specialists include:

Mental health specialists use a wide range of techniques and resources to assess a patient’s mental health state. First, doctors conduct a physical exam and some lab tests to rule out other potential problems that may be causing the symptoms. If none are found, a psychological evaluation will be performed. This is done by interviewing the patients about his thoughts and feelings, any symptoms he is experiencing, and his behavioral patterns. Patients may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire.

As for early childhood mental health consultation programs, these are usually offered at a group level, usually in partnership with child care and early education providers, unless a child is showing symptoms of mental illness, in which case his parents and the primary caregiver may bring him to a mental health specialist for individual assessment.

Possible Risks and Complications

It is sometimes a challenge to determine what specific mental illness is affecting an individual and causing his symptoms. However, getting an accurate diagnosis will ensure that appropriate treatment is used. Thus, patients or their families are advised to work closely with mental health specialists until the problem is addressed.

Reference:

  • Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation. Georgetown University Centre for Child and Human Development
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