What are assessment centers?
Properly diagnosing mental and emotional disorders is a challenge, and an incorrect diagnosis can spell disaster. Assessment centers specialize in correcting misdiagnoses, evaluating symptoms and behaviors, explaining the new diagnosis, and charting an individualized treatment plan.
Who do assessment centers treat?
Assessment centers vary when it comes to who they treat. Some specialize in adults, some adolescents, some even focus on specific issues.
For adolescents and young adults, assessment centers usually take individuals:
- Whose mental, emotional, or behavioral state is preventing them from succeeding in school or at work, maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family, or feeling hopeful and confident about the future
- Who have been diagnosed with a mental, emotional, or behavioral condition, but have not received effective treatment
- Who have tried multiple treatments and therapies for their condition, but haven’t found one that works for them
- Who suspect that their needs are not being adequately addressed by their current therapy program
- Who simply want a second opinion, another perspective on therapeutic possibilities, or more insight into their options
- Who need additional professional assistance putting together a treatment plan
What makes assessment centers unique?
Assessment centers stand apart from other centers–like residential treatment centers–because they offer a unique set of tools and treatment planning. Some unique features include:
- Diagnostic Expertise: Through observation, testing, and discussion, psychiatric staff can form a preliminary diagnosis, then refine it based on the teen’s individual situation and needs.
- Short-Term Support: Although some assessment centers are affiliated with residential treatment facilities, their main goal is not to place patients in long-term therapy. Instead, assessment center staff aim to prioritize teens’ security and health, correctly explain their condition, and offer information about potential treatment options.
- Family Systems Approach: Most teen assessment centers engage parents and siblings in the diagnostic and planning process. This approach is designed to give everyone in the family the tools they need to support and encourage their loved one.
Searching for the right fit
- A good assessment center can lead to successful treatment, so think carefully about your needs. Do you need a short-term assessment of a few days, or a longer program that lasts several weeks?
- Consider whether you will want to enter a residential treatment program after your stay. If so, you’ll want to find an assessment center that has solid connections and regularly makes treatment referrals.
- Some assessment centers are costly, but many are covered by insurance. Determine which locations your policy will cover before you make an appointment or schedule a stay.
- Decide whether you want to travel for your assessment or remain at home. Most teens prefer to have support from friends and family, but others enjoy the anonymity and privacy of seeking help far from home.
Why go to an assessment center?
If difficulties with your child have left you with more questions than answers, an assessment center can help. An assessment center uses trained clinicians to objectively take a look into your child’s situation.
During an assessment, you get insights into your child’s problematic behaviors and available solutions. Assessments generally involve a comprehensive review of your child through family interviews, previous medical records, and individual interactions with your child.
Rather than applying the same tests and diagnostic checklists across the board, the mental health professionals at an assessment center take the time to learn about their patients’ lives, struggles, and goals. This gives them a holistic, comprehensive view of potential treatments.
By inviting parents and siblings to participate in the diagnostic process, assessment centers set healthy patterns for engagement and interaction between families.
During this challenging time, it’s important for teens to feel secure and comfortable. Knowledgeable, caring staff can make the experience easier for everyone.
Assessment centers are largely designed to not only stabilize and clarify diagnosis, but plan for the future. Their goal is to create a clearer picture in order to plan next steps precisely and constructively.