I've seen a few references (e.g. at VeryWellMind) to the fact that there are three kinds of psychiatric evaluations: General, Clinical, and Emergency.

The nature of an Emergency evaluation almost goes without saying. These are the kinds of evaluations that happen in emergency departments and urgent care clinics when someone is experiencing an acute crisis and may need immediate stabilization and/or hospitalization in order to prevent them from harming themself or others. I'm having a much more difficult time understanding the critical differences between a General and a Clinical evaluation. Both of them seem to happen when there is no acute crisis, but there are concerns that a patient may have a mental disorder that could benefit from psychiatric treatment.

What's the difference between a general and a clinical psychiatric evaluation? For example, is one of them more in-depth than the other? Is one more focused on getting a bare diagnostic label and the other more focused on deciding a treatment plan? Is a general evaluation done outside the clinical context (e.g. forensic psychiatry)?

I did find the Practice Guideline for the Psychiatric Evaluation of Adults (2nd ed) which indicates (p 11) that a Clinical evaluation is specifically done on a referral basis. This would imply that a General evaluation is not done on a referral basis but rather happens when a patient shows up at a psychiatrist's office without a referral in a non-emergency scenario, but the guide's writeup on the General evaluation (p 9) does not discuss the presence or absence of a referral as an essential element of the evaluation.


1 Answer 1


When you asked

is one of them more in-depth than the other? Is one more focused on getting a bare diagnostic label and the other more focused on deciding a treatment plan?

you were almost there.

As indicated by the UK's NHS page on Psychiatry, there will be an initial evaluation which will be a general assessment on the mental health and sometimes a little physical health of the patient. This can sometimes be referred to as a general evaluation.

Among other considerations, such as suicidality and any risks to others, the initial assessment will generate a general diagnosis of the problem presented, what therapy may be required, an assessment of urgency, the patient's support network (friends, family groups they can, and do, call upon), and whether any medication may be required before and/or during clinical appointments.

The clinical evaluations occur during the therapy sessions. During therapy, the initial diagnosis may be more refined into a more detailed diagnosis, and as things progress, the therapy sessions, timings, etc. along with any medication can be adjusted.

General evaluations look at the surrounding areas of the issue, such as external support availability and what, if any, are being employed. Clinical evaluations narrow in on the finer details of the issue, although that is not to say that clinical evaluations ignore the general issues. Everything is taken into consideration during a clinical evaluation.


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