Mental Status Exam CE Course Preview

Accreditation Information

Course Title: Mental Status Exam

Release date: July, 2020

Expiration date: July, 2022

Estimated time to complete activity: 2 hours

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This activity is jointly provided by Medical Education Resources and Symptom Media.

Target Audience

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, substance abuse counselors, allied health professionals, nurses, general practice physicians, and students, interns, and trainees of these disciplines.

Underlying Need for this Course

The purpose of this activity is to increase the learner’s overall knowledge about: the history and chronology of the Mental Status Exam (MSE), the areas of mental status it tests, how to perform and document an MSE, what the results of the MSE show, and alternative neurocognitive tests that can be used.

  1. Neurological and Psychiatric disorders can be confused.
  2. MSE should be used at every visit and every mental health assessment (in some way/shape/form).
  3. MSE useful in referral for additional testing.
  4. Need to use the same structured exam every time.
  5. No formalized method of scoring exam/ no published norms.

The mental status examination (MSE) is a snapshot of where the individual is at a particular time.  It is also used to follow and document an individual’s response to treatment over time.

The MSE always has the same content, and observations are documented in roughly the same order each time.

MSE is extremely important and should be a part of every mental health assessment.  The mental status examination can help distinguish between mood disorders, thought disorders, and cognitive impairment, and it can guide appropriate diagnostic testing and referral to an appropriate mental health professional.

Every contact the professional has with clients must be documented, and every documentation of a client contact must contain clinical impressions of how the person presented at the time of that contact, can be used to follow an individual’s progress or regression. Where the patient’s history remains stable, the client’s mental status can change daily or hourly.

An altered mental status is characteristic of a number of emotional and psychiatric conditions, medical conditions or injuries that cause damage to the brain, including alcohol or drug abuse/withdrawal syndromes, can also cause changes in mental status.

It is important to always pay attention to subtle and obvious visual and verbal cues, looking at the content of the communication, both what the person tells you and how the person tells it.  Even when a client is non-responsive/mute, incoherent, or refuses to answer questions, the clinician can obtain a wealth of information through careful observation.

There are no available guides to interpreting responses, internal “norms” of the experienced/trained clinician are the only basis for evaluating responses.

  • Clinicians need to perform mental health assessment at every visit.
  • Clinicians need to be competent in assessing verbal/non verbal traits.
  • Clinicians need to be knowledgeable of exam and how to interpret questions/answers.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course learners will be able to:

  1. Define a Mental Status Exam (MSE)
  2. Determine when to use the MSE
  3. How to facilitate / complete a MSE
  4. Understand the Purpose/Reasons for Using
  5. Reasons for Testing/Diagnoses
  6. Components/What is Being Assessed?
  7. Special Considerations
  8. Adjunct Testing

Meet your instructor: Monica L. Martocci, MA, LMFT received an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado, and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (License #LMFT36882). Monica has over 25 years of clinical experience in diverse settings and has developed, implemented, and supervised several programs that are recognized locally and nationally as being exemplary. She has a broad background in program development and service delivery, clinical supervision, and training for inpatient residential treatment and outpatient day treatment programs working primarily with adolescents, adults, veterans, and their families. Monica has experience with many different client populations in a wide variety of settings, including those with severe and persistent mental illness, co-occurring disorders, addictions, homelessness, and trauma. She has worked closely with the Dept. of Mental Health, Dept. of Children and Family Services, Probation including juvenile and adult justice systems, Drug Court and Veterans Court, LAUSD and school settings, Hospitals, Regional Centers, Adoptions and Foster Family Agencies, VA, Clinical Studies/Drug Research, and has consulted on a number of television shows as an expert on families, addictions, eating disorders, and trauma. In addition, she is a seasoned presenter in nationwide conferences on the topics of trauma and recovery, and co-occurring disorders.

Monica is currently working as Chief Clinical Officer for CLARE Foundation. She also maintains a private practice in WLA and Long Beach specializing in the treatment of children, adolescents, families, active duty military/veterans, as well as individuals and couples. Focus is on addictions, co-occurring disorders, trauma, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, child/sexual abuse, domestic violence, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, grief and loss, school and behavioral issues, ADHD/ADD, personality disorders, self-harm, self-esteem, and interpersonal and relationship issues.

Course Agenda

The content of this course includes material designed to assist students, counselors, therapists, social workers, nurses, and doctors in understanding the definition, assessment, of Mental Status Exam.

Online course slides with learning objectives, relevant course content, references, video case studies which demonstrate signs, symptoms and behaviors consistent with cognitive deficits, expert commentary is presented with video clips to assist learning and symptom recognition. Multiple choice quizzes are presented on subject matter of slides and videos.

Physician Credit

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of Medical Education Resources (MER) and Symptom Media. MER is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation
Medical Education Resources designates this enduring material for a maximum of 2 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Nursing Credit
Medical Education Resources is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

This CE activity provides 2 contact hours of continuing nursing education.

Medical Education Resources is a provider of continuing nursing education by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #CEP 12299, for 2 contact hours.

Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest
Medical Education Resources ensures balance, independence, objectivity, and scientific rigor in all our educational programs. In accordance with this policy, MER identifies conflicts of interest with its instructors, content managers, and other individuals who are in a position to control the content of an activity. Conflicts are resolved by MER to ensure that all scientific research referred to, reported, or used in a continuing education activity conforms to the generally accepted standards of experimental design, data collection, and analysis. MER is committed to providing its learners with high-quality activities that promote improvements or quality in health care and not the business interest of a commercial interest.

The faculty reported the following financial relationships with commercial interests whose products or services may be mentioned in this activity:

The content managers reported the following financial relationships with commercial interests whose products or services may be mentioned in this activity:

Method of Participation
There are no fees for participating in and receiving credit for this activity (or insert fee amount if applicable). During the period July, 2020 through July, 2022, participants must 1) read the learning objectives and faculty disclosures, 2) study the educational activity, 3) complete the posttest by recording the best answer to each question, 4) complete the evaluation.

A statement of credit will be issued only upon receipt of a completed activity evaluation form and a completed posttest with a score of 70% or better.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing; 2013
  2. Kaplan, H. I., Sadock, B. J., & Grebb, J. A. (1994). Kaplan and Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry: Behavioral sciences, clinical psychiatry. Williams & Wilkins Co.
  3. Scheiber, C. (2004). The psychiatric interview, psychiatric history, and mental status examination. Essential of clinical psychiatry, 33-65.
  4. Talbott, J. A., Hales, R. E., & Yudofsky, S. C. (1988). The American psychiatric press textbook of psychiatry. American Psychiatric Press: Washington, DC.
  5. American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) practice guidelines for neuropsychological assessment and consultation. Clin Neuropsychol. 2007;21(2):209–231.
  6. Folstein, MF., Folstein SE., McHugh PR. (1975)“Mini-mental state.” A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiatr Res, 12(3), 189-98.
  7. Kahn, R. L., Goldfarb, A. I., Pollack, M., & Peck, A. (1960). Brief objective measures for the determination of mental status in the aged. American journal of Psychiatry, 117(4), 326-328.
  8. Mattis S. Mental status examination for organic mental syndrome in the elderly patient. In: Bellak L, Karasu TB, eds. Geriatric psychiatry. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1970;77–121.
  9. Strub RL, Black FN. The mental status examination in neurology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: FA Davis, 1985
  10. Saliba, D., Buchanan, J., Edelen, M. O., Streim, J., Ouslander, J., Berlowitz, D., & Chodosh, J. (2012). MDS 3.0: Brief interview for mental status. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 13(7), 611-617.
  11. American Psychiatric Association (APA). Practice guideline for the psychiatric evaluation of adults. 2nd ed. Washington (DC): American Psychiatric Association (APA); 2006 Jun. 62 p. Available at
  12. Vergare MJ, Binder RL, Cook IA, Galanter M, Lu FG, for the Work Group on Psychiatric Evaluation. Practice guideline for the psychiatric evaluation of adults. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2006:23–25.
  13. MacKinnon RA, Michels R, Buckley PJ. The Psychiatric Interview in Clinical Practice. American Psychiatric Pub; 2006.
  14. Snydeman D, Rovner, B. Mental status exam in primary care: A review. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Oct 15; 80(8): 809-14.
  15. Martin, DC. The Mental Status Examination. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW. Clinical Methods:The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations, 3rd ed  Boston, MA: Butterworth Publishers; 1990.


The content and views presented in this educational activity are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Medical Education Resources and/or Symptom Media. The authors have disclosed if there is any discussion of published and/or investigational uses of agents that are not indicated by the FDA in their presentations. Before prescribing any medicine, primary references and full prescribing information should be consulted. Any procedures, medications, or other courses of diagnosis or treatment discussed or suggested in this activity should not be used by clinicians without evaluation of their patient’s conditions and possible contraindications on dangers in use, review of any applicable manufacturer’s product information, and comparison with recommendations of other authorities. The information presented in this activity is not meant to serve as a guideline for patient management.

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