Mental Status Examination
What is it?
• A template that assists a Clinical Psychologist in the
collation and subsequent conceptual organization of
clinical information about a client’s emotional and
cognitive functioning
By systematically basing observations on verbal and
non-verbal behavior, the aim is to increase the reliability
of the data upon which subsequent diagnoses and case
formulation are made
Following Daniel & Crider (2003) an MSE collates
information about the client’s
– (i) physical
– (ii) emotional
– (iii) cognitive state
Motor Activity
Mood and Affect
Attention and Concentration
Speech and Language
Thought (Form and Content)
Insight and Judgment
Intelligence and Abstraction
• Draw attention to the key features that describe the
client and frame the presenting problem within a context
of who the client is
Typically the description will begin with a statement
about their age, gender, relationship status, referrer and
presenting problem (i.e., the reason for presentation at
the service on the particular occasion)
– E.g., “Gill, a 35-year old self-referred single woman was referred
by her medical practitioner who had suggested treatment for her
obesity that was contributing to hypertension.”
• Appearance:
• A concise summary of the client’s physical presentation is given to
paint a clear mental portrait
– dress, grooming, facial expression, posture, eye contact, as well as any
relevant noteworthy aspects of appearance
• Behavior
• May make reference to:
– level of consciousness extending from alert through, drowsy, a clouding
of consciousness, stupor (lack of reaction to environmental stimuli) and
delirium (bewildered, confused, restless, and disoriented), to coma
– degree of arousal (e.g., hypervigilance to environmental cues and
hyperarousal such as observed in anxious and manic states)
– mannerisms (e.g., tics and compulsions).
Physical (Cont.)
• Motor Activity:
• Describe both the quality and the types of actions observed
reduction in the level of movement (psychomotor retardation)
slowed movement (bradykinesia)
decreased movement (hypokinesia)
absence of movement (akinesia)
increases in the overall level of movement (psychomotor agitation)
• Attitude:
• Identifiers may be open, friendly, cooperative, willing, and
responsive on the hand or closed, guarded, hostile, suspicious,
passive on the other
• Describe attentiveness, responses to questions, expression, posture,
eye contact, tone of voice
• Mood and Affect:
• Affect (an external expression of an emotional state) is potentially
Mood (internal emotional experience that influences perception of the world
and behavioral responses) require clinician to depend on the client’s
Descriptors: euphoric, dysphoric, hostile, apprehensive, fearful, anxious,
– Stability of mood can also be noted, with the alternation between extreme
emotional states being referred to as emotional lability
– Range, intensity, and variability of affect can be variously portrayed:
• restricted (i.e., low intensity or range of emotional expression)
• blunted (i.e., severe declines in range and intensity of emotional range and expression)
• flat (i.e., absence of emotional expression,)
• exaggerated (i.e., an overly strong emotional reaction)
– Appropriateness (expression incongruent with verbal descriptions and behavior)
– General responsiveness of the client.
Cognitive: Orientation
• A person’s orientation refers to their awareness of time,
place, and person
– Orientation for time refers to a client’s ability to indicate the
current day and date (with acceptance of an error of a couple of
– Orientation for place can be assessed by why they have
presented. Behavior should also be consistent with that
expected in the setting in which they have arrived
– Orientation for person refers to the ability to know who you are,
which can be assessed by asking the client their name and about
the names of family members or friends.
Cognitive: Attention and
• Working memory (Baddeley, 1986; 1990) is the term
now used in psychology to refer to the constructs called
attention and concentration
The aim is to describe the extent to which a client is able
to focus their cognitive processes upon a given target
and not be distracted by non-target stimuli
– Digit span (the ability to recall in forward or reverse order
increasingly long series of numbers presented at a rate of one
per second) is a common way to assess these working memory
functions, and normal individuals will recall around 6-8 numbers
in a digits forward and 5-6 in digits backwards
– “Serial sevens” in which seven is sequentially subtracted from
100. Typically people will make only a couple of errors in 14
Cognitive: Memory
• A MSE will typically assess memory using the categories of short and long•
term memory
Categories do not map neatly onto models of memory in recent cognitive
psychology (Andrade, 2001)
Aim of the MSE is to provide a concise description of a person’s behavior
and screen them in a manner that can guide further assessment.
Recent or short-term memory
– ask about a recent topical event or who the President or Prime Minister is
– listen to three words, repeat them, and then recall them some time later in the
interview. Most people will usually report 2-3 words after a 20-minute interval
• Visual short-term memory
– copy and then reproduce from memory complex geometrical figures (such as
those in the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test)
• Long-term memory can be assessed by asking about childhood events.
Cognitive: Thought (Form &
• Form of thought are evident in terms of the
– (i) quantity and speed of thought production
– (ii) the continuity of ideas: (circumstantiality or
tangentiality) or may perseverate with the same idea,
word, or phrase
• They may show a loosening of associations,
where the logical connections between thoughts
are esoteric or bizarre.
Cognitive: Thought (Form &
• Content of thought
– Delusions are profound disturbances in thought content in which the client
continues to hold to a false belief despite objective contradictory evidence,
despite other members of their culture not sharing the same belief
– vary on dimensions of plausibility and systematization
persecutory (others are deliberately trying to wrong, harm, or conspire against another)
grandiose (an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance, power, or significance)
somatic (physical sensations or medical problems)
reference (belief that otherwise innocuous events or actions refer specifically to the
control, influence and passivity (belief that thoughts, feelings, impulses, and actions are
controlled by an external agency or force)
nihilistic (belief that self or part of self, others, or the world does not exist)
jealous (unreasonable belief that a partner is unfaithful)
religious (false belief that the person has a special link with God)
– More frequent issues:
• phobias (excessive and irrational fears)
• obsessions (repetitive, and intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses)
• preoccupations (e.g., with illness or symptoms).
Cognitive: Perception
• Hallucinations: perceptual disturbance in which people have an
internally generated sensory experience, so that they hear, see
(visual), feel (tactile), taste (gustatory), or smell (olfactory)
something that is not present or detectible by others
• The most frequent hallucinations are auditory and typically involve
hearing voices, calling, commanding, commenting, insulting, or
• Hallucinations can also occur when falling asleep (hypnogogic) or
when awaking (hypnopompic).
• Other perceptual disturbances include:
– external world is unreal, different, or unfamiliar (derealization)
– self is different or unreal in that the individual may feel unreal, that the
body is distorted or being perceived from a distance (depersonalization)
• Perceptions can also be dulled or heightened
Cognitive: Insight and Judgment
• Insight is a dimension that describes the extent to which
clients are aware that they have a problem
– A strong lack of insight can be an important indicator of
unwillingness to accept treatment
– Insight refers also to an awareness of the nature and extent of
the problem, the effects of their problem on others, and how it
is a departure from normal
• Judgment: The ability to make sound decisions can be
compromised for a number of reasons
– ascertain if poor decisions are the result of problems in the
cognitive processes involved in the decision making process,
motivational issues, or failures to execute a planned course of
Cognitive: Speech and Language
• Described in terms of:
Rate (e.g., slow, rapid)
Intonation (e.g., monotonous)
Quantity of information conveyed
• mutism (i.e., absence of speech)
• poverty of speech (i.e., reduced spontaneous speech)
• pressured speech (i.e., rapid speech that is hard to interrupt and understand)
• Language includes reading, writing, and comprehension.
• Disturbances such as aphasia
– Non-fluent, in which speech is slow, faltering, or effortful) or fluent
– Fluent aphasia speech that is normal in terms of its form (rhythm, quantity, and
intonation), but is a meaningless perhaps including novel words (i.e.,
Cognitive: Intelligence and
• A general indication of intelligence can be gained from
the amount of schooling a person has had:
– failure to complete high school indicating below average
– completion of high school indicating average intelligence
– college or university education indicating high intelligence
• Abstraction is the ability to recognize and comprehend
abstract relationships – to extract common
characteristics from a group of objects (e.g., in what
way are an apple/banana or music/sculpture alike?),
interpretation (e.g., explaining a proverb such as a stitch
in time saves nine).
Versions of MSE
• Mini Mental State Exam (Folstein, et al., 1975)
– 11-items, measure orientation, registration, attention & calculation, recall,
language, and praxis
– Scores ranges from 0-30 and lower scores indicate greater impairment
– less sensitive for cases with milder impairment
– scores influenced by educational level
• Cognitive Capacity Screening Examination (CCSE; Jacobs, et al., 1977)
– 30-item screener to detect diffuse organic disorders; more appropriate for
cognitively intact individuals
• High Sensitivity Cognitive Screen (HSCS; Faust & Fogel, 1989)
– 15-item scale; valid and reliable indicator of cognitive impairment
• Mental Status Questionnaire (MSQ; Kahn, et al., 1960)
– 10-item scale that shares the same weaknesses as MMSE but omits some key
domains of function (e.g., retention and registration)
• Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire (SPMSQ; Pfeiffer, 1975)
– 10-item scale for community or institutional residents; reliable indicator of
BPD1.2.3 Amn 1
Report on client
Motor Activity
Mood and Affect
Attention and Concentration
Speech and Language
Thought (Form and Content)
Insight and Judgment
Intelligence and Abstraction

Mental Status Examination (MSE)