Mental Status Exam Template

Use our concise and customizable Mental Status Exam Template to evaluate clients' mental state and functioning in a structured way.

By Karina Jimenea on May 19, 2024.

Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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What is a Mental Status Exam?

A Mental Status Exam (MSE) is a structured psychiatric assessment tool used by healthcare professionals to evaluate an individual's cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. It is the psychological equivalent of a physical exam and provides valuable insights into the patient's mental state. The MSE covers several domains: appearance, behavior, speech, mood, thought process, thought content, perception, cognition, insight, and judgment. This involves assessing whether a client's presentation is within the normal range of responses (Sadock et al., 2015).

The MSE is commonly used to diagnose mental health conditions and develop therapeutic interventions. Furthermore, it assists in assessing the risk of harm to self or others. Understanding how to administer an MSE can be helpful in treatment planning and identifying immediate intervention needs.

Printable Mental Status Exam Template

Download these templates for Mental Status Exam Template to improve your therapy intake process and HIPAA compliance.

What is included in a Mental Status Exam?

While it can be tailored to the specific needs of the patient, a comprehensive Mental Status Exam typically covers these key areas (Voss & Das, 2022):

Appearance and behavior

The Mental Status Exam begins with observing the patient's appearance and behavior, including personal hygiene, whether they are dressed appropriately, eye contact, facial expression, and posture. A practitioner might also note repetitive movements or abnormal movements during the session. These observations can provide clues about the patient's mental status, physical health, emotional state, and potential neurological conditions.


Assessing the patient's speech involves evaluating qualities such as rate, volume, articulation, and coherence. Abnormalities in speech, such as pressured speech, monotonous speech, slurred speech, or word salad (incoherent speech), can indicate an underlying mental health problem or cognitive impairment.

Mood and affect

The Mental Status Exam assesses the patient's affect, which refers to their emotional expression, and their mood, which refers to their subjective emotional state. Healthcare professionals observe the patient's facial expressions, eye contact, and body language, which can be mood-congruent or incongruent.

Thought process and content

Evaluating the patient's thought process involves assessing their thoughts' logical flow and organization. Practitioners may also explore the content of the patient's thoughts, including the presence of any delusions (fixed and false beliefs), hallucinations (perceptual abnormalities such as auditory hallucinations), loose associations, overvalued ideas (unreasonable and sustained belief of less than delusional intensity), or obsessions.


The cognitive domain of the Mental Status Exam assesses various aspects of the patient's cognitive functioning, including orientation (awareness of self, time, and place), attention, concentration, memory (recent and long-term), language abilities, and executive functioning (problem-solving, abstraction, and fair judgment).

Insight and judgment

Insight refers to the patient's understanding and awareness of their mental health condition. At the same time, judgment involves evaluating the patient's ability to make reasonable decisions and understand the consequences of their actions. Poor insight and impaired judgment can often accompany various psychiatric disorders and personality disorders and may influence treatment adherence and decision-making.

How to use this free Mental Status Exam Template 

To start using this template in your own practice, healthcare providers can follow these steps:

Step 1: Gather information

Before conducting the mental status exam, review the client's medical history, stated age, presenting concerns, and any relevant background information. This will help you tailor the exam and focus on areas requiring further testing and exploration.

Step 2: Observe appearance and behavior

Start the exam by observing physical signs. This includes the client's appearance, their grooming, hygiene, and clothing. Note any unusual behaviors, such as unusual movements, agitation, or signs of self-neglect. Pay attention to their eye contact, posture, and overall presentation.

Step 3: Assess speech and language

Evaluate the client's speech patterns, including rate, tone, and volume, and note any abnormalities. Additionally, assess their language abilities, including comprehension, naming, and repetition.

Step 4: Explore mood, thought process, and content

Assess their mood and affect, noting any incongruence between their reported mood and observed emotional expression. Evaluate the client's thought process, including their thoughts' logical flow, organization, and coherence. Explore the content of their thoughts, looking for any delusions, hallucinations, or obsessions.

Step 5: Evaluate cognition, insight, and judgment

Assess the client's cognitive functioning, including orientation to time and current location, attention, concentration, memory, and executive functioning. Determine the client's level of insight into their condition and evaluate their judgment and decision-making abilities.

Step 6: Complete notes and comments

As you complete the MSE, add any comments to elaborate as needed. These comments may be useful for remembering important points you wish to return to with your patient, and it's best to note these down as soon after observing as possible.

Mental Status Exam Template example (sample)

With spaces for “other” options and comments, everyone may fill out this Mental Status Exam Template slightly differently. That flexibility is one of the benefits of using this form. While there will undoubtedly be variance between MSEs completed by different practitioners, it can still be useful to see a completed MSE to understand better how this form can be used in your practice. Check a preview of our MSE Template or download a copy by clicking on the link below:

Download this Mental Status Exam Template example (sample):

Mental Status Exam Template example (sample)

Scoring and interpretation

Accurately interpreting the results of a mental status exam (MSE) is crucial for providing appropriate care and support to individuals. When interpreting the MSE results, it is essential to consider the individual's baseline functioning, cultural background, and any potential factors that may influence their presentation during a session. The observations should be interpreted in the context of the individual's unique circumstances and presenting concerns.

Significant deviations from expected norms or changes from the individual's baseline functioning may indicate the presence of cognitive impairment, mental illness, or other underlying health issues that require further evaluation and intervention.

It's important to note that the interpretation of the MSE should be based on the overall clinical picture, considering the patient's medical history, presenting symptoms, and any additional diagnostic information. Scoring and observing alone may not provide a definitive diagnosis, but it can help identify areas of concern and guide further evaluation or treatment planning.

Why use Carepatron for mental status exams?

Carepatron offers a Mental Status Exam Template designed as a practical tool for mental health practitioners. It provides a structured and systematic way to evaluate key aspects of a client's mental state. Using Carepatron for MSEs ensures that essential information is recorded consistently and comprehensively, as the platform guides practitioners through each exam component.

This is only one of our extensive library of customizable templates in our clinical documentation software. With such resources at hand, professionals can focus on the assessment while Carepatron handles the organization of data, potentially leading to better patient outcomes.

Furthermore, maintaining organized records is crucial for ongoing patient care and communication with other healthcare providers. With Carepatron, the data and insights collected can be efficiently shared among team members, contributing to coordinated care and support.

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Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A., & Ruiz, P. (2015). Kaplan and Sadock's synopsis of psychiatry: Behavioral sciences/clinical psychiatry (11th ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health.

Voss, R. M., & Das, J. M. (2022). Mental status examination. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing.

How do you write a brief mental status exam?
How do you write a brief mental status exam?

Commonly asked questions

How do you write a brief mental status exam?

To write a brief Mental Status Exam (MSE), focus on key areas such as appearance, behavior, speech, mood, affect, thought process, thought content, cognition, insight, and judgment. Provide a concise description of the individual's presentation in each area, noting any abnormalities or noteworthy observations to provide a picture of their mental functioning during assessment.

What are the five categories of the mental status exam?

The five categories of the Mental Status Exam (MSE) typically include appearance and behavior, speech and language, mood and affect thought content, and cognitive function. Each category assesses different aspects of an individual's mental state to evaluate their cognitive and emotional functioning comprehensively.

How to write a good MSE?

To write a good Mental Status Exam (MSE), be concise but thorough. Objectively describe your observations across all relevant domains. Organize your assessment in a logical flow. Use clear, professional language with objectivity. Document any positive and negative findings that may aid diagnosis and treatment planning.

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