By Dr. Debra Wolkenfeld
Psychological assessment, also referred to as psychological testing or evaluation, is one way for psychologists better understand a person and their behavior. The results can help determine factors that can underlie a person’s presenting concerns or established mental illness, as well as provide cognitive strengths and weaknesses to aid in academic planning.
Some other aspects of assessment are to better understand current functioning, including severity of disturbance and capacity for independent living. It can help identify therapeutic needs and highlight issues likely to emerge in treatment. Some assessment work can monitor treatment over time to evaluate one’s progress and help assess for risk. Other aspects of psychological assessment are forensic in nature and aide in evaluations for court proceedings, assist in minimizing potential legal liabilities, divorce, and criminal proceedings.
Similar to medical tests, if a patient has physical symptoms s/he may be referred for an X-ray or blood test to understand what may be causing symptoms. Psychological assessment serves the same purpose. Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to measure and observe a patient’s behavior to arrive at a diagnosis, which assists in proper treatment.
Unlike psychotherapy, formal assessment is a distinctive aspect of psychological practice relative to the activities performed by other health care providers. Psychological tests are not one-size-fits-all as psychologists select specific assessments and tests for a given individual patient and/or situation. A “full battery” of assessments may include written questionnaires, clinical interviews with the individual and their family, as well as tests that have been developed and evaluated by researchers and proven to be effective for measuring specific traits or disorders. Once a psychologist has administered everything needed, results will be interpreted and the patient or family member will receive a written report, carefully explaining results, as well as suggestions for treatment or other support.
At Integrated Behavioral Health, LLC, we take a holistic view to psychological treatment and strongly believe that psychological assessment can help facilitate more accurate diagnoses, which allows for more specific and targeted treatment.