Clark R. Clipson, Ph.D.
Clipson and Osterloh, APC

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Psychological Evaluation
What is psychological assessment?

Psychological assessment refers to scientific methods psychologists often use to understand an individual's personality. When combined with information from interviews, observations, and other sources, assessments can help a person explore new and more effective ways of resolving their problems and living more effectively.
After assessment procedures are completed and the results are obtained, the psychologist typically gives the client feedback about the results. The purpose is to promote greater self-understanding and to help plan appropriate and effective treatment. In this way, psychological assessment can often shorten psychotherapy and reduce its cost when compared to treatment based solely on a clinical interview. Psychological assessment can also provide accurate and objective information to help answer questions posed by other health professionals and referring agencies such as school systems, the court, and social agencies.

Referral questions:

When decisions and plans need to be made about clients based in part on their psychological functioning, psychological assessment can offer referring agencies objective information that contributes to more personalized and rational planning and decision-making.

Generally, assessment is appropriate when there is a clinical rationale for using assessment instruments to address a specific set of referral questions about a particular client under a unique set of circumstances.

What does psychological assessment provide that typical interviews do not?

  • Provides a more objective yardstick to measure personal characteristics.
  • Provides important treatment related information that may be difficult for the client to express directly in interviews.
  • Provides reliable and valid information about the client based on comparisons with research data gathered from large groups of people.
  • Measures a large number of personality, cognitive or neuropsychological characteristics simultaneously.
  • Offers information from a wide range of sources, including self-reports, performance tasks, and other assessment strategies.
  • Provides central information needed at the start of or early in treatment.
  • Guides the selection of appropriate treatment methods, particularly for clients who have not sufficiently benefited from previous treatment or whose treatment needs are complex.
  • Highlights potential obstacles in treatment and suggest alternatives.
  • Identifies client's strengths that can be used to facilitate and speed treatment.
  • Clarifies the goals and focus of treatment.
  • Provides a baseline to measure the progress of treatment and to evaluate the effects of treatment.
  • Serves as a kind of "outside opinion" that informs both client and health care professional in their planning for and reassessment of treatment.
  • Gives the client information to enable more confident and active participation in treatment decisions, thereby increasing the client's sense of independence and satisfaction.

 When is psychological assessment needed?

Pretreatment evaluation:
Often the goal of a pretreatment assessment is to describe current functioning, confirm or refute clinical impressions, identify treatment needs, suggest appropriate interventions, or aid in careful diagnosis. Pretreatment assessment is likely to yield the greatest overall benefit for clients when (a) there are a variety of treatment approaches to choose from and there is a body of knowledge linking treatment methods to patient characteristics, (b) the client has had limited success in prior treatment, or (c) the client has complex problems calling for treatment goals to be prioritized.

Evaluation of outcomes:
Because clients may have difficulty describing changes in their functioning over time, evaluation of treatment outcomes supplements the client's subjective reports with formal measures of current functioning. Psychological test data gathered at the beginning, end, and at various points throughout the treatment can accurately measure progress and treatment effectiveness.

Stalled treatment:
When treatment efforts have stalled, psychological assessment may be used to review and modify treatment plans. Psychological assessment can identify the factors impeding therapeutic progress.

Brief treatment:
When client's are in great emotional distress but are reluctant or unable to engage in more lengthy treatments, psychological assessment approaches called Therapeutic Assessment or Collaborative Assessment can serve as a very effective brief therapy. These treatment models have been shown to decrease distressing symptoms, restore hope, and increase cooperation with other treatment efforts.  In settings where treatment demands are high and professional resources are limited, psychological assessment can be an efficient and effective form of brief therapy.

The information on this page was directly adapted from the Society for Personality Assessment Psychological Assessment brochure.
© 2008 SPA
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