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.
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?
When is psychological assessment needed?
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.
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.
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 adapted from the Society for Personality Assessment Psychological Assessment brochure. www.personality.org
© 2008 SPA