Psychological Testing and Evaluation

What Is Psychological Testing and Evaluation?

Often the symptoms of a psychological disorder are obvious, such as when a child experiences academic and social problems at school, or an adult struggles to maintain personal and professional relationships due to anger issues, but the cause of the problem is not always clear. Psychological testing and evaluation consists of a series of tests that help determine the cause of psychological symptoms and disorders, to determine the correct diagnosis and follow up with the appropriate course of treatment.

When It's Used

When a child is having behavioral, social, or academic problems, it may be due to a learning disorder, an attention deficit or even an emotional problem, such as anxiety or depression. Specific types of psychological tests can help a psychologist rule out some conditions while honing in on an accurate diagnosis. Psychological testing and evaluation is also used with adults, for instance, to determine the extent of a brain injury or disorder, or to decide if a person is mentally competent to stand trial. Some businesses and organizations use psychological testing and evaluation to decide whether or not an applicant is likely to be a good candidate for a position within the company, or to determine the needs of an active employee.

What to Expect

Generally, a medical doctor, social worker, or government employee provides a referral for psychological testing and evaluation that takes place in a mental health center, hospital, university medical center, school, or private office. It may take up to several hours and more than one visit with a clinician to complete in-depth psychological testing and evaluation. During this time, the client takes a series of standardized written tests that may take the form of questionnaires, ability ranking lists, surveys and checklists. While clients may take the tests on their own, there are usually follow-up interviews with the tester. If testing sessions are lengthy, there will be breaks. Psychological tests are not the type of tests one can or should prepare for. The psychologist uses information from the tests and interviews to write up an overall evaluation, determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan or provide referrals, necessary.

What to Look for in Psychological Testing and Evaluation

A mental health professional with advanced training in test administration and interpretation is qualified to perform psychological testing and evaluation. The health professional who administers the tests and conducts the interview may or may not be the treating therapist. Once a diagnosis is made, the testing clinician may refer the client to another specialist for treatment. In addition to checking credentials, it is important in all cases to find a mental health professional with whom you and your child, if involved, feel comfortable working with.

Sources

Meyer GJ, Finn SE, Eyde LD, et al. Psychological testing and psychological assessment: A review of evidence and issues. American Psychologist. Feb 2001;56(2): 128-165.

Poston JM and Hanson WE. Meta-analysis of psychological assessment as a therapeutic intervention. Psychological Assessment. 2010;22(2):203-2012

Iowa Psychological Association. Assessment Statement Position