Professor of Psychology Author TV & Podcast Host
How is a pyschological evaluation helpful?
A comprehensive evaluation usually includes a detailed examination into an individual's emotional functioning, personality structures, cognitive functioning, innate abilities, and current achievement and academic or work performance. Psychological evaluations are a formal, structured, and scientific way of gathering objective information about an individual for the purpose of making a variety of decisions and sorting out questions about a particular individual. Some of these decisions have to do with the most appropriate placement at school or work, and other decisions have to do with evaluating the extent of a type of injury (whether it is psychological, physical, or cognitive) on the individual's daily functioning in a variety of domains. It is also used to confirm or modify the impressions or previous diagnoses formed by therapists and educators through less structured interactions in therapy or in the classroom. A comprehensive evaluation can also identify specific needs in therapy, pinpoint important issues that may help or impede progress in treatment, and aid in recommendations that will assist in producing better outcomes in treatment, at work, or in the individual's social setting.
What can I expect from a psychological evaluation?
A comprehensive psychological evaluation begins with a detailed clinical interview with the individual. It also usually includes some review of past records and relevant documents depending on the question that needs to be answered by the evaluation (some examples include medical records, former treatment records, employment records). The evaluation also includes a number of formal, scientifically validated, psychological tests that are administered to the individual over the span of 4-12 hours and usually require separate appointments. The specific battery of tests for each individual is specifically designed for the purpose of each evaluation to ensure that the right type of information is gathered. Examples of psychological tests include assessments of personality styles, tests of emotional well being, symptom inventories, tests of executive functioning, tests of attention and concentration, tests of memory and cognitive functioning, tests of intellectual ability, tests of academic achievement, and tests for malingering. Sometimes, the evaluation may also include interviews with significant others (such as parents, spouses, or teachers). Finally, a formal integrated written report of findings is provided along with recommendations based on those findings; presented in a personal, interactive feedback meeting.
The use of psychological tests requires extensive training to learn administration, scoring, interpretation, and incorporation of all of the information along with clinical knowledge of empirical theories and research studies to make important decisions for the individual.