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Psychological Assessment

When is psychological assessment needed?

The following general guidelines identify when psychological assessments are likely to offer the greatest benefit.

Pretreatment evaluation. Often the goal of a pre- treatment assessment is to describe current functioning, confirm or refute clinical impressions, identify treatment needs, suggest appropriate treatments, 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.

Differential Diagnosis.  There are many problems that are not apparent in an interview and require psychological testing to establish a clear diagnosis. This can occur when there are challenges in multiple areas (such as mood disturbances with ADHD) or when there are underlying cognitive or learning difficulties.  Psychological test data can assist in identifying strengths and difficulties in cognitive and personality functioning, determine an  accurate diagnosis, and develop appropriate treatment plans to address the areas of concern.   

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 clients 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. In settings where treatment demands are high and professional resources are limited, psychological assessment can be an efficient and effective form of brief therapy.

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