The term “psychological testing” can sound intimidating, and many people are unsure of what such testing entails. In many ways, psychological testing and assessment are similar to medical tests. When a patient is having physical symptoms, a primary care physician may order X-rays or blood tests to understand what’s causing those symptoms. The physician will use the test results to help inform a treatment plan. Psychological evaluations serve the same purpose. Psychologists use tests to measure and observe a client’s behavior in order to arrive at a diagnosis and guide treatment. Although the symptoms of a psychological issue are usually obvious, such as when a child experiences academic or social problems at school, or when an adult struggles to maintain personal and professional relationships, the cause of the problem is not always clear. Psychological evaluations provide a deeper, more complete understanding of the problem that can be gained from a brief office visit. The additional information derived from psychological testing is sometimes needed in order to design the best approach to address the problem.
Psychologists administer tests and assessments for a wide variety of reasons. Children experiencing difficulty in school may undergo testing for learning disabilities. Neuropsychological testing assesses cognitive skills to diagnose conditions such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or Dementias. If a person is struggling at work or school, or in personal relationships, psychological tests can help gain a deeper understanding of contributing factors such as poor anger control, interpersonal deficits, or personality characteristics. Other tests evaluate whether clients are experiencing emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety.
A mental health assessment could stir up a variety of emotions. Depending on the reasons for a psychological evaluation, an individual may feel resentful, hostile, afraid, or anxious. These are all common reactions to someone evaluating how you think and feel. Remember, psychologists, are here to help you work through problems, not judge you. In essence, the results of a psychological assessment provide a snapshot of one’s emotional/cognitive state, which can serve as a vital step in providing clarity of diagnosis and treatment planning.