What is psychological testing?
Psychological testing is a specialized, in-depth procedure to evaluate an individual’s intellectual skills, academic skills, personality features, emotional well-being, and coping styles. The various instruments and measures used in the psychological testing process can help an individual patient, significant others, and medical providers understand a client in different ways compared to an interview or outpatient psychotherapy.
Unlike psychotherapy, the psychological testing process is more structured in its goal to evaluate, diagnose, and offer recommendations to address a patient’s concerns. Psychological testing is only conducted by licensed psychologists or supervised graduate students. Testing psychologists hold doctorates (PhD or PsyD) in psychology (typically including clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, or educational psychologists). Testing psychologists complete graduate level coursework, several years of supervised training in psychological testing, and have training with administering & interpreting a range of psychological tests.
Common reasons for psychological testing
While psychological testing can be initiated by an individual patient, often it is a parent, educator, medical provider, or therapist who refers an individual for psychological testing. Common reasons for psychological testing referrals include:
- questions around learning disabilities
- attention deficit challenges, memory concerns
- neurological disorders (eg. dementias, brain injury)
- or questions to clarify mental health diagnoses
The goal of these evaluations is to diagnose disorders, develop a treatment plan to increase overall quality of life, and improve emotional functioning for our patients.
What to expect during the testing process
The psychological testing process begins with an initial appointment. During this appointment, you will meet with the testing psychologist, who will ask about the extent and impact of the individual’s specific concerns, along with other background information (eg. medical history, education/occupational functioning, other mental health history). This initial appointment will guide the psychologist in selecting an individualized “battery,” or set of measures which address the individual’s presenting concerns.
A full psychological evaluation report will include:
- background information
- behavioral observations
- a review of prior records
- testing data
- interpretations of the data
Following completion of the testing process, feedback sessions are scheduled to review the results, answer questions, and discuss next steps regarding the evaluation. The entire testing process can involve up to five appointments and take multiple weeks to complete from start to finish.
Types of psychological tests
Following the initial appointment, the testing psychologist will schedule several appointments to administer a range of standardized assessments. Standardized assessments can include the following:
- Intellectual tests: Intellectual measures assess an individual’s aptitude, or cognitive strengths and weaknesses on a range of domains ranging from verbal skills, processing speed, memory, and reasoning skills.
2. Academic achievement tests: Academic achievement measures are used to assess learning disorders. These measures help identify strengths and weaknesses in math, reading, writing, spelling, and language skills. These measures are given when there are concerns about learning disability and/or requests for educational accommodations or modifications (eg. Individualized Education Plan, IEP or 504 Plans).
3. Attention measures: Attention measures include computerized tasks that evaluate attention, impulsivity, and vigilance challenges. There are also questionnaires where patients, family members, and school staff members rate their perception of attention and concentration difficulties for their self, student, child, or significant other.
4. Personality measures: Personality assessments are self-report questionnaires where patients evaluate and rate the extent a personality trait, behavior, or mental health concern describes themselves. On objective personality assessments, individuals complete true/false and Likert-scale questionnaires (eg. rating a question from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”) to provide information about their personality. There are also a range of projective assessments, which are personality measures where individuals respond to open-ended, ambiguous stimuli which reveals different aspects of their personality. When evaluated in aggregate, personality tests can describe the extent to which a behavior/personality trait causes concerns, when compared with sample norms.
One defining feature of psychological testing measures is that they are standardized. Measures that are standardized allow the clinician to compare the client to a broader normative group (eg. comparing the patient with a group that is similar in age, or amongst individuals in treatment). Comparisons are also made based on other features (eg. based on gender or treatment group).
Online psychological testing & Covid-19 considerations
During the Covid-19 pandemic, our psychologists at Clarity Clinic can provide various psychological assessments via secure videoconferencing platforms (Zoom technology). Similar to in-office psychological testing counterparts, online testing measures are standardized. While this testing can be completed in the comfort of one’s home or residence, it is important the evaluation is completed in a private room free from distractions for extended periods of time.
This is important since the goal is to replicate in-office psychological testing as much as possible. Online psychological testing also requires reliable internet access, along with a laptop/desktop that has a webcam.
There are various testing measures and protocols which require some aspects to be completed in-person to arrive at an accurate and thorough diagnosis. Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Clarity Clinic is taking all the necessary safety precautions (required masks, symptom questionnaires prior to appointments, plexiglass barriers).
Psychological testing in children
For children and adolescents, psychological testing is often recommended by parents, teachers, or other school personnel. When conducting psychological testing with children, there is a strong emphasis on collecting collateral information from informants on the referred child’s behaviors, emotions, and academic skills at home, and in the school environment.
In children, psychological testing is often recommended when there are questions about attention deficit, academic concerns, or behavioral/emotional challenges. Often, psychological testing can provide support for special education services (eg. Individualized Education Plan, IEP or 504 Plan accommodations).
Scheduling psychological testing
For more information on some of the specific psychological assessments used by our psychologists, and to schedule psychological testing please call us 312-754-9404.
Author: Reggie Pacheco