By Dr. Jackie Kantor

Psychological assessment, also referred to as psychological testing, is a multi-step clinical process that helps people better understand their mental health, behavioral functioning, neuropsychological processing, and more. Clients are usually referred by their therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, school, parent, or can be self-referred. Psychological assessments may be conducted for clarifying mental health diagnosis, getting accommodations for school, providing treatment recommendations, adoption, or other reasons. However, clients are often unsure of what the psychological testing process looks like.

Steps for Psychological Assessment

Step 1: The psychologist and client talk for ~15 minutes during a free phone consult to see if the psychologist is a good fit for the client. If the client and psychologist are a good fit for each other, they’ll move forward with scheduling the testing session.

Typically, the psychologist will schedule 2-3 in-person testing sessions (the number of testing sessions depends on why the client is coming in for assessment). Testing sessions last 2-4 hours each and clients can take several breaks. Prior to coming in for testing, clients may be asked to stop certain medications (e.g., medication for ADHD) and refrain from using substances days before testing.

Step 2: The first testing session will always start with a clinical interview. During the interview, clients are asked about why they are coming in for assessment as well as family, social, educational, occupational, medical, and psychological history. For children and teens, parents are present for a portion of the interview process. The interview usually lasts for 90 minutes.

After the interview, clients may complete all or some of the following (depending on why they are getting an assessment): questionnaires, academic tests (e.g., solving math problems and reading passages), and cognitive tests. Clients may be given questionnaires to give a parent, teacher, sibling, roommate, friend, etc. fill out and bring back during the next testing session.

Step 3: Testing session 2 (and maybe 3) continue similar questionnaires, academic tests, and/or cognitive tests. Some of these tests may be paper and pencil while others are on a computer. When the final testing session is complete, the client and psychologist will schedule a feedback session (usually 1-4 weeks later).

Step 4: The feedback session is the final step in psychological assessment that usually lasts 60-90 minutes. The purpose of the feedback session is to go over the results, discuss diagnosis (if applicable), and recommendations as well as being given a copy of the psychological assessment report.

Adult clients may have others present for the feedback session, but it is not required. Parents need to be present for at least part of the feedback session for children and teens. A lot of information will be covered in the feedback session; this is why all clients are given a copy of the report.

Step 5 (if applicable): Let your psychologist know who, if anyone, the report needs to be sent to. For example, clients who are requesting academic accommodations often need the psychologist to directly send the report to the school.

Conclusion

Psychological assessments can be beneficial for anyone needing to gain a better understanding of mental health disorders, learning disabilities, and behavioral patterns. Through a series of steps, including clinical interviews, questionnaires, and various tests, a psychological assessment can offer clarity and guidance for the client and/or who referred them for an assessment.

Are you searching for a psychologist or being referred for a psychological assessment? Vivid Psychology Group offers assessments for adolescents and adults and can partner with your referer on the results. Reach out to a team member today to get started.

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