If you're here, you've probably heard the words "psychological assessment" at some point from a doctor, therapist, or even school personnel. Or maybe you've researched it yourself and are curious about what an assessment looks like or why it's helpful. I'm Dr. Fitzpatrick, and I'm here to answer some of the most common questions about assessments.
What’s the point of an assessment?
If you've been referred for an assessment, there is likely some diagnostic uncertainty as your symptoms may overlap with several different mental health conditions. This situation often arises in doctor's offices or therapy appointments when discussing symptoms. While we may understand your specific symptoms, accessing services to address them may not be possible without a formal medical diagnosis.
Sometimes, individuals have received diagnoses in the past but require updated testing to assess previous symptoms, determine the current level of severity, or determine if they still meet the criteria for that diagnosis. Within the school system, testing can be utilized to identify learning disabilities, enabling access to special education services. Similarly, in a doctor's or therapist's office, if you exhibit symptoms associated with ADHD, they may suggest testing to formalize the diagnosis.
By seeking official testing from professionals, we can provide you with a medical diagnosis. This diagnosis holds significant value as it grants you access to services, opens doors for treatment options, and helps guide you towards the appropriate path for your next steps.
The psychological assessment process
When it comes to testing, the process typically involves several steps.
- Intake: You will meet with one of our clinicians and discuss your symptoms. They will ask you questions about your history, background, ongoing concerns, and other factors that may be impacting your behaviors.
- Testing battery: Once we have the information from your intake, we are able to put together what's called our "testing battery." The testing battery simply consists of the tests that we will administer to assess the concerns you share with us. We always provide a comprehensive testing battery, which means that we will look into any and all areas of concern you bring to us. This ensures that overlapping symptoms and concerns are addressed, giving us the most accurate clinical diagnosis. The tests themselves will be a combination of direct testing, where the clinician asks you questions, self-report forms, rating scales, and we will likely ask for your permission to speak to people in your life who know you well in order to better understand you.
- Data analysis: Once we have data from the testing battery, we comb through it to identify patterns, outstanding scores, and potential diagnoses.
- Report and discussion: We then write a report detailing this information. Once the report is completed, we will meet with you again to go over it. We will explain what we were looking for, what we found, and how it compares to "typical" scores.
- Treatment recommendations: Most importantly, we will discuss what this all means for treatment. We can make recommendations based on these diagnoses and discuss with you what resources are suitable for your specific diagnosis.
I often explain to clients that a diagnosis is similar to the word "pizza." If I tell you I'm going to get you a pizza, you would understand what I mean. However, if I show up with a slice from a corner store, it's a very different experience compared to bringing you a wood-fired flatbread. Both are pizzas, and they may belong to the same family, but the experiences they offer are significantly distinct. Through testing, we can more accurately determine the specific type of pizza you are, enabling us to guide you towards more effective steps in both self-understanding and self-improvement.