Psychological assessment

An important area of expertise for many clinical psychologists is psychological assessment, and there are indications that as many as 91% of psychologists engage in this core clinical practice.[29] Such evaluation is usually done in service to gaining insight into and forming hypotheses about psychological or behavioral problems. As such, the results of such assessments are usually used to create generalized impressions (rather than diagnoses) in service to informing treatment planning. Methods include formal testing measures, interviews, reviewing past records, clinical observation, and physical examination.[2]

Measurement domains

There exist hundreds of various assessment tools, although only a few have been shown to have both high validity (i.e., test actually measures what it claims to measure) and reliability (i.e., consistency). Many psychological assessment measures are restricted for use by those with advanced training in mental health. For instance, Pearson(one of the many companies with rights and protection of psychological assessment tools separates who can administer, interpret, and report on certain tests.) Anybody is able to access Qualification Level A tests. Those who intend to use assessment tools at Qualification Level B must hold a master’s degree in psychology, education, speech language pathology, occupational therapy, social work, counseling, or in a field closely related to the intended use of the assessment, and formal training in the ethical administration, scoring, and interpretation of clinical assessments. Those with access to Qualification C (highest level) assessment measures must hold a doctorate degree in psychology, education, or a closely related field with formal training in the ethical administration, scoring, and interpretation of clinical assessments related to the intended use of the assessment. [30]

Psychological measures generally fall within one of several categories, including the following:

  • Intelligence & achievement tests – These tests are designed to measure certain specific kinds of cognitive functioning (often referred to as IQ) in comparison to a norming group. These tests, such as the WISC-IV and the WAIS, attempt to measure such traits as general knowledge, verbal skill, memory, attention span, logical reasoning, and visual/spatial perception. Several tests have been shown to predict accurately certain kinds of performance, especially scholastic.[29] Other tests in this category include the WRAML and the WIAT.
  • Personality tests – Tests of personality aim to describe patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings. They generally fall within two categories: objective and projective. Objective measures, such as the MMPI, are based on restricted answers—such as yes/no, true/false, or a rating scale—which allow for the computation of scores that can be compared to a normative group. Projective tests, such as the Rorschach inkblot test, allow for open-ended answers, often based on ambiguous stimuli. Other commonly used personality assessment measures include the PAI and the NEO
  • Neuropsychological tests – Neuropsychological tests consist of specifically designed tasks used to measure psychological functions known to be linked to a particular brain structure or pathway. They are typically used to assess impairment after an injury or illness known to affect neurocognitive functioning, or when used in research, to contrast neuropsychological abilities across experimental groups.
  • Diagnostic Measurement Tools – Clinical psychologists are able to diagnose psychological disorders and related disorders found in the DSM-5 and ICD-10. Many assessment tests have been developed to complement the clinicians clinical observation and other assessment activities. Some of these include the SCID-IV, the MINI, as well as some specific to certain psychological disorders such as the CAPS-5 for trauma, the ASEBA, and the K-SADS for affective and Schizophrenia in children.
  • Clinical observation – Clinical psychologists are also trained to gather data by observing behavior. The clinical interview is a vital part of the assessment, even when using other formalized tools, which can employ either a structured or unstructured format. Such assessment looks at certain areas, such as general appearance and behavior, mood and affects, perception, comprehension, orientation, insight, memory, and content of the communication. One psychiatric example of a formal interview is the mental status examination, which is often used in psychiatry as a screening tool for treatment or further testing.[29]

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