The Psychological Process

Psychological Testing and Evaluation

Psychological testing and evaluation is an empirically-based process consisting of paper-and-pencil instruments individually administered to patients for the sake of gathering information about their psychological, neuropsychological, and/or cognitive functioning.  The data collected from the administration and scoring of the psychological tests is then integrated with information gleaned from an in-depth clinical interview and the completion of an extensive life history questionnaire, to provide a multi-tiered and comprehensive assessment of the examinee’s psychological functioning.  Areas assessed include cognitive functioning and memory, reality perception, self-concept and sense of self, affective functioning and emotional expression, interpersonal relationships and capacity for intimacy, defense mechanisms utilized, and areas of conflict.  The results of such testing are used for diagnostic purposes, behavioral assessment, and forensic evaluation. Psychological testing is an invaluable tool for both uncovering underlying personality dynamics and planning optimal courses of treatment.

Psychological tests include IQ and achievement tests, neuropsychological tests, and personality tests.  IQ tests are used to measure intelligence, or intellectual ability, whereas achievement tests are used to assess the use and level of development of intelligence.  Both include a series of tasks, verbal and nonverbal, and are usually individually administered.  Although IQ and achievement tests can be administered to a group of people, individual assessment is considered more comprehensive, reliable, and valid.   IQ and achievement tests are used in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, or school or work performance issues.  Common IQ tests include the Wechsler Scales (WAIS-IV, WISC-IV, WPPSI) and the Woodcock-Johnson; common achievement tests include the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-4).

Neuropsychological tests are used to assess cognitive functioning and memory.  They consist of a series of individually-administered, specifically designed tasks used to measure particular psychological functions that are known to be linked to particular brain structures or pathways.  Neuropsychological tests are used to assess cognitive or memory impairment after injury or illness that has affected neurocognitive functioning, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, or dementia.  They are also used to evaluate competency.  Common neuropsychological tests include the Halstead-Reitan, Luria, Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS), California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT), and the Purdue Pegboard.

Personality tests are used to assess personality functioning, and consist of both objective and projective measures; a complete psychological test battery will include tests from both categories.  Objective tests, also known as rating scales, have a restricted response format in that the examinee selects a true-or-false or multiple choice, response.  Examples of objective tests include the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory.   Projective tests are known as free response measures, in that the examinee is asked to produce a response without the constraints of a forced response set.  The examinee’s responses are then assessed for their content and scored using an empirically developed scoring system with empirically derived norms.  Common projective tests include the Rorschach Inkblot Series, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and House-Tree-Person Test.  Personality tests are used to assess psychological functioning for a variety of purposes, including diagnosis and treatment planning, suitability for high-risk careers such as police and fire, suitability for ministerial or government advancement, or forensic evaluations.

The process of psychological testing and evaluation usually consists of an initial interview, two or more testing sessions, and a session to review and discuss the results.