Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to measure and observe a client's behavior, emotions, and cognitions in order to arrive at a diagnosis and guide treatment. Psychological testing and evaluations can provide a wealth of information to help clinicians to quickly identify areas of concern and for a clearer, more accurate diagnosis. The information gathered from assessments can be used to guide therapy.
A psychologist or psychiatrist must first have enough accurate information to develop a treatment plan for their client. They will often use certain tests or assessments to measure and observe someone’s behavior to arrive at a diagnosis and determine the best way to help.
Because the underlying cause of someone’s problems is not always crystal clear, a thorough evaluation conducted in a professional environment helps therapists understand whether their clients are experiencing issues with impulse control, focus, anger management, interpersonal skills, or certain personality traits that contribute to the problem. Other tests can assess whether someone is experiencing emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression.
Both tests and assessments are separate entities, but are relatable when it comes to the components of a psychological evaluation, as they allow a psychologist to see the full picture of a person's strengths and limitations. It is worth noting that neither the tests nor the assessments are like taking a pass-fail multiple-choice exam.
A psychological assessment can include numerous components, such as interview information, personal records, medical tests, and observational data. One of the more common assessment techniques is known as a clinical interview, where a psychologist talks to their client about his or her concerns and history while observing how they think, respond, and interact with others. Assessments may also include interviewing other people who are close to the client, such as teachers, coworkers, or family members.
Testing involves the use of “norm-referenced” tests such as standardized questionnaires or checklists that prove to be an effective way of measuring a particular trait or disorder someone may have. All test-takers are evaluated in a similar way, no matter where they live or who administers the test.