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Psychological Assessment

Psychological assessments are very useful in developing a greater understanding of an individual and various aspects of their functioning. Some people would like to understand more about themselves, but do not wish to engage in psychological therapy.

Many people find that a psychological assessment can:

  • Validate aspects of their functioning that they are proud of
  • Help them to find out how other people see them and their behaviour
  • Help them to find out why it has ben difficult to move forward in certain areas of their life, such as their career or in their relationships
  • Resolve uncertainties about what kind of person they are and why
  • Help them to understand how to continue to develop as a person
  • Help them to understand problem areas and how these might be overcome
  • Help them to identify the best treatment plan prior to engaging in therapy

What areas could a psychological assessment cover?

Psychological assessments are often focussed on the following areas:

  • Intellectual functioning
  • Adaptive functioning, which means an individual’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily living, such as managing their home environment, managing their finances, managing employment, and using public transport
  • Personality functioning, including how people form and maintain relationships
  • Emotional functioning which might include mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What happens in a psychological assessment?

When I see someone for a psychological assessment I will spend several hours talking to them about their life at the current time, and how their life has been over the years. I will also administer psychological questionnaires and tests.

Psychological assessment should include various methods of understanding an individual. These are interview, observation, the use of background information such as GP records, questionnaires that have been scientifically developed and researched, and tests that can take a range of formats such as pen and paper exercises or the use of pictures. It is important that at least two of these methods of assessment are used, so that the results can be considered together, and no one method is given more importance.

I am trained in a number of widely-used and reliable questionnaires and tests. I frequently use the MMPI-2, the WAIS-IV and the Rorschach: these are the most widely used measures of psychological functioning in the world, and the research behind them is extensive. There is lots of information about these tests available on the internet.

Being assessed can be anxiety-provoking: I try to make the assessment low-key, comfortable and non-judgemental, in surroundings that are non-medical and private. It is important to have enough time, and for people to take breaks when they need to, and ask questions. Sometimes people feel that they want to bring someone with them to the assessment, and also some people feel that it would be useful for me to speak to significant others in their life.
People I assess must agree to the assessment, and I will always explain what we are going to do, why this will be helpful, and what will happen to the information that I gather.

Examples of psychological assessments and their outcome:

Alan was struggling to understand why he had been unable to achieve promotion in his chosen career, despite people giving him feedback that he was capable and well-liked. A psychological assessment was able to identify a profound belief that he did not deserve success, and that seeking to obtain it would end up with him being ridiculed and shamed. He chose to go on to have psychological therapy to help him to think about this more.

Sophie was a confident woman in her forties who had a responsible, highly paid job. She had many friends and hobbies, and was able to find pleasure in aspects of her life. However she had been unable to maintain a long-term relationship. Psychological assessment helped her to better understand her vulnerabilities, and how these were affecting the type of relationships she formed, and the behaviour she expected from others. She realised that often she formed relationships that had little chance of success, in which she felt of little value. Sophie identified changes that she could make in her life as a result of this.

Psychological Assessment within the Legal System

For the past eight years I have worked as an expert witness, providing psychological assessments of parents in care proceedings, people in private family law disputes, people who may have experienced medical negligence, people who have experienced a trauma, and people who have been charged with a crime.

Please see the page on psychological assessments in legal proceedings for more information about this.