There are many kinds of psychological testing, each designed to address the need for a certain kind of information. The testing that I do is referred to as Personality Assessment, and is based on the idea that observable symptoms and problems are only a part of the picture. Overt problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, and relationship issues develop and are maintained in the context of an individual’s overall personality organization. The aim of personality assessment is to provide a deeper and more integrated understanding of personality structure and dynamics so that the best choices can be made in terms of psychotherapy and medication interventions, treatment planning, and self-improvement strategies.
Why testing? Why not just interview the person?
Information gathered from interviews and from therapy sessions is extremely important and in most cases provides a very good understanding of the individual. But whereas the individual’s self-report provides information that he or she has conscious access to, and is willing and able to report, the testing process is designed to facilitate the individual revealing, not just reporting, aspects of personality. What gets revealed are the unrecognized, often unconscious, aspects of personality.
When is psychological testing useful?
- Early in the treatment process, so that psychotherapy or medication interventions can be directed by the most accurate understanding of the individual
- When a case is very complex
- When there is an impasse in therapy or a sustained lack of progress
- When there is a need to go beyond formal diagnosis
- When the patient’s self-report is felt to be unreliable or insufficient
- When medication interventions have been ineffective
- When the possibility of a more severe mental illness is suspected
- When the effects of trauma need to be assessed and understood
- When a deeper and more nuanced picture of personality is required
What is the process of testing?
The process begins by talking with the referral source (typically a physician, therapist, parent, or a self-referral by the patient) to develop a question or questions that will be the organizer for the testing. Next comes one or more in depth interviews to collect relevant history and to develop a clear picture of the current situation. The testing itself consists of a review of several questionnaires the patient fills out, followed by individually administered testing. The final product is a written report which I carefully review with the patient (and/or parents in the case of an adolescent).