Have you heard of “Psych Evaluation?”
A psychological assessment might be an essential part of your treatment plan. It captures information on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, among other things. If you or a loved one has recently begun treatment, you may have been informed that a psychological assessment would be performed on you. These examinations include a battery of tests and assessments similar to those seen in any other medical practice. They are meant to provide your mental health practitioner with critical information about current symptoms and to affect your treatment approach.
What is a psychological evaluation?
A psychological examination is sometimes seen as the first line of defense in detecting and treating mental health problems. It is performed by a psychologist to help them understand the severity and duration of your symptoms.
The two primary components of an evaluation include tests and assessments. The testing portion of an evaluation often includes the use of formal exams, sometimes known as “norm-referenced” tests. These are standardized examinations that assess a person’s capacity to absorb and comprehend various topics. Standardized exams, for example, might compare your reading abilities to others your age, grade, or intellectual level.
These tests can be customized in a psychological examination to determine whether an individual has a certain ailment or problem. In contrast, an assessment might involve both formal exams, such as standardized ones, and informal examinations, which examine your performance and development on specific tasks. Common components of an assessment include:
• psychological tests
• surveys and tests
• observational data
• medical and school history
• medical evaluation
These examinations, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), analyze your psychological functioning, including your thoughts, feelings, and actions, to assist decide the type of therapy you may require — in other words, the best route to proceed. If you visit a doctor’s office or clinic with dizziness or lightheadedness, a medical examination will be done. The doctor may do a battery of tests, such as a blood test or an X-ray, to assess whether you have an underlying health problem, such as anemia (low iron) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). A psychological evaluation functions in the same way. They are meant to assist your mental health professional in getting to the bottom of the symptoms that are affecting you and interfering with various elements of your life. Early intervention and therapy, including medical examinations, can help keep your symptoms from worsening.
Why are psychological evaluations done?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) points out several signs and symptoms that might be an indication a psychological evaluation might be needed. These include the following:
• Changes in mood
• Social withdrawal
• Changes in your sleep or eating habits
• Difficulty concentrating
• Trouble performing your usual tasks
• Unexplained memory loss
• Uncontrollable crying
• Problems at school or work
• Loss of motivation or interest in activities, especially in those that were once enjoyed
• Increased sensitivity to noise, visuals, or being touched
• High levels of anxiety
• Feeling disconnected from what’s happening around you
• Sudden bursts of anger
• Other uncharacteristic behaviors
If any of these signs sound familiar to you, do know that help is available and that a psychological evaluation can be an important first step toward treatment and recovery.
Test vs. assessment
Some people are confused as to why both tests and assessments are necessary. Isn’t it the same thing? True and false. Tests and assessments are two unique ideas that are commonly used in tandem to offer a comprehensive picture of your current situation.
“A psychological assessment is the collecting of information to analyze a person’s behavior, character, abilities, and needs for the purpose of diagnosing, setting goals, and recommending therapy,” states Wendy Pitts, LCSW-C, a clinical social worker in Maryland. “While tests can be used to acquire information for assessments, they are not assessments themselves.” In contrast, tests are “instruments meant to examine certain aspects of a person’s functioning.”
What to expect?
A one-size-fits-all evaluation does not exist. Each one will be tailored to you and your individual needs. The examinations and assessments selected for you will be one-of-a-kind. In general, allow between 30 and 90 minutes for the examination. Before the evaluation, you may be asked to write down your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. It is critical, to be honest about your present mental state, your past, and your day-to-day issues throughout the examination. This will help your mental health provider understand who you are and what needs to be done next.
Typically, the initial stage in the therapy procedure is a clinical interview. A mental health expert may spend 1 to 2 hours with you during this time to evaluate your history, symptoms, and concerns. Throughout the interview, they will make several observations, most of which will be on how you reason and think. Remember that such interviews are conducted in a courteous, non-judgmental manner. Others close to you, such as your significant other or a family member, may also be questioned by your mental health professional. These interviews, however, will not take place unless you provide your permission.
Behavioral evaluations are extensive and organized analyses of behavior. Several tools are often employed to collect information on activities. Interviews, observations, and surveys are examples of such methods. While behavioral evaluations are commonly utilized while examining children or adolescents, this test is used on patients of all ages.
Personality tests: Mental health professionals use personality testing to learn more about someone, so they can provide an accurate diagnosis. One commonly used personality test is the five-factor model (FFM), which identifies 5 basic personality traits:
• Extraversion (also sometimes spelled as extroversion)
• Neuroticism (also sometimes referenced as emotional stability)
• Openness to experience (also sometimes referenced as intellect)
Other tests commonly used by psychologists include the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and the Rorschach test.
Intellectual functioning (IQ) test: Though this type of test isn’t as common, it might be added based on your specific needs. Hearing that your IQ might be tested can seem unnerving. And yes, this test is used to understand your intellectual capacities, but it’s also used to understand your future possibilities. Intelligence tests can be used to measure:
• Experiential learning, is the ability to learn by doing
• Abstract thinking,
• Ability to understand real concepts
• Academic learning
Because IQ test results may not accurately indicate total intellectual achievement, interviews with family members, teachers, and caretakers may be done to provide a more complete picture.
Physical exam: In rare cases, a physical condition may resemble symptoms of mental health problems. A physical exam can help determine if symptoms are the result of a physical condition (such as a thyroid disorder) or a neurological problem. Make your doctor aware of any existing conditions or medications you are taking.
Medical exam: A physical examination may also be required. If you have any symptoms, blood tests or X-rays may be performed to assist evaluate whether your symptoms are caused by a medical problem. A comprehensive medical history, including any drugs you are taking, will also be considered because certain medications might create symptoms that resemble a mental health problem.
Mental health history: You’ll probably be questioned about how long you’ve been exhibiting particular symptoms, about your own and your family’s history of mental illness, and about any previous psychiatric or psychological therapies you may have undergone.
Cognitive evaluation: This is different from the mental examination in that the goal aims to assess your ability to think effectively, retain facts, and utilize logical reasoning.
Personal history: Medical and mental health professionals may ask questions about lifestyle and personal history to determine the largest sources of stress in your life. They’ll ask about any past major traumas. For instance, you may be asked about your marital status, occupation, military service, or your childhood.
How are these evaluations used?
These evaluations measure a number of factors to help your mental health professional understand what you’re going through — and where you may need support. These aspects include:
• Attention span
• Language skills
• Judgment skills
• The biggest stressors impacting your life
• Thought patterns
• Ability to reason
• Developmental delays (in children)
Psychological examinations are frequently used to assist in establishing an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, identifying the appropriate course of therapy. Mental health evaluations are used for a number of purposes, including anxiety disorders, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Alzheimer’s disease, and substance use disorder. At the same time, psychological evaluations can also be used to encourage self-awareness, evaluate job candidates, and assist in academic placement.
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Connect with a Mental Health Professional
Psych assessments can assist you in understanding your symptoms and obtaining the necessary treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering psychological symptoms that are interfering with your life, you may want professional assistance. Therapy can give the assistance and direction you require to obtain an accurate diagnosis and establish an effective treatment plan.