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Psychological evaluations can be thought of like medical tests. If a patient has physical symptoms, a doctor can order X-rays or blood tests to understand what’s causing those symptoms. The results of the tests will help determine the appropriate treatment. Psychological evaluations serve the same purpose. Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to understand factors impacting a person’s mood and behavior, which in turn guides diagnosis and treatment.
There are many different psychological tests that we use in our community mental health setting, depending on the person’s age and life experiences. They include:
Personality Tests – These tests help us understand how the person interacts with others and the person’s strengths and weaknesses in relationships.
Mood Assessments – These assessments generally look like a checklist of symptoms and can cover the following areas: anxiety, depression, and mood changes.
Trauma Assessments –These assessments generally measure the impact of traumatic life events. Sometimes they focus on specific symptoms of PTSD or they may gauge the impact of trauma on relationships and everyday functioning.
Cognitive Tests –These tests help us better understand how a person thinks in a wide variety of areas, including memory, language, and problem-solving.
Because psychological evaluations include so much information, it is typically a lengthy process. The psychologist may need 2-3 times to meet with the client to complete interviews, symptom checklists, and tests. The psychologist then must summarize all of the results and generate treatment recommendations. The process from start to finish can take anywhere from 4-10 weeks, depending on how often the client can meet and how quickly they can answer questions about themselves. The process is typically much faster when the psychologist and the referring party (usually the therapist) can work closely together to explain the process to the client and support the client in attending scheduled appointments.