Psychological assessment can assist you with three primary areas: 1) who am I as a person and how might I be struggling (personality testing), 2) how is my brain working (cognitive testing), and 3) what jobs or professions best suit me (career testing). We may find that one or more of these forms of testing could assist us in the process of therapy as well.
Psychological testing is a process of using all the tools and instruments at our disposal to formulate the most accurate picture of what people want or need to know about themselves. We often look at three types of testing:
- Personality Testing
- Cognitive (or Neuropsychological) Testing
- Career Testing
Before any psychological tests are administered, it is equally important to have a clinical interview to talk about concerns, someone’s personal history, previous trauma or injury, and so forth. Let us look at each of these types of testing processes individually.
The goal of personality testing may be narrow or broad in focus, depending upon the referral question or someone’s interest. If someone wants to know whether they have depression and wants to be tested for that, a straightforward interview and a simple test is all that is usually required. Most of the time, however, the question is more complicated and we look more comprehensively about how someone is feeling, thinking, relating, and imagining. Sometimes we administer both objective tests (true/false or a rating scale) as well as projective tests (which are designed to look for important issues that may be away from someone’s conscious awareness most of the time).
Often when a child struggles in the classroom, it is appropriate to explore whether or not a learning disorder may be impacting the process. Usually, in addition to a very thorough clinical interview, often with both parent and child, a battery of tests is designed to look for just what, specifically, is occurring in the process of learning for the child. Sometimes, intelligence tests and achievement tests help us to understand both the child’s capacity to learn as well as the actually level of performance in the moment. Other instruments may look specifically at more specific issues such as ADHD or a learning disorder of some type.
For many people, it is important to combine types of testing. This is especially appropriate with children whose challenges may not come for a learning disorder, but from an emotional challenge as well. Age-appropriate tests, both objective and projective are used to help clarify the picture. Often, parents, teachers, and other caregivers may be asked to complete a test about the child in question.
Most of us find choosing (or re-choosing) a career to be an existential matter: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? These questions are often asked across one’s lifespan. Whether you are in high school thinking through your interests or 20 years or more into your profession, needing to make a change, these questions are essential. My approach to career testing includes an investment in psychoanalytic therapy as well as administering appropriate tests. Please do not misunderstand: the instruments will always evoke a great deal of interest and, at times, surprise. But at the heart of the matter, we need to know ourselves better in order to have a clearer focus.
Doing Testing as a Psychoanalyst. My training as a clinical psychologist has taught me what, how, whom, and when to test, and how to interpret the results of those tests. My additional training and experience as a psychoanalyst has taught me that people are complicated, that we have self-states, and that testing can produce a snapshot of where someone is in a particular moment in time. I do not see the results of a psychological examination as the final word regarding someone’s potential or emotional health. I see it as a very important biopsy that reveals essential information; however, because we are immensely complicated with the amazing capacity for growth, change, and healing, this is but one way (albeit very important and thorough) way of understanding someone.