Psychological testing results can be an integral missing piece of a very complex puzzle. Everyone has different experiences, childhoods, perspective, difficulties and strengths. While they may want to improve their lives, they may have hurdles they must overcome that they are not even aware of. Psychological evaluations can provide insight to struggles and strengths.

How Can Psychological Assessment be Helpful?

Psychological assessment can be helpful in a myriad of ways. For example, these evaluations are frequently useful in identifying underlying learning, developmental, psychiatric, and/or neurocognitive vulnerabilities in children, which may impact upon academic and social performance. In addition to informing the various types of medical / psychiatric interventions that may be helpful, these types of assessments also play a critical role in directing the kinds of academic / social accommodations that are provided within the school system itself. With these types of treatment and support systems in place, children are much more likely to thrive academically and socially.

Psychological assessment can also be extremely helpful with adults who may be struggling in different areas of their lives, particularly in situations where past treatments have been sub-optimal or ineffective. These evaluations provide important information not only about where someone may be struggling specifically (e.g., depression, substance use, impulsivity, personality disorders), but also with respect to comorbidity / complexity. For example, research has suggested that roughly 6 in 10 people with a substance use disorder also struggle with other forms of mental illness. As the latter remains untreated, the likelihood of successfully treating the former declines considerably. National comorbidity studies have also demonstrated the high co-occurrence of certain clusters of psychiatric disorders – for example, depression and anxiety, or substance use and impulsivity. In cases where diagnosis remains unclear, or is indicative of multiple underlying conditions, psychological assessment can be especially useful in terms of enhancing clinical clarity, and informing subsequent interventions and treatments.

For both children and adults, the specific benefits of Psychological Assessment include:

  1. Clarifying the existence of specific cognitive disorders – for example, whether a child has an underlying learning / developmental disability; or whether an adult shows evidence of ADHD or memory loss, etc. For those who do struggle with certain types of cognitive disorders, these evaluations will also help inform the types of treatments that may be beneficial (for example, medications targeting inattention or memory loss), as well as the kinds of accommodations / supports that are implemented at school or at work – as a means of helping the person better thrive in their environment.

  2. Elucidating the specific type and/or combination of psychiatric conditions that may be present, which in turn facilitates more effective approaches to treatment (e.g., pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, etc.). For example, in cases where someone is struggling with both depression and anxiety, as well as concurrent substance use, isolating these conditions in treatment may be necessary as a means of decreasing their level of interaction. Similarly, in situations where someone may be diagnosed with more severe bipolar disorder and polysubstance use, symptom stabilization and abstinence may need to be jointly prioritized in treatment as a means of preventing relapse.

  3. Assessing for certain types of personality characteristics / disorders that may impact functioning and /or treatment.

Samuel Justin Sinclair, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, William James & College