Psychological Testing and Evaluation

Psychological testing and evaluation is a comprehensive process that involves the integration of information from multiple sources, such as tests of normal and abnormal personality, tests of ability or intelligence, and information from personal interviews. Collateral information may also be collected from personal, occupational, or medical history, such as records or from interviews with parents, spouses, teachers, or previous therapists or physicians. Psychological assessments may provide information regarding disability, guardianship, capacity for self-care, and career development. They may also clarify diagnostic issues and provide a basis for the development of treatment planning. These evaluations help to determine if a person has depression, anxiety, chronic mental illness, a personality disorder, or other disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

Neuropsychological screening and evaluation assesses one’s level of cognitive functioning and helps determine if there are significant deficits in comparison to age peers in such areas as intellectual ability, memory, decision-making, executive functioning, reasoning, visuo-perceptual ability, attention/concentration, and receptive and expressive languages. It may determine if a person is likely to have brain damage or a decline in cognitive functioning. Individuals suspecting memory problems, language problems, or difficulty in learning or concentrating may benefit from a neuropsychological screening evaluation to determine if cognitive deficits are likely to be present. If so, a recommendation may be made for a referral to a neuropsychologist for a more comprehensive evaluation.

Competency may be civil or criminal. Civil competency primarily assesses the individual’s capacity to handle finances and make medical decisions, whereas criminal competency requires an understanding of criminal charges (e.g., shoplifting, burglary, fraud). Evaluations for competency to stand trial assess a person’s ability to cooperate with and assist counsel, understand court proceedings, and understand the charges. The person should also have an appreciation of his or her situation as a defendant and the competency to waive constitutional rights, such as the right to a trial and to an attorney. Some things that interfere with competency to stand trial are chronic mental illness, dementia, and severe impairment in intellectual ability or cognition. Individuals who are determined to be incompetent by the court may sometimes become competent through psychiatric treatment or competency training.

An evaluation for the determination of mental retardation (DMR) primarily assesses the level of intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. Maladaptive behaviors associated with mental illness or mental retardation are also taken into consideration. Interview information is gathered from the parent or guardian about the person’s ability to function in such areas as communication and language, social skills, and activities of daily living. The parent or guardian will also be asked to provide history and background information (i.e., medical, psychiatric, developmental, social, family, and educational). The person thought to have mental retardation is assessed through behavioral observations and information gathered from testing of intellectual ability. Previous medical, school, or psychiatric records may also be requested.

Autism-spectrum (e.g., Autism, Asperger’s, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder) evaluations help to determine if an individual has an autism-spectrum disorder through behavioral observations, assessment of intellectual ability, and interview information gathered from the parent, guardian, or primary caretaker. The assessment may also involve direct observation of the person’s social and communication behaviors related to the diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder.

Parental capacity evaluations are those that assess psychological, personality, and intellectual functioning as well as child abuse potential and level of parental stress. They are comprehensive evaluations that assess mental health issues, personality functioning, alcohol and drug concerns, and parenting strengths and weaknesses.