There are many ways to understand what might be troubling someone. The most common is to have a conversation. This lets us learn about the person’s experience of the difficulty, their history, how they feel, what they think, and how they see themselves acting. Another is to talk with others who know them well and find out how that person perceives the difficulty. Others include various biological measures (like blood tests or allergy screens), or semi-structured clinical interviews and observations. These methods are commonly used by physicians, social workers, and mental health counselors.
Another important method is psychological testing. A psychological test is a structured, standardized sampling of behavior designed to measure a psychological construct. There are many kinds of psychological constructs, some of which are not measurable in any other way (e.g., IQ). A psychologist is someone who has learned how to understand psychological constructs, measure them, and then help people change them. It is a complex field and the typical psychologist has spent 10 to 12 years of university education, as well as several years of supervised experience, before they can sit for their licensing exams. They also continue to learn throughout their careers.
The scientific power of a psychological test lies in the fact that is done in the same way, every time. Tests can come in many forms, such as answers to a set of written or verbal questions, performance when responding to a set of presented stimuli (such as the accuracy of someone’s reading or spelling), the ability to recall previously learned material, or being able to remember a set of patterns or words. The person’s responses are then compared to a known reference group (called a “norm” group). This lets us know how the person is similar to, or different from, other people, usually of their same sex, similar age, or other features. This information is valuable for determining whether a characteristic is a problem, as well as giving us a baseline measurement before doing anything to alter it. As an intervention proceeds, we often do the tests again, which gives us the ability to track progress over time. This lets us do any needed “course correction” along the way, as well as telling us when we have achieved the desired goals.
The psychologists at Brain Health Northwest have decades of experience and have assembled a large library of psychological tests covering a wide variety of areas. Part of the intake process is to decide which tests would be helpful for understanding a person’s presenting difficulties, as well as measuring progress over time.
After the test battery has been defined, appointments are made for the person to come into the office for testing. This usually involves between 3 and 6 hours of the client’s time, which can be divided into two or more appointments, if needed. The tests selected may involve several types of administration. Some are questionnaires using paper-and-pencil or completed directly on a computer. Some involve various tasks that are done using either a computer or with a clinician. Some tests require more extended testing sessions, particularly if there is a need to understand intellectual functioning or academic achievement. Some tests or questionnaires may need to be completed by parents, teachers, or someone who knows you well. Your clinician will guide you on what to expect, the likely amount of time needed, and whether any preparation on your part is required. If testing is expected to take more than 3 hours on a given day, you may be asked to bring a lunch or take a break to eat in the neighborhood (there are many good restaurants within easy walking distance).
While some questionnaires can be taken home, most cannot leave the office. There are some tests that can be administered online using a secured log-in. If this should be the case for you, so that you could do one or more of them outside of the office, it will be very important that you follow the administration instructions, exactly. This usually means that you will complete the test in a private area, free of distraction, and that you will work through the test in one session.
For most treatment-related psychological testing, we will review the results with you during a feedback session in which we discuss the brain imaging results (if a QEEG has also been done), our impressions of how to best help you with the problem, and to present a recommended treatment plan. For these purposes, we do not usually complete a formal evaluation report.
If you need a formal evaluation report to go to someone else, like a school or an attorney, please let us know this during the intake interview. While we are usually happy to do so, please be aware that preparing formal evaluation reports can be a time-consuming process and there will be additional costs involved for doing so.