Psychological Assessment Melbourne: How Psychologists Formulate Diagnoses

Another great blog from one of our student bloggers.

I’m sure you’ve all wondered how exactly psychologists figure out a suitable treatment for something you are struggling with. Well, they do this through a process of Psychological Assessment. This entails a combination of testing techniques, in order to arrive at an idea about a person’s behavioural patterns, personality traits/tendencies and specific capabilities.

This process usually starts with a series of standardised psychological tests. This could be a task, or set of tasks, done under specific conditions. These tests are done in pursuit of acquiring an overall map of individuals’ knowledge, skills and personality. Providing a scale of measurement for consistent individual differences; regarding various psychological concepts. This helps categorise people according to that concept.

South Yarra Psychology Clinic

Norm-reference Tests

These tests are called ‘norm-reference tests’, and are standardised to a ‘norm’ group. Each individuals test scores are scaled to reflect a rank within the norm group. Some common areas of assessment using this method are intelligence, reading, arithmetic, spelling abilities, visual/gross/fine motor skills and adaptive behaviour.

Secondly, psychologists make use of interviews in order to gain information about a patient. Interviewing could range beyond the patient, and individuals associated with that patient are often also questioned. These discussions are usually less structured, and allow those being interviewed an opportunity to express their feelings, using their own words and thought processes. However, a formal clinical interview is conducted with any patient before the start of a psychological assessment or test. This may include questions regarding the individual’s childhood, life experiences and family background.

Observations alongside the above listed assessment techniques allow psychologists to infer additional information about an individual. This can sometimes take place in the patients natural setting (e.g. a child’s play room), and thus gives the psychologist an opportunity to observe how they behave under familiar circumstances. Providing a better picture of an individual in an area where they function as per usual. This aids the professional in formulating an optimal treatment recommendation.

All of the above may at times need to be accompanied or supplemented by informal assessment procedures, such as projective tests or career-testing. There is a vast spectrum of informal testing, all of which is used more cautiously as scientific validity of the assessment is less known and agreed upon among professionals.

Psychological Assessments Melbourne

Psychologists generally seek to incorporate the information gathered from all forms of psychological assessment, and puzzle a complete picture of the individual under consideration. Recommendations are then based on all the test/assessment results, alongside peer discussion. The key thing to note with psychological assessment is that a diagnosis is never derived from a single test or score number. Every individual has a range of competencies that can be assessed and evaluated through a number of differing techniques. Psychologists are there to evaluate individual strengths, alongside limitations, and report on these in an objective and helpful manner.

Anje Delport

Melbourne University Student

Ref: Psychological Assessment Melbourne


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