Psychological Assessments

We often get questions asking about psychological testing. We thought we'd offer a brief Q & A answering the facts. 
What is a psychological assessment? 

An assessment is a test or evaluation. Paper and pencil are just one of these types and can be fill in the blank, essay, or bubble sheet. Some assessments might be answering questions verbally while others might be completing tasks. 

What are the different types of assessments? 

While there are many different types of assessments, at SCC we conduct psychological assessments for:

  • Clinical and behavioral health assessments evaluate personality and determine psychological diagnosis, determines relative strengths and weaknesses, and provides a thorough history of the history of the client. 
  • Court-related and forensic assessments help to guide the court and/or the case with decisions related to the particular case. It can help to determine psychological diagnosis, competency, behavioral concerns affecting the case, prognosis, potential for harm, psychosexual concerns, and evaluation of ability to parent. 
  • Pre-Surgical Assessments can be used to determine if the patient is ready for a particular type of surgery (i.e., bariatric, spinal fusion, gender reassignment surgery) or if they have precluding factors that need to be mediated before surgery can continue. 
  • Vocational Assessments can help guide professional and educational choices for the client. 
  • Pre-employment Screening Assessments are given to employees entering certain fields such as law enforcement, fire department, or military. It evaluates behavioral health concerns as well as personality features of the candidate to determine goodness-of-fit for work in that particular area. 
  • Fitness-for-Duty Screening Assessments are given to employees in certain fields such as law enforcement, fire department, or military after a leave-of-absence typically related to a mental health concern, use of a firearm on the job, or potentially trauma-inducing exposure as a determinant for returning to work in that profession.
  • Educational Assessments are conducted by a school psychologist and/or Master's-level education specialist who evaluates the student's learning and relative strengths, weaknesses, and diagnoses (i.e., learning disability, ADHD). 

What can an assessment be used for? 
  • Clinical and behavioral health assessments can be used to guide treatment approaches such as the type of therapy intervention that should be used, medication approaches, other services needed, and level of care. 
  • Court-related and forensic assessments are generally given directly to the court unless it is a private evaluation or consultation. They help to guide the court and/or the case with decisions related to the particular case. It may generally give conclusions and recommendations for treatment, interventions, parenting, and mental health. 
  • Pre-Surgical Assessments are given directly to the surgeon and are used to determine if the patient is ready for a particular type of surgery or if they have precluding factors that need to be mediated before surgery can continue. 
  • Vocational Assessments can help guide professional and educational choices for the client. It can also help guide life coaching interventions. 
  • Pre-employment Screening Assessments will be provided directly to the particular agency or department requiring this type of evaluation. It will advise as to whether the person is a good candidate for a particular form of employment and any precluding factors for employment. 
  • Fitness-for-Duty Screening Assessments are also provided directly to the particular agency or department requiring this type of evaluation. It will advise as to whether the person is mentally and emotionally ready to return to work following a leave of absence typically related to a use of firearm while on the job or mental health concern. 
  • Educational Assessments can be given to the school to help guide a student's Individualized Education Plan and/or 504. It gives recommendations and guidelines for interventions the parents, school, and student can utilize to assist the student's learning, behavior, and educational performance. 
Why can't I just order the specific test I want done? 

It's best to ask a question that the patient or referent wants answered rather than attempt to order specific tests. In fact, it is never appropriate to answer a psychological question using only one assessment measure or determinant. A psychologist is a licensed, doctoral-level specialist trained to administer testing to answer a specific question being asked based on the unique circumstances of the individual. Appropriate questions to ask a psychologist to answer through the course of an assessment may include variations on the following: 

- What is this person's diagnosis? 
- Does this person have ADHD? Bipolar? Anxiety? 
- Does this person have a specific learning disability? What accommodations might s/he need to function in a classroom/job setting? 
- Is this person competent to stand trial? 
- Is this person a danger to self or others? 
- Is this a person who is capable of parenting their child? 

What does the psychologist need in order to get started? 
  • For clinical and behavioral, come prepared with a written list of any therapists, doctors, or professionals the client has worked with including names, phone number, address, and fax. Also have together a list of all medications, dosages, history of medications, and who prescribed the medication. 
  • For most court-related cases, the psychologist would first need to be court ordered to the case. There is specific wording required so the client's legal representative should call the front desk to schedule a time to discuss specifics on the case and wording for the court order. Additionally for court-related cases, any and all paperwork and legal actions relevant to the case should be provided in advance of the testing. A court order would not be required if the evaluation were being ordered privately by one party or for the purposes of consultation. 
  • For pre-employment screenings, fitness-for-duty, or pre-surgical assessments, please  have the agency requiring the testing send over their letter or form outlining what is being required and for what purposes. 
  • For Educational (ADHD and LD) testing specifically, contact information and releases for all legal guardians, teachers, and other professionals involved with the client should be provided. Transcripts of grades is also required. More is better. 

What is the cost of an assessment? 

A retainer is required to begin private-pay and court-related testing.

 

For court-related testing, a retainer is required to begin. Please call the front desk for these figures.

 

Non-court-related assessment cases may or may not be approved through your insurance. Confirmation of insurance payment is required in advance of proceeding. Contact your insurance carrier or work with our front desk for more information as to whether or not your specific service is covered. 


How long with the assessment take? 


Interviews and in-the-office testing can sometimes take hours. It may be completed all in one day or across several different days. If you are scheduled for 4 hours, be prepared to stay at the appointment for 4 hours. Do not schedule other appointments during this time. Please arrange for appropriate childcare and cut outside interference during this time as some testing cannot be interrupted once started. 

If a child is the client, assessment meeting times will be shorter. The actual time may vary depending on the child’s motivation, his/her ability to concentrate, or his/her health. 


How long will it take to get my results? 


The answer to this is "it varies." Testing, when done right, is time and labor intensive and can sometimes take a while to get back. For shorter testing such as bariatric and ADHD, it may be as soon as 2-4 weeks If you have provided everything needed to the psychologist by the time you're testing (see below). For more in-depth testing such as court-related matters or psychological evaluations, it can sometimes take much longer. Ask your psychologist and s/he should be able to give you a ballpark answer. Again, testing is much speedier if all paperwork and information related to the case is gotten to the psychologist in advance of testing.

 

If appropriate, a follow-up session may be scheduled to discuss the results. If court-ordered, the psychologist may not be able to discuss the results with you.


What is your cancellation policy?

Be sure to keep the appointment that is scheduled for you. If you must cancel, please do so at least 24 hours ahead of time so that we can try to schedule someone else in your time slot.

If you confirm an appointment and then do not attend, we may be unable to schedule another appointment for you for a month or more. You may also be charged a cancellation fee. 

Of course, if you are ill on the day of the appointment, you should call and reschedule the assessment for another day, because the assessment will not accurately reflect your strengths.
What information should I bring to the assessment?
  • Bring a list of medications you are taking, in what amounts, when they were prescribed, and who prescribed them.
  • Bring a list of names, numbers, addresses, & fax numbers of any other providers you have seen including your primary care physician, therapist(s), and specialists. The psychologist may wish to talk to them about their experiences of you. Not providing this will lead to a delay in testing results. 
  • For ADHD and LD testing specifically, please bring the following: 
    • Contact information for previous providers who you have seen for this condition before
    • Contact information for a teacher 
    • A parent, guardian, or spouse who knows the person being tested well is required to be interviewed 
    • Bring transcripts of grades. More is better. Early childhood grades are necessary regardless of the age of the client being tested.
  • For court-related cases, make sure you or your legal representative has provided the psychologist all paperwork related to the case IN ADVANCE of the testing date. Not providing this will lead to a delay in testing results. Such things may include but not be limited to: 
    • The court order including specific question being asked by the court to be assessed 
    • Minutes from court entries related to the case 
    • Medical records from any other therapists, psychiatrists, hospitalizations, or in-patient stays 
    • History of medications including when taken, for what, dosages and who prescribed them 
    • Be prepared to sign a HIPAA waver for any outside persons the assessment team may wish to contact in the process. This may include interviews with children, doctors, employers, relatives, schools, and friends. 
    • It is acceptable to provide written declarations from friends or family members who wish to speak on your behalf. Please speak with your attorney for how to prepare these.

How do I prepare for taking an assessment? 

  • Be clear with the psychologist in advance the date by which you need the testing. 
  • Get a good night's sleep the night before.
  • Make sure you've eaten a good breakfast or lunch depending on the time of day. 
  • Bring water and a snack for breaks. 
  • Be prepared to turn off electronic devices and having them stored at the front desk.
  • Bring a sweater in case the testing room is cold. 
  • Please bring your corrective lenses, hearing aids, or other necessary adaptive devices you require
  • Make sure you have taken your regular medications unless otherwise indicated by our office
  • For some testing, you may be required to come to some appointments without your medication. Please follow this instruction explicitly or your testing will be delayed and you may be charged additional fees. 
  • Make sure outside things are taken care of so you can focus on the testing being conducted. For example, make sure child care is in place and that you won't have to answer child-related calls during the testing time. Do not bring children with you to the assessment as they may not be left alone in the lobby.
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to the time of the testing. 
  • Answer questions as honestly as possible. Do your best.

In addition to above, what specific things can I do to help my child prepare for an assessment? 

  • It is typical practice for a provider to first meet with the parents and/or caretakers of a child before the assessment begins without the child present. This is so that the adults can freely discuss their issues/concerns with respect to the chid.
  • If there is a parenting plan, this must be provided to the office and all custodial adults must give their consent before services can continue. The exception to this would be if an evaluation is ordered by the court
  • If you are being interviewed with respect to a child, it is best to stick to issues related to the child and not other family members or the child's other caretaker(s) 
  • It is perfectly acceptable to have a young child bring a stuffed animal or small toy to carry if it is comforting to him/her. 
  • Do not tell the child that s/he is going to see the “doctor.” For some children, a visit to the doctor is associated with anxiety. Tell the child that s/he will be involved in different kinds of games or activities with a trusted adult.
  • The psychologist spends some of that time with the child and some time with the parent or caregiver asking questions about the child. It is important, therefore, for assessor to meet with one or more adults who know about his/her typical behaviors and skills. 
  • We recommend that you not bring other children with you to the assessment. If you do, please have another adult accompany you who can look after the needs of these children. Children cannot be left alone in the lobby and electronics must be used with headphones. 
  • Sometimes additional meetings are needed to complete the assessment process. 
  • The psychologist will be unable to provide parents with specific feedback about the child’s diagnosis or functioning level immediately after the assessment. Additional time is needed to score the tests and to integrate these results with information from other sources such as the parent interview, school records, and observations. A followup session may be scheduled later if appropriate. 


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