When you are experiencing symptoms of illness and make an appointment with a health professional, the doctor usually begins by conducting a series of tests. Findings from the initial physical exam may lead the doctor to order x-rays, blood analyses, and other diagnostic tests.
The same investigative process happens when you or your child display symptoms of a mental illness or learning disability. Psychological testing with a psychologist provides the insight needed to make an accurate diagnosis and inform treatment.
Understanding Psychological Testing
Psychological testing involves a variety of assessments that include interviews, empirically-validated testing, analysis, and feedback on the results. Tests are a combination of projective, objective, informal, and standardized tests.
Projective tests are intended to uncover hidden emotions and conflicts. Objective tests are given in a familiar question-and-answer format using limited responses like yes or no and true or false. Informal tests include observational data that the psychologist gathers from surveys and interviews. Standardized tests are given in the form of checklists, questionnaires, IQ tests, and academic tests.
Together, all of the tests provide insight into a person’s ability to function in daily life as well as any distress they may be experiencing. A qualified psychologist will determine which tests will be most beneficial after they conduct the initial interview.
Is Testing Accurate?
While no psychological test can be 100% accurate every time, research suggests that, as a whole, these types of assessments provide an accurate and realistic measurement of typical behavior and cognitive abilities. Other areas that are accurately measured include:
- Mental health
- Adaptive behavior
- Educational achievement
After all, a blood test alone does not always clarify a diagnosis. Your doctor needs to put those results into context with your symptoms and general health to produce an accurate diagnosis and determine which combination of treatments would be best for you.
The same is true with psychological testing. Data alone does not tell the complete story of a person’s mental health or overall functioning. Test results are an important part of the picture, but they are not the only part that informs holistic treatment. When placed in context, psychological testing can help increase the effectiveness of therapy services.
5 Benefits of Psychological Testing
There are many benefits of psychological testing. It offers educators and medical and mental health professionals important information that helps those using their services. Five of the most impactful benefits are listed below.
1. Supports Educational and Intellectual Adjustments
Psychological testing assesses the intellectual ability of an adult or child to assist with educational planning. Testing can identify individuals with learning disabilities who may benefit from tutoring, accommodations, or special education as well as those with intellectual gifts that would best be nurtured in advanced classes.
The documentation involved with testing also creates a record for educators, parents, employers, doctors, and others to use if the information is needed in the future.
2. Clarifies a Diagnosis and Informs Treatment
When someone is struggling with symptoms of mental illness or a learning disability, early treatment is key. Psychological testing allows your clinician to understand exactly what you are experiencing and how to best proceed to start seeing changes. The sooner therapeutic interventions like EMDR therapy or family therapy begin, the sooner the individual can begin feeling better and enjoying more personal and academic success.
3. Improves Self-Understanding
When a person develops problems with substance use, anger management, and other behavioral challenges at an early age, it can be difficult to accept and understand their own behavior. Utilizing a psychologist who provides a strength-based approach can allow a person to understand not only their deficits but the strengths that they have that can facilitate transformation.
Testing gives people insight into the underlying functional, social, and emotional causes that may lead to dysfunction later in life. Having a better understanding of one’s self helps people forgive themselves for past mistakes and embrace the treatments that can improve their future.
4. Provides Accurate Diagnoses
Being diagnosed with a mental health disorder or learning disability without psychological testing is somewhat like being diagnosed with high blood pressure without a blood pressure test.
A person may exhibit some of the signs and symptoms of a specific health or learning challenge, but without proper testing, diagnosis is no more than an educated guess. In order to receive the best possible treatments and support, psychological testing is required.
5. Detects Neurological Problems
The neurological tests that are sometimes included in psychological testing are used to detect changes in how a person thinks and their ability to remember information. The information gained from neurological testing may be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as well as depression, anxiety disorders, and other mood disorders.
How to Prepare for Psychological Testing
Scheduling psychological testing may feel intimidating. It’s normal to worry about what the test results will find, but ultimately, the evaluations are to help improve your well-being, no matter what the results suggest. It will take more than one session to complete your evaluations, depending on which types of tests are needed. Sessions can last from 30 to 120 minutes.
Fortunately, there is no “studying” needed to undergo assessments. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, remember that there is no way to fail and no right or wrong answers. Relax and answer all of the questions honestly.
Other preparation tips include:
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Eat a healthy breakfast so you’ll feel energized and not distracted by hunger
- Do not drink alcohol the night before or the day of your assessment
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
Come to the testing center in comfortable clothes, and try not to overthink your answers.
Lastly, remember that psychological testing is not intended to be conclusive, and it doesn’t change who you are. Testing simply helps professionals rule out some factors and confirm others. It also helps identify a person’s strengths and how to utilize them to overcome identified challenges. Just as with physical health issues, getting a proper diagnosis is the first step to feeling and doing better. If you are interested in psychological testing, contact the Newport Beach Family Psychological Testing Center today. We offer a free consultation with a psychologist to answer any questions and provide additional insight into how testing can benefit you or your child.