What is testing and what is it used for?
Psychological testing can be helpful if your child is having difficulty in school- academically, behaviorally, or emotionally. It can be helpful if your child is having difficulty socially or at home and you aren’t sure what is going on.
Maybe you’ve heard a diagnosis from a provider but you aren’t sure about it or you want to get more information. Maybe you and your provider are sure about the diagnosis but want more specific recommendations for treatment. For example, anxiety can look different from one person to the next. ADHD can look different. Depression looks different in children versus adolescents versus adults and can look different for boys versus girls as well as each individual.
A label is merely that- a label of a broad category. It helps providers understand what we are working with and what kinds of treatments might be helpful, but we need more than the label to generate an effective plan. We need to understand each person’s areas of strength and weakness, how they think, how they view themselves, how they view others, how they view the world and relationships. No, a paper and pencil test cannot “unlock” the secrets within someone’s mind, but we can use a variety of methods to learn more about people. We then gather all of the information we’ve taken from each method and we’ve learned much more about someone than in a typical conversation.
There is no magic behind psychological testing. I cannot read minds; I cannot learn what people aren’t willing to share; just as in therapy we as therapists cannot help someone who does not want help. What testing can do is provide multiple ways of learning information with methods that have been researched and shown to be helpful in that area. Some methods are “standardized.” All that means is that, through research, we have a baseline for a sample of people; some of those people fit certain diagnoses while some of those people do not. This allows draw conclusions that a person we have tested showed patterns similar to those who have ADHD, or not. We then take all of the information gathered into account and make a diagnosis.
So what does psychological testing typically involve? An evaluation begins with a conversation with your provider. I’ll ask you about your concerns that brought you in today as well as your background including school, jobs, family, relationships, and your relevant medical history (i.e. have you had concussions that could contribute to the memory difficulties you are concerned about). I ask about children’s developmental history- did they learn to walk and talk early, on time, or delayed in a certain area.
Evaluations then vary regarding what measures are used depending on the question. An evaluation with the question of an ADHD diagnosis might use some of the same measures as an evaluation with the question of anxiety or depression, but will also include some different ones. For more detailed explanations of what might be included in your evaluation, please don’t hesitate to contact me and ask. I also have links to many of the common tests on my website to help explain what each test involves.