Indications for Psychological Testing 

Identifying The Signs Is The First Step

Psychological testing instruments have been developed to assess psychological functioning, behavior, cognitive skills, personality and achievement and have become increasingly recognized in a wide array of settings (i.e., schools, hospitals, courts, etc.).  Psychological testing refers to the measurement of one’s characteristics, mental distress, behavior and abilities through psychological tests.  Sometimes a single test is indicated (such as an IQ evaluation), and other times a more comprehensive battery is warranted (administering tests that measure cognitive, academic and emotional functioning).  

Testing is usually facilitated by a licensed clinical psychologist, as licensed psychologists are typically trained in the administration, scoring and interpretation of psychological tests.  Psychologists use these tests to determine cognition and information processing (including memory, processing speed, verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning), intellectual functioning/IQ, achievement and academic skills, emotional functioning and personality dynamics. 

Other instances where the administration of psychological tests is warranted includes for purposes of differential diagnosis.  Many times a patient’s symptoms appear to meet different diagnostic categories, and testing helps determine principal diagnoses.  Testing can establish the presence of comorbid diagnoses (if someone meets symptoms for a few disorders).  Psychological testing helps specify treatment plans in therapy and thus helps facilitate the psychotherapy process.  Sometimes a parent may request the testing of a child to gain comprehensive knowledge about their child and recognize how to help them function better.  Testing is also helpful in situations where individuals have difficulty communicating symptomatology and/or lack insight.  Immediacy of treatment and at-risk individuals can be detected through psychological assessment, including when an individual is a danger to themself or others.  Psychological testing can help identify those in need of psychological and psychiatric treatment.

Furthermore, testing is required for admission into many private schools.  Testing can offer a baseline of functioning and help determine cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses.  Many schools believe, and rightfully so, psychological test results can enhance their understanding of how to help students’ perform optimally.  Psychological assessment can rule out learning disabilities, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and other learning problems, as well as identify giftedness and those with superior academic abilities.  It can also help identify emotional distress that may be interfering with academic success.

Psychological testing is also required to determine the appropriateness of accommodations on standardized testing (such as the ACT or SAT) and classroom accommodations.  Many students need assistance like extra time on timed tests to function optimally, as symptoms like distractibility or learning challenges can inhibit ability to perform ideally within time constraints.  When implementing an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 plan for your child with their school, testing will be conducted.

Testing is often used in medical and legal/forensic cases, such as to identify medical problems, for custody evaluations, parenting issues, child abuse and court-ordered evaluations.  Psychological testing is often used on perpetrators of serious crimes to determine mental competency to stand trial.  Psychological evaluations are utilized in occupational environments, as well as for vocational purposes.  Some employers today require job candidates to take tests assessing personality dynamics as part of the application process.  

 If you are going to have psychological testing conducted, make sure you understand what is being tested for and what instruments will be used.  The therapist should go over the completed report with you, have a diagnosis or at least diagnostic impressions if applicable, and make recommendations based on test results.  Although raw data is not released, you should be provided with a copy of the written report.  However, the rules are a little different in certain legal cases and occupational settings, where results may not always be released to the examinee.