What Makes a Good Psychological Evaluation?
There are many reasons why a person would need a psychological evaluation. Psychological evaluations are used to measure emotional regulation, academic functioning, executive functioning, personality, intelligence, and many other components that make up the human psyche. When it comes time to choose the person or agency who is going to be responsible for conducting the evaluation, it is essential to be aware of some of the things that will help you make sure you get a quality evaluation. Unfortunately, many underqualified or subpar psychological evaluators take advantage of the system to pump out as many evaluationsas they can as quickly as possible. There are a few ways and some simple questions to ask to make sure your psychologist is taking the time necessary to give you what you need.
What is your question or concern?
Some of the responsibility for answering this question is going to fall on you. It is crucial to ask yourself some questions about what you are looking to have evaluated. Your evaluator should be devoting time to understand the extent and the specifics of your difficulties. A good evaluator will be able to create a battery of assessments unique to your challenges (we’ll get into this more later). This development will be based on the specifics of when and how your difficulties manifest. While some assessments are considered “standard” for most evaluations, if you find that your evaluator administers the same battery to each individual, you will likely receive redundant or unnecessary assessments. Furthermore, you might be pending more time and money than is required.
Some common questions which may arise:
- When did these difficulties begin, and how have they progressed?
- In what settings are those difficulties better or worse?
- In what way are you struggling with this difficulty? (In terms of reading, is it that you don’t know
- the words, or that you don’t understand what the author is attempting to say?)
- Have you noticed that you are not as good at something as those around you?
- What made you decide to come in now?
What tools are being used?
As mentioned earlier, the evaluator should have a working knowledge of the different assessments available and what each assessment measure. A good evaluation usually begins with a general assessment that measures some basic functions. While administering this assessment, the evaluator should be looking for difficulties and considering the report from the client. With this knowledge, the evaluator can determine which other assessments to administer. Based on the assessment, the evaluator may not tell you before, or during the administration, what that assessment measures. Still, he or she should certainly be able to tell you afterward. For this reason, among others, it is important to know who is doing the work.
Who is conducting this process?
The first thing you want to make sure of is whether or not the person conducting the evaluation is qualified to do it. Does your evaluator have the proper education, training, and experience with what you are struggling with to recognize your difficulties? Will the person conducting the evaluation write the report and provide the feedback, or are some parts of the process outsourced? Don’t be afraid to ask this before scheduling your assessment, and don’t be nervous to ask again in person. If your evaluator has the right qualifications and is structuring the process well, they should be proud and happy to highlight how great they are.
Something to be aware of is that many facilities use trainees to conduct the assessments to decrease the price significantly. In these cases, the trainees may not have the experience you are looking for, but that does not mean the evaluation will not be of quality as long as the trainee’s supervision is adequate. Take the time to talk with the supervisor about how they will make sure the evaluation is being done well.
What are you going to walk away with?
One of the main points of a psychological evaluation is to walk away with a document that explains the difficulties you are having. This is what makes it possible for schools or agencies to provide accommodations. If the document is unclear, disorganized, or does not contain the appropriate information, this can seriously slow down or even stop the process of receiving accommodations. Your evaluator should be able to show you a mock report and walk you through what is included in it as well as how it works. This also applies to the recommendation in the report. Your evaluator should be able to make recommendations that are unique to your
strengths and areas of improvement (although it may be difficult to judge this before the evaluation is complete).
In the end, choosing the right evaluator is going to be based on the things that are important to you and the struggles you are having. A good evaluator should be open, honest, and will take the time to answer your questions. This is a critical step in getting the help you or your loved one
needs. Don’t rush into anything, make sure you know who is on the other side of the table, and be confident that what comes out of this process may not be what you were expecting, but will be helpful towards your goals and your understanding of yourself.