What is a Psychological Assessment?

A formal psychological assessment is the process of evaluating one’s mental health, and social-emotional functioning. This is usually done through the use of standardised tests, clinical observations, and other methods (e.g., interviews, school visits).

A psychological assessment is usually done to diagnose for mental conditions, such as depression, autism spectrum, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can also assess a child’s cognitive abilities, with the aim of determining their suitability for gifted programmes or special education support.

There are different types of psychological assessments. First, a psycho-educational testing involves a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory, verbal intelligence) and academic skills (such as reading, writing, and math). Psycho-educational assessments are usually conducted when there are concerns about a child’s learning or school performance. Other methods of assessment such as parent questionnaires, teacher questionnaires, and classroom observations are utilised in these evaluations. Social-emotional assessments are needed when a child/youth has problems with anxiety, anger, sadness, or has difficulty interacting with peers, parents, and teachers. Other types of assessments may include personality assessments and neuropsychological assessments.

A psychological assessment is typically conducted by a doctoral-level clinician with specialised training in psychology and assessments. The clinician may suggest one or more types of assessments, depending on the issues that the individual presents with. For instance, a youth who struggles with learning issues may be simultaneously having challenges interacting with others at home and in school. In this case, the assessment will consist of a cognitive as well as a social-emotional evaluation so as to provide a more complete picture of the youth’s overall functioning.

A psychological assessment typically lasts between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the type and complexity of the assessments. When the testing is completed, an integrated report includes the test results, clinical impressions, likely diagnosis, and recommendations for treatment. This confidential report is provided only to the parents who requested for the service.

Some reasons that a parent may request for psychological assessments for their child:

      • To identify the feelings, thoughts, and behaviours that are affecting the child.
      • To diagnose mental conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, major depression, or generalised anxiety disorder.
      • To assess the child’s cognitive abilities, such as intellectual functioning, verbal intelligence, and memory.
      • To help identify the underlying causes of a child’s symptoms.
      • To identify the strengths and functioning of the child, and to tailor the treatment plan according to the child’s needs.
      • To highlight areas that require additional support.
      • To help parents understand the nature of their child’s struggles, ways to address their child’s needs, and options available for the family to support the child.