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Role of Psychological Assessments

Updated on June 11, 2010

The psychological assessment in counseling and clinical practice is a means of measuring a person’s mental, emotional or intellectual capacity for doing or completing a task.  This is accomplished through the use of standardized tests that allow for a quantitative measurement of the individual’s capacities.  These capacities cannot be measured through the use of a standard ruler; therefore, testing methods must be created to determine the capacity in a quantitative manner.  The psychological assessment allows the individual to be rated using a number system and then compared to others who have taken the same test, thus providing the psychologist with a basis in which to conduct his investigation and collaboration with the individual.

There are many times in which the psychological assessment testing procedures are used in counseling and clinical practice.  The most common usage of assessments are in daily counseling sessions to determine an individual’s progress in regards to the treatments that he had been receiving psychological assessments in the medical fields are used to determine if a patient is at risk for conditions such as depression, a common side effect of surgery or medical procedures.  The psychological assessment is also on a regular basis to determine a person’s ability to perform specific job demand and their ability to function as part of an organization. (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000, p. 505)

There are particular strengths that the psychological assessment has that ensure its continued use.  The foremost of such strengths is that it negates the testers preconceived opinions of the person tested and only works to quantify it.  The average person often makes up their mind rather quickly about the individual based upon what they expect to find in that individual and the appearance of the individual.  The psychological assessment test is not a cognitive test, therefore, eliminating the appearance or any direct thoughts about the person completing the test.

The psychological assessment test can also be placed on-line, making it possible for people who may be concerned about a psychological problem to determine if they should seek professional help.  This is especially true for the medical community as depression is one of the most common side effects to different medications and procedures.  Through the use of the psychological assessment, those who are at risk for depression may be treated faster and their health improvement can be monitored through the use of continuous testing.

The psychological assessment test is immensely beneficial in enabling a complete assessment in determining a psychology patient’s progress while undergoing therapy.  The psychologist is often emotionally involved in the patient’s well-being and success despite his need to stay impersonal.  The psychologist has a vested interest in the mental health of his patients and may fail to determine progress or a lack of progress without the use of a psychological assessment.  The assessment data can provide a clear picture of how the therapy has helped or hindered the patient as the doctor compares previous answers to current answers.

A new client will receive a formal psychological assessment to provide the psychologist a condition in which to begin his work.  The patient may have a preconceived notion as to what is wrong with him.  These are suggestions that inexperienced and untrained individuals have given them.  These suggestions may then color their way of reasoning and influence their initial assessment answers, making it necessary to repeat the test frequently.  (Ey & Hersen, 2004, p. 5)

The formal assessment for a new client will produce more than simply what the person thinks, but also their biographical information. This information will include their relationships with others, their past relationships, jobs, health and education.  This assessment will guide the psychologist into determining the required path and provide a starting ground for continuous assessments.  Formal psychological assessment is also used to determine an individual’s progress during therapy. (Ey & Hersen, 2004, p. 4)

There are many serious downfalls to the standardized psychological assessment testing, as there are with all psychological testing.  The tested person may simply lie during the psychological assessment.  Many times people answer questions in manners that they think are appropriate or desired instead of telling the truth about the situation.  This may be due to fear of the community if he is found to have a psychological abnormality as psychology is still a taboo subject.  The person may also lie to elicit additional attention from the medical community or to obtain mood stabilizing or antidepressant drugs.

Another problem with the psychological assessment is that the sample size for the standardized tests is often significantly smaller than the number of individuals that will eventually be tested.  This small size can skew the test results and thus cause the failing of individuals who would otherwise have passed or the passing of those who would otherwise fail. (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000, p. 507) It is essential to the success of the psychological assessment that more than one set of testing is done to ensure that the results are consistent from group to the next.

There is also the potential for the standardized testing to exhibit a condition referred to as “cultural bias” in which the culture of the tester often does better than the other cultures. (Goldstein & Hersen, 2000, p. 508) This is a result of the tester allowing his past experiences to color his findings.  This can be eliminated through the use of frequent retesting of different cultural groups and refining of the test to even out all testing scores.  No test should be administered with a single-sample test, and most assessment tests require frequent revisions.

Formal psychological assessment should be conducted in regularly during medical procedures and psychological therapy. Psychological assessment can also be used to assess an individual during job interviews or the application for specific licenses.  The psychological assessment should be paired with additional interviews to determine the authenticity of the person’s thought processes and beliefs in order to eliminate the potential of lying coloring the test results.  These follow up interviews establish the subjective assessment of the individual while the psychological assessment tests are the objective assessments of the same individual.

It is essential to remember that the person is aware that they are being formally psychologically assessed.  The individual may color his or her answers to provide what the tester wants to hear.  As previously stated, this may be due to fear or personal desire.  It is up to the tester to determine if this is the case and if the person is truthful or not.  Subjective assessments are able to assist with the process of determining the truth in the objective test.

This often causes the test to change from an objective test to a subjective test, as the patient works to provide the answers that the tester wants to hear in order to receive the result that the patient desires.  The repeating of a question in more than one way is often used as a technique to determine the individual’s honesty in the answer.  In most cases, the individual will answer the same question spoken in a different manner differently each time.  This is not always an effective method of determine an individual’s truth, as some individuals will remember what they previously answered or will see through this testing technique and continue to deceive the tester.

While the objective test shows only the individual who is being tested data marks, the subjective test can also show the testers thoughts and opinions regarding information.  This can make the process invalid and the test incomplete on some level, but complete on other levels.   A true psychological assessment will use both the subjective and objective test results to determine a course of action.  While it is only possible to complete a subjective assessment during the face to face assessment of the individual, it is becoming are easier to achieve an objective assessment over the Internet.  The use of the world wide web has simplified the process of issuing the objective test by providing it over the Internet.  This makes it easier for the patient to obtain the test and doctors to obtain a test result through the use of online psychological test. (Maruish, 2000, p. 764) 

There are several different considerations for the use of an objective verses a subjective psychological assessment; although the use of both testing methods is often preferred over the use of a singular testing method.   The use of a subjective psychological assessment as the primary testing procedure is often not the best way to determine the proper psychological needs of the person.  The subjective testing process is too open to interpretation simply due to the subjective nature of the test.  The initial use of the subjective evaluation can color the patient’s or the doctor’s further findings through the objective test and impede the medical processes needed to ensure a healthy individual.

The objective use of the psychological assessment is beneficial for initial consultations with the individual because it is not colored through preconceived notions about the patient.  It should be noted that these tests cannot correct themselves though, and that the use of the improper test may show the patient to be healthy or unhealthy when this is not the case.  It is vital that the correct tests be administered to the patient based upon his personal risk factors, and that each test is followed up by a subjective psychological assessment by a qualified medical professional.

The objective assessment, especially the online assessment can allow for the misinterpretation of a question by the patient.  An example of this would be in regards to the depression test of if the individual feels more tired than usual.  If the patient is working an off shift or working more hours than normal, the answer would be yes, although the cause has nothing to do with depression.

The subjective psychological assessment is able to correct these misunderstandings and add additional depth and understanding to the original objective test.  The subjective psychological assessment uses various information gathering techniques in order to make a total assessment of the individual.  The patient’s body language, verbal and facial expressions, as well as the way that he answers any questions can all be used to flesh out the psychological assessment of that individual.  This subjective assessment can be administered while an objective assessment is administered to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of the individual.  The subjective assessment of the patient can also be used to determine the personality of the patient and the immediate emotional stability of the patient.

It is crucial to remember that the subjective assessment is truly subjective and therefore, subject to personal interjections.  It is vital that the psychologist attempts to remain outside of the subjective test as much as possible and remain impartial. The psychologist will not be able to remove himself entirely from the patient and actions or interpretations made by the psychologist will color this test, although it is a necessary piece to the formal assessment of the patient.

The future of psychological assessments will include the extensive use of the tests over the world wide web and the interconnection between various medical and psychological professional handling cases.  Doctors are the ones who benefit the most from the online objective psychological assessment coupled with the subjective assessments of the patient.  They are able to upload the information from the assessment that is taken from the comfort of the individual’s home, and determine the individual’s risk for any number of psychological concerns.  If the objective tests indicate a significant risk, the doctor will then provide the patient with the ability to obtain subjective assessment and treatments. 

This is most frequently being used by medical doctors to monitor their patient’s depression levels after a serious medical intervention, surgery, or illness.  Depression can hinder the healing progress of the body and may even cause the individual to self inflict injury. (Maruish, 2000, p. 763)

Through the use of objective formal psychological assessment, the depressed patient can be identified quicker, and the appropriate treatments can be administered to the patient.  The subjective assessment can be preformed as soon as the patient enters the office for an exam, or he can be called in particular to see a psychologist or other medical professional.  This can limit the risk of potential harm caused by a long period of depression.  This method can also be used to determine postpartum depression, anxiety or any number of psychological concerns with a patient.  The doctors themselves may take these tests to monitor their daily stress levels, as can their staff.

The computerized objective formal psychological testing allows for the additional benefit of allowing all of the healthcare systems to communicate with each other.  The patient’s primary care doctor is then able to converse with the psychologist who is handling the mental conditions of the individual.  Then both professionals are able to communicate with the insurance company to gain approval to complete therapy on the patient.  This can result in faster and more efficient care for the individual and less sever medical and psychological conditions. (Maruish, 2000, p. 770) This would in turn, results in a healthier individual and less stress for the doctors who are caring for the individual as well as a higher amount of the treatment being paid for by the insurance company.

The communication between the doctors can also help to avoid confusion as to what medications are being administered to the patient and at what dosage. This can help to eliminate the concerns of overdosing patients or medicine interactions as all treatment options and actions are listed and saved within that specific on-line medical record.  The patient can also be hindered in his attempt to procure more drugs than what he has actual need for in the case of an obsessive compulsive individual, or one with previous drug related concerns.

If the patient risk increases rapidly over a period of time, the inter-connected computer systems may be able to reach emergency personal in order to provide the patient with immediate medical help.  This can reduce the risks of suicide, self injury or potential for others to be injured.  This is still in the testing phases and is not yet ready for the real-world application, although the promise is there.

These online assessment tests can also be used to assist the family members of those who are undergoing treatment for either a psychological or physical condition.  The surrounding people are often forgotten while treating the patient, although they also suffer from a series of potentially harmful conditions such as stress and depression.  By providing additional log on names for those who are caring for the patient, the care-giver’s psychological health can be evaluated and if treatment is needed it can be administered.  The same can be true for those who live around the patient and may feel more than the normal amount of stress.

Overall, the psychological assessment holds a vital role in counseling and clinical practice.  Without the use of psychological testing, the treatment of the patient would not be as effective and fewer people would receive the necessary help they need to live a healthy life. Psychological assessments continue to prove their value every day and continue to be more useful as technology continues to improve.     


Bercaw, G. H. (2002, July). Psychological Assessment. Law & Order50, 132+. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Ey, S., & Hersen, M. (2004). Chapter 1 Pragmatic Issues of Assessment in Clinical Practice. In Psychological Assessment in Clinical Practice: A Pragmatic Guide, Hersen, M. (Ed.) (pp. 3-20). New York: Brunner-Routledge. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Fury as Child Rapist Avoids Court. (2009, June 8). The Daily Mail (London, England), p. 26. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Goldstein, G. & Hersen, M. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of Psychological Assessment(3rd ed.). New York: Pergamon. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Jack, L. A., & Ogloff, J. R. (1997). Factors Affecting the Referral of Young Offenders for Medical and Psychological Assessment Under the Young Offenders Act.Canadian Journal of Criminology, 39(3), 247-274. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:

Maruish, M. E. (Ed.). (2000). Handbook of Psychological Assessment in Primary Care Settings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Questia database:


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      Sample Assessments 

      7 years ago

      Psychological assessments are not magic, but when administered and interpreted correctly, can help in choosing and keeping the best talent. With a large number of tests to choose from, it can often be expensive and time consuming task to determine the best tools to assess your organization.



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