Photo by Nadezhda1906/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Nadezhda1906/iStock / Getty Images
 

WHAT IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

A psychological assessment is a process through which a licensed psychologist collects information to explain a client’s behaviors and difficulties. This information may be used to determine if a client meets criteria for a certain diagnosis or to answer specific assessment questions (for example: “Why does my child struggles so much to make friends?”, “Why it is so hard for my child to learn math?”).  Further, information gained during the psychological assessments are used to create recommendations on how to best address the client’s needs in different areas of the client’s life. 

FOR WHICH CLIENTS DO I OFFER PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

Over the years, I developed extensive experience providing psychological assessment to children with a wide variety of concerns. I currently offer psychological assessments for children and adolescents (age 5 to 18) both in my private practice at (Messina Psychological Services) and at Ren Psychological Services.

Which types of psychological assessment do I provide?

In private practice, I offer three types of psychological assessments:

-       Psychoeducational assessment. A psychoeducational  assessment explores a client’s cognitive and academic skills. This type of assessment is used to determine if a learning disability is preventing a client from successfully learn in academic settings and which accommodations may improve the client’s academic performance. Data are also gathered on the child’s emotional symptoms, but the assessment mainly aims at exploring the child's cognitive and academic functioning.

-       Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This assessment focuses on gathering information on a client’s executive functioning skills (such as paying attention, controlling impulses, and planning activities), to determine if the client meets criteria for ADHD and if so, how to best address the client’s difficulties in different settings.

-        Sociemotional Assessment.  A socioemotional assessment examines a client’s emotional functioning and gathers information on emotional symptoms such as internalizing (i.e. depression and anxiety) and externalizing (i.e. aggression and rule breaking behaviors) problems. If the child's has a history of trauma, a socioemotional assessment can help identify the effects of the trauma on the child's emotional functioning, as well as specific symptoms and conditions that may be related to the trauma the child experienced (such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Results of a socioemotional assessment inform recommendations targeting the child's emotional wellbeing and behavioral regulation.

Oftentimes, children present a multitude of symptoms related to different aspects of their functioning. For example, a child may have academic problems in school and at the same time struggle with significant sad feelings. In these case a comprehensive assessment, which incorporate both psychoeducational and socioemotional testing, may be needed to determine if the child is suffering from multiple clinical disorders, or if there is one major problem that is driving the majority of the symptoms (i.e. a child may have a learning disability and be depressed at the same time, or he may be depressed and therefore unable to focus and learn in school).

What is my approach to psychological assessment?

- I view the psychological assessment as a cooperative process involving me (the psychologist), the caregivers of the child I am assessing, and the child who is assessed. I strive to deeply understand the questions that the caregivers seeking the assessment have for their child and to find the most effective ways to answer them.

- I believe a psychological assessment is a bit like a complicate puzzle. To put together the pieces of this puzzle, I employ a variety of tools and I gather information from multiple individuals involved in the child’s life. During the assessment I use different techniques, standardized and not (such as observations, questionnaires, tests, clinical interviews, and play-based activities). I also collect data from a variety of caregivers, who may see the child in different contexts. For example, I may conduct a clinical interview and give some forms to complete to the child’s parents, but I may also send forms for teachers to complete and interview them as needed.

- I believe regardless of the child’s concern, it is important to consider the environment the child is growing up in. For this reason, I conduct culturally sensitive assessments, where I strive to incorporate family values in my understanding of the child’s problems and in my recommendations on how to address them. Further, if the child is bilingual, I take into account how knowing multiple languages may affect the child’s expression of cognitive and emotional skills. I have extensive experience doing bilingual assessment in English and Spanish.

- I have a strength-based  perspective on assessments. Although caregivers may seek a psychological assessment because they think their child has a problem, I always keep in mind the big picture. Every child is a unique combination of strengths and difficulties, and in my assessments I search for the strengths that the child and the child’s family can capitalize on in order to address their concerns.

- When I do a psychological assessment, I always consider how my understanding of the child’s concerns and my recommendations can improve the child’s school experience. Most children who struggle with cognitive, behavioral and/or emotional difficulties may benefit from specific school interventions. Through my doctoral training in school psychology and my internship as a psychologist in a school district, I gained extensive knowledge on the school systems in the United States. When I offer recommendations at the end of the assessment process, I always include specific school interventions that may help your child being more successful in school. 

How does the psychological assessment process work?

At the beginning of the psychological assessment, I conduct an in depth clinical interview with the caregivers seeking the assessment and with the child who is going to be assessed. After gathering the assessment questions and the child’s history, I create a testing plan, which includes observations of the child, psychological testing and forms to complete for parents and other caregivers if needed (such as teachers). I then analyze the assessment data and write a report, where all the testing procedures and results are described, as well as recommendations on how to better support the child both at school and at home. At this point, I schedule a feedback session with the caregivers, where I explain the assessments results, answer questions and share the report. A comprehensive psychological assessment usually takes about 20 hours of work between face-to-face time with client and work on the assessment data/writing the report. I complete the whole assessment myself, as I believe in the importance of gaining a deep understanding of my assessment clients through all the phases of the assessment.

WHAT ARE THE FEES FOR A PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

Fee for a psychological assessment vary greatly depending on how comprehensive the assessment needs to be, which types of measures are employed and which assessment questions will be explored. Fees for a psychological assessment typically vary between $1000 and $3000.