What Is a Psychological Evaluation?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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A psychological evaluation is generally a means of evaluating a person's psychological or emotional state. These tests can be used to help get to the root of emotional problems or diagnose mental disorders if a person's emotional or mental health is called into question. A psychological evaluation is often called for in situations where determining a person's mental or emotional health and stability is considered crucial, such as during a legal process, a child custody hearing, or a job application process. They are also often used in academic settings to identify learning disabilities. A psychological evaluation should usually be administered only by a qualified psychologist, and can involve a number of procedures, including intelligence tests, self-assessment tests, observation periods, and face-to-face questioning of the person being tested.

Intelligence tests and tests of academic skill can often be a part of a psychological evaluation, especially one designed to identify obstacles to a student's academic success. Professionals administering these types of psychological evaluations will often ask for the student's own input on his behavior, and may observe the student in classroom and other settings to find clues that could point to a learning disability or mental disorder, such as ADD/ADHD. Specific tests designed to identify the symptoms of various learning disabilities or mental disorders may also be administered.

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For those who are experiencing mental turmoil or emotional upset, a psychological evaluation can help identify any mental disorders that could be causing the negative feelings and thoughts. These types of psychological evaluations will often involve personal interviews and tests designed to illuminate the person's character traits, beliefs and worldview, and general personality traits. Self-assessment tests are often administered to adolescents and adults, since these individuals are typically old enough to have an awareness of their own behavior and express themselves in regards to it. Younger children are more often evaluated on the basis of specially designed intelligence and other performance tests. They may express themselves in non-verbal ways, so observation and face-to-face interviewing can help the experience psychologist better understand the subject's mental state.

Many people who undergo psychological evaluations aren't troubled or having academic problems, but must prove their psychiatric and emotional soundness for some reason. Parents seeking custody of children in divorce cases, or applicants to certain jobs, may be among these groups. People who have suffered brain damage might benefit from a thorough psychological evaluation, which can help doctors understand the extent of the deficit. Police and courts often use psychological evaluations in a legal setting, usually to help determine if defendants are fit to stand trial, or if mental problems may have contributed to the commission of a crime.

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