Interpreting Psychological Assessments: A Guide For Patients And Families

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When the term ‘psychological assessments’ crops up in a medical conversation, it can trigger a flurry of questions. What exactly are these assessments? How are they conducted? 

Psychological assessments are not just a series of tests, but comprehensive evaluations of your mental and emotional state. These evaluations help psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose mental health disorders, form treatment plans, or monitor a disease’s progression. 

To help demystify these evaluations, this article delves deeper into their nature. It breaks down various psychological assessments, discusses their purpose, and shares tips on preparing for one.

However, this article isn’t a substitute for medical advice. You should consult your doctor to give you a more informed opinion on the best evaluations for your case. With that in mind, here are the various types of assessments.

Types Of Psychological Assessments

Common types of psychological evaluations include: 

Cognitive Tests 

Cognitive tests focus on your thinking capabilities – like memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. During this assessment, your psychiatrist may ask you to recall a series of words or solve puzzles within a specific timeframe.  

Such assessments provide valuable insights into how your mind processes and retains information. They can also help to diagnose and track the progression of cognitive disorders like dementia and learning difficulties.

An excellent example of a cognitive test is the Stroop Test. Here, your doctor may ask you to name the ink color of words denoting colors (e.g., ‘blue’ printed in red ink). Scoring below the average range might suggest potential difficulties in that cognitive area. 

While not always the case, this could point to conditions such as ADHD or other learning disorders.

Behavioral Assessments 

These assessments focus on observing your behavior in certain situations. Say, for example, you’re given a challenging task. The assessor may watch how you approach it and handle the stress that comes with it. 

A good example of a behavioral assessment is the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). It involves observing approaches in various environments, for instance, a child’s aggression when asked to share toys. 

Significant deviations from expected behavior may suggest behavioral disorders, e.g., Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder. 


Neuropsychological Tests

These tests measure cognitive functions related to specific brain structures or pathways. Unlike cognitive assessments, these tests show the relationship between physical brain function and mental abilities.

A good example is the Boston Naming Test. During this test, your doctor may show you pictures of objects ranging from common to obscure. They may then ask you to name each of these objects. The difficulty increases as the test progresses. 

A lower overall score could indicate issues with your language abilities. This could point to conditions affecting language skills, such as aphasia, stroke, or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Personality Tests

These tests focus on your personality traits. A personality test can help uncover thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns. These patterns may give your therapist pointers towards your coping mechanisms or risk of mental health disorders like depression. 

Furthermore, they can illuminate interpersonal difficulties and cognitive biases that might otherwise go unnoticed. Some common types of personality tests include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).

There are many other psychological assessment tools commonly used. They include the eating disorder assessment, anxiety screening tools, mood disorders questionnaire, and trauma and stressor-related assessments.

Remember, only qualified physicians can provide an accurate interpretation of the results. Therefore, consult them after the assessment for them to explain the results and give you the next course of action.

Preparing For A Psychological Assessment

A psychological assessment that you’re well-prepared for can yield more accurate results. Here’s how to prepare:

  1. Ask your provider to explain what to expect, including the types of tests involved and their purpose.
  2. Ensure you’ve slept well before the assessment to minimize fatigue, which can influence results.
  3. Bring any relevant medical records, academic reports, or previous psychological assessment results if you have them.
  4. Approach the assessment with honesty and openness.

Psychological assessments aim to understand you better so doctors can offer the most effective help for your case. Therefore, adequate preparation and honesty can significantly contribute to getting you the help you need.

During the assessment, your family’s involvement can significantly improve the process. They can share valuable observations and insights about your health. They can also offer emotional support and assist in implementing post-assessment treatment plans.  


Understandably, psychological assessments can overwhelm you as a patient and your family. However, they’re essential as they offer insights that may put you well on the road to the relevant treatment plans. 

The key to these assessments is approaching them with an open mind and actively participating till completion. Afterwards, you should take the time to discuss the results with the healthcare provider to grasp their implications fully. 

Ultimately, while this guide aims to help you better understand psychological assessments, their interpretation should be collaborative with healthcare professionals. Always rely on their expertise for an accurate understanding of your mental health.