Patients are usually referred for a psychological evaluation by physicians, psychiatrists, social service agencies, attorneys, or they are sometimes self-referred.
A psychological assessment examines a person’s psychological state and symptomatology, as well personality dynamics to better understand how these affect the way he or she is coping with life. Generally, a person completes several psychological measures and questionnaires that assess various aspects of his or her psychological functioning. These instruments are then scored and interpreted, and the individual always has an opportunity to return for an in-depth explanation and discussion of the results.
The purpose of a neuropsychological assessment is to assess an individual’s thinking abilities (cognitive functioning). Areas of focus may include attention/concentration, memory, executive function (e.g., problem solving), psychomotor speed and dexterity, psycheducational functioning, and visual-spatial abilities.
People undergo neuropsychological evaluations for a variety of reasons, which might include assessing problems related to head injury, problems learning or paying attention in school or focusing at work, or concerns about cognitive decline for any number of reasons.
An evaluation generally takes between 4-8 hours depending on the referral question. People often break the testing sessions into 2-3 meetings to avoid becoming fatigued. You will be asked to do various tasks, such as drawing things or writing with pencil and paper, constructing objects with blocks or other materials, and solving puzzles. Your comfort during the process is the most important factor. You are encouraged to take breaks, bring snacks, and make yourself comfortable during the assessment.
Because psychological factors often cause or affect cognitive problems, you may be administered psychological test and questionnaires as well.
The goals of a neuropsychological assessment are usually to identify an individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, to identify deficits related to brain dysfunction, and to provide treatment recommendations based on the results.