Assessment is not by any means specific to psychology. Dental X-rays, blood tests are common examples. The reason that any clinician ultimately performs one is to determine the following:
- Is there a problem? Sounds simple enough, but, especially within the realm of psychology and mental health, people come in all sorts of personalities, filled with strengths, quirks, and deficits. Just because someone does things differently or takes a little longer to understand a concept, does this mean they have a problem?
- Reliability and Validity. Regardless of the specific tests or methods involved, it is essential that assessments be conducted in a manner that takes notice of these basic principles. In the case of reliability, the clinician is concerned knowing whether the results can be reproduced under similar conditions. If two boys with similar levels of behavior are each assessed, will the results be similar. Validity refers to whether the assessment actually measures what it purports to measure. An assessment can be reliable without being valid. For example, if I hold a 10 pound weight in my hand every time I get on the scale, the results will be the same each time, but they will be off by 10 pounds, yes? That means they are reliable, but not valid.
- Broad versus Narrow Scope Assessment. Sometimes assessment can take the form of a very Narrow Assessment. In some cases, a child or adult is otherwise healthy, has recently visited a medical professional to rule out possible underlying physical factors, and the presenting problem (why the family or individual has sought services at this point in time). In such cases, the initial assessment can be fairly narrow in its scope. More involved or a Broad Assessment may be indicated at a future date if the initial one does not result in successful treatment or on target recommendations. A broad-based assessment may also be necessary when it is thought that a child is having significant challenges or an adult is undergoing marked behavioral changes.
To learn more about the steps involved in assessments, click here.