10 things to expect when you or your child is receiving psychological testing
A psychological evaluation provides specialized assessment of a client’s individual strengths and weaknesses, in order to guide treatment. The area that is evaluated is based on your specific areas of concern, such as attention problems or depression. Often times, the requests we receive for testing are for people who are struggling in some area, whether it be in school functioning, work performance, or emotional distress/instability because testing helps provide a clear picture or understanding to areas which are currently uncertain. It is an invaluable tool and, while its basic purpose is generally known, I find that the process is more of a mystery.
Here are some things to expect (in no particular order):
1. It’s a process that generally can take a few weeks to a month (sometimes a little more). For those who are seen in my office, your first visit is a diagnostic interview (where we identify your specific needs) and the next visit is the testing (which can be 1-3 sessions based on referral concern). We complete the report once the results and any collateral information (from teachers, parents, etc.) is received, and schedule feedback sessions (which I will discuss more below) two to three weeks later. Therefore, be prepared and patient that you will receive a quality comprehensive product that takes time and is worth the process!
2. If being tested for a diagnosis you may be taking medication for (such as ADHD) if possible, do not take medication the day of testing. We want to have the truest version of you so we can fully assess your natural functioning.
3. Get a good night’s sleep and eat before you come (also bring a snack for you and/or your child). The testing process is extensive and you will need energy and rest to be able to engage fully.
4. The testing session is generally for two hours, but based on the test and your individual skills, it can take longer. There is generally paperwork to complete which can take more time than anticipated. Also, make sure you read it thoroughly, as many tests we give assess how consistent you are in responding to similar items.
5. Ask for what you need-including a break. Sometimes, you may need a bathroom break and sometimes you may be mentally exhausted. If you need to come back another time to complete the assessment, that is fine. I’d much rather a client stop prematurely than just rush through it.
6. We often like to talk to a collateral informant. It is very helpful to get someone else’s perception of your functioning, as evaluations are more comprehensive when there is information about one’s past and current functioning. This can include doctor’s notes, teacher’s notes, or an interview with a loved one or therapist. The more open and willing you are to allow us to get this information, the more comprehensive your evaluation will be!
7. Insurance companies often require authorization. This means we have to fax the insurance company a form requesting authorization based on your specific needs and wait for it to be approved or rejected. With that being said, we do our best to write an impassioned plea, but cannot control their decisions. Also it can take at least 5-10 business days (sometimes longer) to receive their decision.
8. Please ask questions. There can be information or forms which make no sense that we ask you to complete. Remember this is for you and we are here to serve you so let us know what you need.
9. A feedback session is always offered to explain the results once the report is complete. You can come in person or receive it via email. Feel free to ask questions during this time or later if something comes up.
10. Discuss the purpose of your child coming into our office prior to the appointment. Testing is not an exact science and the evaluation is only valid when full effort is given. I often find that parents do not discuss the reason for the child’s visit with them prior, or their need to be cooperative. The more children are aware of what is expected, the better they generally perform. If you need help on ways to prepare your child prior to the actual testing, just ask and we will be happy to provide you with age-appropriate ways to do so.
Written by Dr. Brianna Gaynor