Psychological Evaluations (Cognitive Functioning) in Northern New Jersey
Finding help for a behavioral issue can only be possible if the cause of it is known. Psycho-Educational Associates performs psychological evaluations on patients in Totowa and the surrounding areas in New Jersey.
What is a Psychological Evaluation?
A psychological evaluation, which is also called psychological testing, refers to testing an individual using several techniques to form a hypothesis about the individual’s personality, behavior, and abilities. A psychological battery or test is performed by a specialist with appropriate training. Only a psychologist is trained to interpret the results of the test and form a hypothesis about the individual.
Psychological tests are never performed without ruling out other possibilities. For example, medical tests are commonly performed before a psychological test, because certain health conditions may cause symptoms that are similar to mental health disorders. If a medical condition is causing the problem, psychological testing is not necessary. If medical concerns are ruled out, then the next series of tests begins.
Even though psychological tests provide information about an individual, they are not all inclusive as other types of tests because they are based on an average. These tests use one or more quantitative scores to provide a specific scale so that test takers will have a fair comparison.
Parts of a Psychological Evaluation
- Standardized Tests
Standardized tests or norm-referenced tests, have set conditions and a specific standard. Each standardized test is designed for one specific category such as behavior, personality or knowledge, and has a consistent scale measurement to determine an individual’s differences when related to the norm or average.
The primary advantage associated with a standardized test is identifying where an individual falls in a specific category when compared to others within their age group. Furthermore, the tests help identify and follow the development of a child as he or she grows.
An interview is a type of psychological test that occurs directly. A psychologist or psychological professional talks to the individual and asks a series of questions.
When interviews are performed on a child, they are conducted not only with the child, but also with teachers, parents, and other adults in that young person’s life. Since a psychologist can adjust the questions being asked during an interview, it is not as structured as a formal test.
Usually, an interview occurs before psychological testing. The interviewer asks questions about an individual’s history, health, family, work and related topics.
- Observing the Individual
Observation occurs when a psychologist watches an individual in a specific situation. For example, watching a child play in his or her natural environment or observing a youngster under a specific set of conditions.
Observing an individual is useful when evaluating a child, because it provides valuable insight into the way he or she behaves in different settings. An observer watches the way the child interacts with peers, parents, relatives and strangers in an environment that is familiar. A professional can make realistic recommendations based on the situation at home and the child’s particular ability to function in different situations.
- Informal Tests and Evaluations
Informal testing refers to the use of non-standardized tests, projective testing or similar informal tests to evaluate an individual’s abilities. For example, using tests from a teacher allows a psychologist to evaluate a child’s spelling, mathematics or language skills in relation to their current educational level and classroom environment.
The benefit of informal testing is the ability to see how an individual or child performs in different situations and locations. For example, informal tests may determine how an individual reads in the library, classroom and at home by having that person read aloud in the different settings. The downside of using an informal test is that the information is not based on scientific findings.
Why use Psychological Evaluations?
Evaluating an individual’s cognitive abilities, behavior, personality, and beliefs is essential in order to develop a realistic treatment plan. When an individual is not behaving in a manner that is appropriate for the situation or is falling behind peers in school, evaluating their actions and abilities in a formal setting offers a chance to identify the best approach for the child’s needs.
Recommendations for interventions and education are made based on the finding in the evaluation. A psychologist uses the details and information to judge the most appropriate approach to the situation. Furthermore, a psychologist will not make any recommendations until the evaluation is completed, and any discrepancies are resolved. For example, if one form of testing determines that a child is able to read and write at a competent level, while another form of testing suggests that the child is behind his or her peers, then additional tests help determine the cause of the discrepancy.
During a psychological evaluation, professional psychologists use several scores and tests to determine the appropriate intervention for each individual. Since several tests are performed, the information and evaluation is objective and provides an accurate description of the situation. Ultimately, the testing determines an individual’s strengths and weaknesses so that realistic plans are developed.
Psychological evaluations allow a more personalized approach to interventions developed, thereby ensuring greater success. Here at Psycho-Educational Associates, we have experienced, caring professionals standing by ready to provide you with psychological evaluations and a variety of other services. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!