The process of psychological assessment can be daunting. It typically requires a significant time commitment for clients and the testing psychologist. Individuals and families are often, understandably, concerned about the cost of an assessment. To complicate matters, insurance plans may not reimburse psychological assessment or may only reimburse a small portion of the service. This means it can be hard for clients to know whether an assessment is necessary and worthwhile.
So when is a good time to seek psychological assessment? The answer: it depends. The best way to determine whether an assessment would be helpful to you or your child is to meet with a psychologist for consultation. During consultation, the psychologist can gather the necessary information to help you make an informed decision about the type of evaluation that will best meet your needs and the benefits it can offer. They may also inform you of other, more cost-effective, options for addressing your needs such as therapy, work with a learning specialist, or consultation with a psychiatrist. Consultation can offer information and peace of mind to potential clients as they consider whether assessment is a worthwhile investment.
Still, here are a few examples of situations where an assessment would be helpful:
- A client has been participating in therapy for some time but is not showing improvement, in spite of working with a qualified therapist
- A child is presenting with symptoms of a neurodevelopmental disorder such as ADHD, autism, or a specific learning disorder
- A student shows a sudden decline in academic performance or their performance hasn’t improved in spite of supports (tutoring, IEP plan, e.g.)
- A young child has not mastered key early academic skills (e.g. phonics, reading, writing, basic arithmetic)
- A child presents with behavior that places themselves / others at risk (e.g. persistent suicidal ideation, ongoing tantrums / dysregulation, physical aggression)
The decision to pursue an assessment (or what type of assessment is needed) stems from several factors including the client’s age, the presenting concerns and their impact on a client’s life, and whether accommodations may be needed at school or work. While waiting to see if a child will “grow out of” a difficulty is an option, for many diagnoses (ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, e.g.) early intervention can be crucial and testing can be a key component of putting an effective plan into place that sets a child up to succeed.
In my next posting in this series, I’ll talk about the typical components of an assessment and the types of data that lead to evidence-based diagnosis and recommendations.