As a forensic and clinical psychology expert, I have reviewed hundreds of evaluations by fellow psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and a full array of counselors over the last 20 years.
A vast majority of these evaluations are shallow. I call these types of assessments a “drive by”, and they occur in the context of what seems to be a rush to diagnosis without the diligent detective work defining truly piercing assessment. The fact of the matter is psychological diagnoses are much less meaningful than medical diagnoses because while the human body is relatively uniform across billions of humans, the human personality is totally unique person to person. So, what you need is something far beyond generic diagnosis.
The rarity of quality child psychological assessment or adult psychological assessment is one reason why my blog “12 questions you should use to interview a potential therapist, life coach or mentor”, went viral. Because truly high quality assessment is very rare, I want you to be armed with information allowing you to avoid paying significant money for a work product that will end up not paying off.
5 signs you need to look for
….so you avoid a costly detour from your goal of getting credible intel about what is really going on.
1. Rigorous intake process
Medical evaluations are mostly focused on identifying biological factors. But emotional, behavioral, or learning problems are most often caused by groups of factors. In fact, great psychological detectives sift through information far beyond biological information.
Expert psychologists must look into all of the following life domains to identify the contributors to each problem presented: birth and developmental, medical, neurological, familial, parental, educational, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social, environmental, relationship patterns, and even patterns of social media usage.
Additionally, one key part of my intake process is having the client make a timeline of all significant events that have occurred from birth till present day. Why? Each person life falls into unique stages with deeply personal themes. Each person has experienced life changing events that either mark the beginning or end of a stage.
For psychological assessment to be truly individualized, each person’s past stages, and current stage, need to be psychologically understood so the worldview of that client can be understood from the inside out. To understand the river of someone’s life, the curves, whitewater, waterfalls, and volatility need to be appreciated.
2. Interviewing the Village around the client
Have you ever watched a detective show where witnesses were not interviewed? No, you haven’t. Why? Because if you only get “the story” from one person, you cannot validate or invalidate intel. You are locked into the tunnel vision of one person’s narrow perspective. Whether I evaluate a child or an adult. I always interview collateral “witnesses”, in the form of spouses, friends, mentors, teachers, coaches, relatives, etc.
To grasp the nuances of a client’s personality, to understand their patterns – and the breaks in those patterns – I must see the client through the eyes of people who experience that person in many different situations. Often each client is found to have more than one personality, because situational factors change how we behave. Even extreme introverts become very social around certain people.
Remember, the most revered cognitive scientists, like Daniel Kahneman, have found that people are aware of only about 5% of the processing their mind if doing 24/7. The other 95% lies below the waterline of consciousness. That is why the iceberg (where only a small tip is viewable above the water) has become one of the most repetitively referenced images used to visualize the human self. By interviewing a roundtable of witnesses, we can see more “underwater patterns” even the client in unaware of.
3. Goes far beyond generic diagnosis using personality tailored assessment
The redundancy of the human anatomy and physiology allows human medicine to rely on laboratory findings and scanning technology (e.g., MRI, CAT scans) to arrive at a diagnosis. Meanwhile, the unique anatomy and physiology of each client’s personality needs to be understood. Psychological scientists have not yet come to a consensus of what the exact anatomical parts of the personality are. Nor have they agreed on what the uniform physiology, or moving parts, are to human personality.
Give this ambiguity, great psychological detectives must work much harder to weave together a web of information, and test their hypotheses through recursive data integrity checking. Much like Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now automatically learning to do.
If you want the most definitive understanding of what is really going on, you need to find a psychologist who has a track record of scientific rigor. Look at their resume, and ask for copies of their recent evaluations. Read the summary of their recent reports and ask yourself, “Does this evaluator carefully weave data together in a nuanced manner?”. Ask the potential evaluator to walk you through a recent case they had, so they can share how they used the Scientific Method. The best behavioral health professionals remain humble because they repetitively reassess their perspective before drawing conclusions.
4. Performance, not diagnostically, focused
From 20 years of in-the-trenches practice, I now realize just how narrowly many behavioral health professional’s practice. Many behavioral health professionals focus on getting to a diagnosis, following the medical model.
Meanwhile, great psychological detectives are not focused merely on identifying diagnoses. Rather, they are focused on helping the client understand what they need to do to get as close as possible to their true potential.
Ask any potential evaluator how they will help you or your child reach their potential. Remember, a psychological diagnosis will not get you very far. Research has even shown that successful behavioral health treatment is highly driven by treatment of factors that lie outside of the generic diagnosis.
Be a great detective to find the great detective!
We now live in a society where a high degree of transparency is common. So, if an evaluator is not willing to share examples of their work, then it likely suggests they are insecure or their Ego is too big. Do you research! Because even shallow evaluations can cost 1,000’s of dollars. Find the professional will do it the right way the first time around!
Great psychological assessment goes far beyond diagnosis
The top reasons you or your child might be misdiagnosed with ADHD
12 Powerful – but little known – Psychological Assessments that Provide Roadmaps to a Child’s or Adult’s True Potential
Listen to Interview of Dr. Brunner talk about what Great Psychological Assessment can do for you
4 Criteria to Find a Great Therapist
2 key reasons parents are unhappy with their child’s emotional or behavioral evaluation