Psychological or Psychometric Assessment?

The term Psychological Assessment can be confusing.  Many people use this term when talking about diagnosis and treatment planning based solely on clinical interviews and / or collateral information.  Psychologists may use the term assessment for this purpose, but more often Psychological Assessment refers to Psychometric Assessment, or the use of standardized tests and measurements to develop a clinical diagnosis. One can think of Psychometric Assessment as referring to the metric or 'measuring' of psychology. Psychometric Assessment is most commonly seen when third parties are involved such as the school system, courts, or insurance. 

 
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The reason for using Psychological Assessment rather than basing a diagnosis on a clinical interview is twofold:

  1. Psychometric Assessment is an objective assessment.  This means that a person is diagnosed based on their responses to a scientifically standardized set of questions.
  2. Psychometric Assessment  reduces the chance that the clinician's personal bias affecting the diagnosis.  While many diagnosis are straightforward to make, others can be quite difficult or 'non-obvious', this is where Psychometric Assessment shines.

For example, we might think that a child is 'really smart'.  This is a subjective or 'opinion based' conclusion, and is often determined by people comparing one person to another.    A parent may say a child is really smart compared to everyone else in her class.  This may be true, but she may also be doing well because her parents spent extra time with her teaching her how to read and do basic maths before she started Grade One.  The other parents in the class did not have this opportunity, so their children only have classroom learning to rely on.  The 'intelligence' one child is showing may be more a result of the extra help she received than any exceptional cognitive ability.  Only standardized, psychometric cognitive or IQ assessment can determine if she is actually smarter than the average child her age, and without testing all the children in her class, no-one could say she is truly the 'smartest'.  Far to many factors other than IQ may impact school performance.

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Psychometric Assessment can be used to identify gifted people, individuals who need extra academic supports, or who may benefit from an alternate teaching approaches (e.g. 'hands-on' learning, watching others, reading about it).  Psychometric testing may identify learning disabilities.  By having such disabilities formally identified schools can choose to apply for additional funding to provide that child with an aide in the classroom or different learning materials so that they can catch up to their peers.  

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Psychometric Assessment can also be used to help diagnose individuals suffering from a variety of psychological disorders such as:

  • Bi-Polar Disorder (Manic-Depression)
  • Alzheimer's
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Thought Disorders
  • OCD

Psychometric Assessment is often used to identify which areas of memory, learning, planning, and reasoning have been impacted by illness, injury or disease.  This information may be used to develop strategies to help the client function more normally in everyday life.   Psychometric Assessment is a common component of Parenting and Custody Assessments, Dementia and Competency Assessments, or to identify brain injuries.  Psychometric Assessments can only be conducted by a psychologist trained in this area.  

Not all psychologists can conduct Psychometric Assessments, although all clinical and counselling psychologists can perform clinical interviews