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Psychological Evaluation and Testing


What is a psychological evaluation?

A psychological evaluation is a way to answer questions about mental and emotional problems. The results can give you the information you need to be sure you are doing what is right for you and your child.

Evaluations are usually given by psychologists.

When is it needed?

Testing may be needed to:

  • answer legal questions about abuse, violence, and criminal behavior
  • help decide who should have custody of the child
  • find out if a child should be in a gifted or special needs program at school
  • find out if a child has a learning disability or is mentally retarded
  • assess brain damage after an accident or injury
  • diagnose mental illness

How is it done?

The request for an evaluation may come from the court, school, healthcare provider, or parents. These evaluations often take a lot of time and may be costly.

The psychologist usually starts with an interview with the child that lasts at least an hour. He or she may also talk with parents and teachers and review medical records. The psychologist also decides what tests are needed.

Types of interviews

Several kinds of interviews may be part of the evaluation. These include:

Clinical Interview. The psychologist works to put your child at ease and asks questions about:

  • school, home, and friends
  • moods and worries
  • self-concept
  • illnesses, injuries, and symptoms
  • interests and goals
  • drug and alcohol use.

Parent Interview. Parents may be asked to provide information. The interview will focus on:

  • what you see as the problem
  • your expectations
  • how your child gets along with friends and other family members
  • your child's interests and hobbies
  • how your child is doing in school
  • your concerns about your child's emotions or physical abilities
  • problems your child has had at different ages
  • how your child has handled problems in the past.

Teacher Interview. Your child's teacher may be asked about:

  • problem behaviors and what has been done about them
  • how the child is doing in school
  • how your child gets along with other children
  • your child's strengths
  • ideas to help solve the problem.

Types of tests

There are many kinds of psychological tests. The main kinds are:

  • Academic Achievement and Special Abilities Tests. These tests help screen for learning disabilities and behavior disorders. They also help identify those who might do well in programs for gifted children.
  • Adaptive Behavior Tests. These tests assess how well the child can control impulses or use good judgment.
  • Behavior Problems Tests. These are checklists that assess behavioral problems such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Intelligence Tests. These tests assess your child's IQ (intelligence quotient). The test measures how your child performs compared to other children of the same age.
  • Neuropsychological Tests. These tests assess brain damage by checking thinking skills such as language and memory.
  • Personality Tests. These tests are often given to teens. Test results help identify personality styles, mental and emotional problems, and the teen's strengths and weaknesses. Personality tests may be pen and pencil tests. They can also include methods such as the Rorschach Inkblot test, sentence completion, or drawing pictures.
  • Visual, Motor, and Auditory Perception and Motor Proficiency Tests. These tests are used to check for learning disabilities or problems with vision, hearing, or movement.

A comprehensive report will provide results. Results of these tests can help identify what the problem is, how severe it is, what it will mean for the child, and what can be done to help. The psychologist will recommend treatment and give you an idea of what to expect with and without treatment.


Written by Pamela Daniel, PhD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-05-21
Last reviewed: 2010-05-03

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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