Imagine for a moment that you are a successful psychologist. Cynthia comes to see you because she’s having a problem. How do you treat her? How do you even know what’s wrong with her?
Clinical assessment is a way of diagnosing and planning treatment for a patient that involves evaluating someone in order to figure out what is wrong. There are many types of psychological assessments, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.
What’s the point of assessment? To answer that, let’s go back to the moment that Cynthia walks into your office. She tells you that she’s feeling very stressed out and anxious because she keeps forgetting things. She used to be really on top of things, but recently she has trouble remembering where she parked her car or what she did just a few minutes ago.
What’s wrong with Cynthia? There are many things that can cause memory loss. The only way that you can find out what’s wrong with her is to do some sort of evaluation. Clinical assessments help you, the psychologist, to know what might be causing problems for your patient.
Let’s look closer at three common types of clinical assessments: clinical interviews, neurological and biological testing and intelligence testing.
Okay. So Cynthia comes to your office and complains of how she’s been forgetting things. The first place that many psychologists start with a patient like Cynthia is with a clinical interview.
A clinical interview is a discussion in which the psychologist asks specific, open-ended questions in order to assess a client’s thoughts, behaviors and feelings. It is often referred to as a conversation with a purpose.
When Cynthia comes into your office, you sit down with her and begin by asking what brought her to see you. This is when she first complains of her memory loss. From there, you can ask her many other questions to get more information. You could ask her for specific examples of when she’s forgotten something, when the memory loss began, what other symptoms she’s experiencing, what has been going on in her life and many other questions.
The essence of the clinical interview is to get a good grasp on how the patient sees his or her situation and to try to get a clear picture of what the patient’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors are when she is not in your office.
Clinical interviews can be done in many different ways. The structure, formality, medical discussion and time all depend on the specific situation and what you, as the psychologist, are trying to understand about your patient.
After you interview Cynthia, you believe that she might be suffering from dementia, a special type of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction that can be caused by many different things. So, like many psychologists, you decide that the clinical interview is not good enough. In this case, you want more assessments to be done.