Table of Contents

What is Psychological Testing?

Psychological testing (also known as psychological or psychodiagnostic evaluation or assessment) is the use of reliable and research-validated measures to examine a person’s mental health, provide any applicable diagnoses, and answer specific questions about a person’s well-being. Psychological testing commonly includes testing for intelligence or cognitive status, personality, and emotional states. The results of a psychological evaluation can help people get the care they need, improve their daily functions, qualify for certain medical procedures or treatments, adjust to life changes, improve social relations, or guide them in their career.

A psychological evaluation is considered when there is uncertainty about the reasons a person is having challenges with their mood, behavior, thinking, or learning. Psychological testing can quantify a change from a previous baseline, or it can quantify the severity of the symptoms or problems that someone is having. The results can be used to diagnose a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social anxiety
  • Somatic symptom disorder
  • Substance use disorder

Who Can Administer a Psychological Test?

The tests are given by a licensed doctoral-level psychologist, or in some situations, a highly trained assistant (either a professional psychometrist or a psychologist-in-training) can work with the psychologist to gather data from the tests.

Who Can Benefit From Psychological Testing?

Psychological evaluations have two primary goals: clarifying diagnosis and informing treatment. Testing is recommended by a mental health provider or primary care physician when there is a need to better understand an individual’s symptoms, especially when these symptoms are affecting daily functioning or wellbeing. It may be unclear whether symptoms are the result of a physical condition, a mental health condition, or in many cases, a combination of both. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis through psychological testing can help treatment providers determine the correct path of care.

Most people who seek psychological testing have already tried different strategies or treatments to address their symptoms. If you have not responded to treatment or the treatment response is different than you or your provider expects, the results of psychological testing should provide new insights to optimize the treatment plan and personalize it to you. Many physical conditions lead to changes in mood, cognition, and interpersonal adjustment. In the same vein, emotional and behavioral factors impact disease management. Psychological testing is often used to support an individual’s qualification for services or procedures, and to provide recommendations to address risk factors and optimize response to those procedures. Psychological testing can establish a baseline prior to receiving treatment, determine capacity to participate in certain treatments, or identify appropriate candidates for specific medical or behavioral health procedures. Additionally, psychological evaluations can involve academic or vocational tests that are used to determine school placement, school-based services, career planning, or vocational needs.

Types of Psychological Tests and Evaluations

The most common types of psychological testing include:

  • ADHD testing
  • Autism spectrum disorder and ADOS -2 testing
  • Bariatric evaluations (pre-surgical evaluations for weight loss surgery)
  • Behavioral issues or conduct problems
  • Intellectual testing / Giftedness or Twice Exceptionality
  • Intellectual disability
  • Personality testing
  • Projective testing
  • Psychodiagnostic testing
  • Psychoeducational testing
  • Psychosis/reality testing
  • Spinal cord stimulator/pain management evaluations

The following types of psychological testing are offered on a limited basis or in select LifeStance locations:

  • Adoption evaluations
  • Egg donor/gestational carrier evaluation
  • Court ordered evaluations
  • Disability evaluations
  • Fitness for duty evaluations
  • Gender affirmation evaluations
  • Independent educational evaluation (IEE)

Psychological Assessment is Part of Evidence-based Care for Mental Status Change

Psychological testing provides data to inform evidence-based care for individuals experiencing a change in emotional state, personality, or mental status as compared with their previous baseline. Often these types of changes include intrusive thoughts, trouble with reality testing (e.g., hallucinations or delusions), and/or malfunctional thought patterns that can be highly distressing. It can be difficult to “turn off” intrusive or disturbing thoughts, and in some situations, determining whether these types of experiences are normal or abnormal can be a challenge. Psychological testing can reveal the cause for observed changes. Sometimes results can be reassuring that perceived experiences are not cause for alarm; however, even if psychological testing does suggest the presence of certain conditions or diagnoses, the results become a crucial step towards accessing the appropriate care. The following symptoms may indicate that psychological testing is warranted:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of pleasure in activities one typically enjoys
  • Nervousness, fearfulness, or anxiety
  • Sudden changes in mood that last more than two weeks and/or cause distress
  • Difficulty completing everyday tasks
  • Dramatic changes in sleep or eating habits
  • Problems with concentration
  • Disturbing or distressing thoughts
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Seeing or hearing things that others cannot see or hear (hallucinations)
  • Unusual and uncharacteristic beliefs (such as delusions)
  • Urges to complete specific routines or behavior
  • Performance issues at school, work, or activities
  • Relational difficulties, trouble making or keeping friends, volatile relationships
  • Agitation, restlessness, or high energy
  • Impact of substance use or abuse
  • Addiction
  • Compulsive or impulsive behavior

What to Expect During Psychological Testing

Psychological testing starts with a conversation with a clinician to discuss concerns and determine whether a psychological evaluation is the recommended course of treatment.
When you come in for your psychological test, you will be asked to work on activities that require you to focus, learn and apply concepts, and give written or oral responses. Some activities are paper and pencil, while others may be taken on a computer or tablet. No preparation or studying is required for psychological testing! The purpose of testing is to determine your skills, approach to tasks, or personal experience so that this data can be used to develop a customized care plan that is right for your needs. Attempts to prepare for the tests or suboptimal effort during testing can impact the validity of results, making the evaluation less useful. Depending on the type of psychological testing, the process can take a couple of hours up to a full day. In some cases, testing might occur across multiple sessions. After testing has been completed, the psychologist will review the data that was obtained and provide an interpretation of the findings. Results are shared in a follow-up appointment and in a written report that includes a summary of the information.