Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Therapy

Beyond Inkblots: 6 Benefits of Psychological Testing

Clarify your diagnosis, guide your treatment, and advocate for your needs.

Key points

  • Testing can help to align your treatment providers and update your treatment plan to better meet your needs.
  • Be aware of issues related to confidentiality, accuracy, and intersectionality.
Pexels/RODNAE Productions
Source: Pexels/RODNAE Productions

Psychological testing is a combination of tests and assessments provided by psychologists with the goal of measuring and observing your behavior to determine a diagnosis and guide treatment. Such testing takes hours or even days to complete, and the type of tests and assessments used are chosen based on your needs. A few common tools include clinical interviews; evaluation of medical, school, and therapy records; checklists; surveys; standardized tests; and collection of observational data.

Consider these 6 benefits:

1. Diagnosis clarification. Usually, initial mental health diagnoses are based on a clinical interview lasting 50-60 minutes. This process has limitations because it’s based on the clinician’s interpretation of your symptoms as you report them, which can be very subjective. Some people receive inconsistent mental health diagnoses from different providers. For example, your psychiatrist might give you a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, your therapist might assign you a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and your primary care doctor could give you a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Which is correct? Psychological testing is more extensive and objective than a clinical interview as it involves multiple tests and assessments. If you have multiple conflicting diagnoses, testing can help to clarify them. In addition, if you’ve received a diagnosis that you disagree with, testing can be a good way to discover whether you meet the criteria for that diagnosis.

2. Get a diagnosis on a deadline. If you are seeking a diagnosis in a short period of time, consider psychological testing as opposed to a 50-60 minute clinical interview. Testing will take longer initially as you’ll need to schedule multiple appointments with a psychologist and wait for your results. However, you might receive a diagnosis in less time when compared to working with a provider long-term. This is especially true if you suspect that you have a severe or pervasive mental health disorder, as some are difficult to diagnose in a short period of time. In fact, many clinicians will not diagnose severe or pervasive disorders right away. I know many therapists who will not diagnose personality disorders during an initial clinical interview. They need to work with you for a period of time before they can accurately assess whether you meet the criteria. Overall, psychological testing may provide you with a diagnosis in a shorter period of time when compared to a clinical interview.

3. Obtain individualized treatment recommendations. Mental health treatment is not one size fits all. One treatment approach might work well for a friend, but may not help you. Psychological testing can provide specific treatment recommendations that meet your individual needs. Your testing results could indicate which type of treatment services you may benefit from, such as individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, support groups, medication management, or an appointment with a medical doctor. This information can help you to decide which treatment services to participate in. Your testing results might also recommend that you participate in certain types of therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

4. Improve your current treatment plan. If you are participating in mental health treatment, psychological testing can help by providing information that could improve your treatment plan. Many clients complete psychological testing because they have not progressed in therapy. My colleague had a client who was a trauma survivor and was participating in weekly individual therapy sessions. Yet, they struggled to access their traumatic memories. This client completed psychological testing, which showed that they have aphantasia, which is the inability to visualize. The therapist had been relying on the client’s ability to recall their memories with visualizations which the client was incapable of doing. This information helped the client and therapist to update the client’s treatment plan to incorporate interventions that did not rely upon visualization.

5. Collect evidence for advocacy. Psychological testing results can be used in legal proceedings, Social Security and disability benefits assessments, and housing and employment accommodations requests. Often, these areas of self-advocacy require evidence that you have certain limitations or disabilities or require specific needs, and your testing results might serve as evidence. I had a client who requested to wear noise cancellation headphones in their workspace. Their employer initially denied this request. However, when the employee shared their psychological testing results which indicated that the sounds of background voices are likely to trigger distractibility and anxiety, their employer approved the accommodation. If you need evidence to support your efforts to advocate for your needs, consider psychological testing.

6. Get your providers on the same page. A common problem in mental health treatment is that if you have multiple providers, they may not communicate with each other or work together as members of your treatment team. Your testing results could help your providers to align as they will all be receiving the same information from the same source. As the client, you can request that the psychologist who conducts your testing communicate with your providers, and you can request that your providers coordinate with each other at any point in your treatment. You will need to sign releases for your providers to communicate with each other.

Important considerations

  • Confidentiality. You are welcome to share your testing results with whomever you choose, but be aware that discrimination toward those with mental health diagnoses still occurs, so be intentional regarding whom you share your results with. If you’d like your psychologist to share the results with anyone, you must sign a release.
  • Accuracy. Psychological testing is not perfect, and it may not always be accurate. You should seek a second opinion if you are unsure about your results. Also, psychological testing usually adheres to the criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) which is not a sterile diagnosis tool as it tends to be impacted by cultural shifts and politics.
  • Intersectionality Concerns. Psychological testing usually includes standardized tests, which are often based on the knowledge and values of majority groups. These tests can be biased against minority groups based on gender, race, sexuality, community status, socioeconomic status, language, and culture.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory

References

American Psychological Association. 2013. Understanding psychological testing and assessment. Blog post retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/testing-assessment-measurement/understanding

advertisement
More from Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC
More from Psychology Today
More from Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC
More from Psychology Today