A psychological assessment can be a powerful and life-altering experience for a client. Therapeutic Assessment (TA) attempts to maximize the potential for achieving such experiences by 1) inviting the client to participate in the assessment as a full collaborator, 2) sharing all results with the client in words that the client can understand, and 3) providing specific recommendations about the implications of the assessment. Developed at the University of Texas-Austin by Dr. Stephen Finn and his associates (Finn, 2007), studies demonstrate TA can be an effective tool for enhancing personal insight and feelings of hopefulness, reducing the sense of demoralization common among individuals facing emotional difficulties, and improving engagement in treatment (e.g., Finn & Tonsager, 1992; Ougrin, Ng, & Low, 2008).
A Therapeutic Assessment usually involves the following:
Initial consultation: Issues for discussion include the client’s goals for the assessment, past experiences with psychological assessment, and other topics intended to solicit the client’s full and open participation in the process. The assessment goals of the client’s therapist are also discussed with the client.
Test administration: For 2-6 sessions the client completes standardized instruments chosen specifically for their relevance to the questions raised in the initial consultation, and the hypotheses generated on the basis of earlier test administration sessions.
Evaluation of hypotheses: Once test results are reviewed, 1-2 more sessions may be used to evaluate key hypotheses derived from the testing using less standardized methods.
Feedback session: The tester uses the feedback session to present the results to the client. However, the tester also uses the session to continue to evaluate or modify hypotheses, learn the best way to present the results to the client, and so forth. That is, the feedback session is part of the assessment process as well as its outcome.
Written feedback: The written feedback is not finalized until after the feedback session, so that what is learned in that session can be incorporated into the report. The report is written specifically to be accessible to the client, although a copy is also provided to the therapist.
Follow-up: After providing the report, the tester will contact the therapist to discuss the implications of the findings for the treatment. Clients are also given the option of returning for a follow-up appointment 4-6 weeks later, to gauge their longer-term reactions to the assessment process.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What does TA do that therapy cannot?
TA is an adjunct to psychotherapy, not a replacement. The administration of standardized tests in a diagnostic process allows the tester to collect large amounts of information in a relatively brief period of time, and to do so from multiple perspectives. In this way, a well-chosen battery of tests can identify issues that could well take much longer to uncover in the course of treatment.
How is TA different than traditional assessment?
There are several important differences. First, TA solicits the client’s full participation as a collaborator. Traditional assessment involves administering a series of tests with relatively little input from the client, and the results are often not shared with the client. In contrast, TA treats the client as the primary agent in achieving change. The client’s feelings about the process are regularly surveyed, and the final report is written with the client, rather than the therapist, in mind. No results are withheld from the client, even though doing so requires consideration of how best to present the information without jargon or judgment.
How is the three-way relationship between assessor, therapist, and client managed?
Our informed consent indicates that if a client is referred for TA by a therapist, we will not provide the service unless the client is willing to consent to release information to the therapist, and we will terminate the assessment if that release is withdrawn unless we receive consent to release information to a new therapist. Second, the informed consent indicates the Center for Psychological Services is a consultant to the client and the therapist, and will not provide psychotherapy to the client. Third, the clinician is incorporated into the assessment from the beginning, and contacted during the process as warranted. As in any good relationship, the ability to pit the professional participants against each other is minimized so long as those participants are committed to working collaboratively.
What is the cost of a TA?
We are offering this comprehensive assessment at an introductory fee of $375 for a limited time, and payment plans can be arranged if necessary. The Center for Psychological Services does not take insurance, but we’re happy to provide an invoice that the client can submit to insurance.
How are referrals for TAs made?
In order to request a Therapeutic Assessment, clients should call the Center for Psychological Services at 201-692-2645. They should specify a request for “Therapeutic Assessment”.
Finn, S. E. (2007). In our clients’ shoes: Theory and techniques of Therapeutic Assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Finn, S. E., & Tonsager, M. E. (1992). Therapeutic effects of providing MMPI-2 test feedback to college students awaiting therapy. Psychological Assessment, 4, 278-287.
Ougrin, D., Ng, A. V., & Low, J. (2008). Therapeutic assessment based on cognitive-analytic therapy for young people presenting with self-harm: Pilot study. Psychiatric Bulletin, 32, 423-426.