Area Psychological Services, P.A.
Someone suggested my child needed
psychological testing. What is that?
Psychological testing is a means to determine the level or
quality of an individual's performance or functioning in a particular
area. The evaluation may include tests that measure intellectual
capacity, school achievement, language, visual-motor skills, emotional
development, or personality characteristics. Other areas of
functioning may also be measured, but the ones listed here are the
psychological testing performed?
A psychological evaluation is done to gain information about an
individual that cannot be more easily gained in other
ways. Determination of expectations for a child in school,
presence of a learning disability, the nature and depth of an emotional
difficulty, and other issues are all reasons to conduct a psychological
evaluation. Some information, such as formal determination of a
learning disability, can be obtained in no other way.
Psychological testing is done only by a psychologist with a
master's or doctoral degree in psychology. Psychiatrists (medical
doctors with a specialization in psychiatry) conduct mental status and
clinical interviews. Social workers and other counselor or
therapists conduct clinical interviews. While these techniques
also provide useful information, they are different from psychological
testing. Educational testing and some group psychological tests
may be administered by professionals other than psychologists.
What tests are
included in the evaluation?
The tests administered in the psychological evaluation will be
determined by the purpose of the evaluation and the type of information
needed. Common measures include the Wechsler scales (cognitive
ability), the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (educational
achievement), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (receptive language),
the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (personality), and the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (personality). These or others
may be administered given the individual situation. For children,
at its least, the evaluation will usually include visual-motor,
ability, and educational tests.
An educational form of testing is called psychoeducational
testing. These tests frequently include measures of school
performance such as reading or math. Common psychoeducational
measures include the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test, the Kaufman
Assessment of Basic Skills, the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement,
and many others. They may be administered by professionals other
Is a custody
evaluation the same as psychological testing?
No, a custody evaluation is not the same thing as psychological
testing although it may include elements of psychological
testing. Typically, a custody evaluation is conducted to give
information to the court concerning the best placement of a
child. While psychological testing usually involves working
primarily with the individual being tested, a custody evaluation may
involve detailed interviews with all who have knowledge of the child’s
current situation, grandparents, caretakers, teachers, relatives, and,
of course, parents. In addition, the custody evaluation may
include psychological testing of the child. Overall, however, a
custody evaluation is much broader and involves much more time than
Does it make a difference who does the testing?
Many times it does not make a difference who conducts the
evaluation. However, the behavior observed during the testing can
provide valuable insights into the individual's functioning, and some
examiners are more perceptive than others in this regard. What is,
perhaps, more important is the knowledge of the person interpreting the
tests. Psychology is like all fields: some psychologists are
more skilled in one area than another. Therefore, some
psychologists are better at drawing conclusions and recommendations
from test results than are others.
Should I have the
school do the testing?
Many excellent psychologists work for school systems and provide
evaluations at no cost to the parent. However, because of the
demand for testing, many times only the most severe cases are evaluated
quickly. Thus, the waiting time to obtain an evaluation may be
very long. Also, many school systems across the country require
that a psychologist employed by the school system make no
recommendations for services that the school system does not offer
because of the possibility that the system will need to pay for
implementation of the recommendation. Thus, school system
psychologists are sometimes unable to offer needed recommendations
because of system constraints placed on them.
How can I arrange
for psychological testing?
Call the office of a psychologist and ask if s/he conducts
psychological evaluations. Inquire specifically if the
psychologist works specifically with the issues you are concerned
about. For example, if the evaluation is of your child, ask about
the psychologist's experience in evaluating children. If the
evaluation should concern custody, inquire about the extent of the
psychologist's experience in this area. Children of divorced
parents may not be evaluated without the consent of the parent who has
the legal authority to make such a decision regarding the child.
How much does
psychological testing cost?
The cost of psychological testing generally varies with the time
required to complete the evaluation. Aspects of the evaluation
often include an intake interview, the testing itself, an interpretive
conference, scoring of results, and a written report. It is not
unusual for this process to take 7-10 hours, and most psychologists
bill on an hourly rate. Custody evaluations may take much longer.
cover any of the cost?
Health insurance policies have undergone major changes in the
last several years, and now few insurance companies seem to cover all
of the time required for psychological testing. Many times
companies report that they do cover testing, but detailed inquiries
lead to the conclusion that testing is covered in only limited
circumstances. Often only the time spent with the child in a
face-to-face meeting is covered so that scoring and report writing are
billed separately. Also, educational testing is frequently not
covered. Check specifically and in detail with your insurance
company about their policies in this regard.