Psychological Evaluation & Testing
Most of us come to therapy desperately seeking answers. Whether it’s self-destructive behavior, a substance abuse issue, or trouble with important relationships, many of us are stuck in a cycle of thought and behaviors that we can’t seem to break. Our current situations are often caused by some external force or decision by another person – a bad break up, a terminal illness in a loved one, the loss of a career. The scars may heal and fade, but we can’t seem to shake what happened from our minds. However, the damage dealt to us is now ours to fix.
For many of us, there seems to be a basic misunderstanding of how our minds process emotions, create thoughts, and determine our behaviors. Too often, we make decisions based on internal extremes – either entirely wrapped up in our fiery emotions or based solely on cold logic. We cannot seem to routinely access that inner wisdom that only appears when the mind is in balance and fully functioning. Our days are unpredictable. Sometimes we seem to do just fine and other times the challenges seem to overwhelm us. All we know is how much we wish things were different.
From over thirty years of practice, we are convinced that successful treatment begins with a good plan. Our evaluations consist of a mix of comprehensive testing, a thorough history from face-to-face interviews, and a proper consideration by professionals of what is actually wrong, the root causes of the issues, and how to fix them once and for all.
When our clients begin treatment, they are often confused about how these problems got so out of control, why they do the things they do, and how they can possibly change to do better. They want to have a life that is more peaceful and balanced, emotionally harmonious, and certainly more predictable. They just want to be happy.
Unfortunately, we have seen countless clients who have invested thousands of dollars and countless hours in therapy with minimal or mediocre results. They are appreciative for their well-meaning therapist who offered support, guidance, and maybe an occasional coping strategy. While they leave therapy feeling somewhat better with the crisis of the moment explored and sometimes resolved, they often remark later that they didn’t substantially change the way that they approached their emotions and their lives. They had remained focused on the issue-of-the-week only and did not address the root causes of their overall emotional unhappiness. As a result, they find themselves relapsing into another episode of depression or anxiety again and again.
We believe that the current state of mental health treatment is plagued by an epidemic of minimal assessment and precision, rampant under treatment, and a basic lack of focus. Most people who see a counselor never complete psychological testing, understand their treatment program, and some don’t even know their diagnosis. They just “started talking.” It’s like getting in the car for a road trip and driving towards the sun, no matter its position in the sky. They never really understood the big picture of how their psychological history and current approach set them up for repeated cycles of mental health issues. The guidance is often subjective, ambiguous, and always lengthens the time they spend in therapy if they ever do “complete treatment.” A lack of clarity leads to more frustration, helplessness, and even an unhealthy dependence on the therapist as the sole source of wisdom.
To make matters worse, some mental health practitioners substitute a variety of self-report measures in place of substantive psychological testing. These evaluations rely solely on the client’s understanding of their own problems. Many people may be sincere, straightforward, and honest but still not recognize the true causes and severity of their symptoms. In the world of testing and validity, self-report measures have limited reliability and predictive power since they focus on symptoms, not causes. These assessments solely rely on the client’s insight into their own problems.
To make things more complex in mental health, there can be a wide variety of different disorders that show similar symptom patterns. For example, an anxiety disorder may really be due to a deeply seated trauma issue, or a clinical depression may be a product of an undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Self-report assessments cannot provide the needed information to properly understand, discern, and diagnose a complex mental health disorder.
Projective personality testing offers an incisive “x-ray” of the client’s emotional architecture. This highly specialized testing digs deeper to get a comprehensive and direct evaluation of the client’s personality structure, what causes their painful emotional symptoms, and the how their coping resources are currently utilized and employed.
We teach our clients that effective emotional regulation is like an engine with multiple parts with diverse roles that all have to work together in precise synchronization and coordination. This emotion regulation engine drives our basic personality and determines our effectiveness in dealing with our own emotions, relationships with others, and ultimately how well we run our lives. For example if we are hyper successful at work but lead impoverished, self-sabotaging, or unhealthy home lives, this would suggest that there is a problem. If we are engaging in substance abuse or remaining withdrawn and isolated on the weekends, our emotion regulation may be an issue. In a desperate effort to cope, we are trying to achieve internal relief at the expense of external adjustment.
Psychological testing pinpoints the problem areas in the emotion regulation engine and prescribes the skills and strategies that we need to master for increased emotional competence and regulation. Testing defines our central coping style and how it works in our particular circumstances. Our customized assessment provides a thorough understanding of how you approach emotions, whether you engage with them skillfully, and how you ultimately resolve problems. With the insights from our personality testing, we build a treatment plan for creating and internalizing positive and powerful skills that are robust, effective, and empowering. As a result, we are able to minimize and even avoid the severe patterns of emotion dysregulation that have been defining your life for so long.