What is a psychological test?
In simple terms, psychological testing or evaluation is a way to find out about a person and their emotions, behavior, personality and capabilities. Psychological testing differs depending on a person's individual needs. Testing methods can include a mix of written questions, diagnostic interviews with Dr. Kathleen McHugh, the doctor's clinical observations and impressions, and a review of medical and other records. An evaluation may also include interviews with family members or others, or observations outside the office setting.
Psychological testing is nearly always performed by a licensed psychologist, which is the only profession that is expertly trained to perform and interpret psychological tests. The testing instruments Dr. McHugh uses are the most accurate, useful and widely accepted within the field of psychology. After testing is complete, Dr. McHugh can generate a full, written report and schedule a session to discuss the results and her recommendations.
When is psychological testing needed?
Not everyone needs psychological testing. But testing helps us understand what a person is thinking and feeling, their underlying personality characteristics, intellectual strengths and limitations, coping skills or weaknesses, and why someone behaves the way they do. In clinically complex cases and/or cases in which it is hard for a person to articulate what problem he or she is experiencing, a psychological evaluation can be an invaluable resource for providing diagnostic clarification and treatment recommendations. Examples of situations where an evaluation might be beneficial include:
To gauge a child's IQ for school placement, to enter a gifted program, or other purposes.
To satisfy the requirements for an adoption, including foreign and international adoptions.
A child or teen is acting out or getting into trouble.
A child, teen or adult is cutting or engaging in other self-harm.
Distinguishing between Bipolar Disorder, anxiety disorders, depression and other disorders, which may share some of the same symptoms.
Pinning down the correct psychological diagnosis to help determine which medication would be most beneficial.
If you've been given a diagnosis you don't agree with, an evaluation can provide clarity.
If you're confused by the way you are feeling.
What is a forensic psychological evaluation?
A forensic evaluation is psychological testing or assessment performed for a specific purpose related to a legal issue. Dr. McHugh administers psychological testing for a variety of forensic purposes, including:
Personal injury / Psychological injury
Criminal mitigation / Diminished capacity
Competency to stand trial
Sentencing / dispositional assessment
Adoption readiness evaluations
In addition to administering and interpreting forensic psychological evaluations, Dr. McHugh is able to provide expert testimony about her conclusions. She is experienced in assisting attorneys in understanding mental health issues relating to the legal process and in providing testimony that may assist the court in decision-making.
Personal injury and psychological injury evaluations
Psychological trauma can result from witnessing or experiencing an event that causes physical injury or death, or extreme emotional distress. Psychological trauma may result in a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- which is the most commonly expected diagnosis -- but it can also cause depression, simple phobias, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, or other symptoms. The evaluation of possible malingering (feigning a mental illness) is also considered in psychological evaluations in personal injury cases. Possible reasons for consultation in personal injury cases:
Evaluations of individuals involved in traumatic events to assess their psychological functioning, and to determine if they have any psychological impairment that is a direct result of that trauma.
Evaluation of the impact of trauma on pre-existing psychological conditions to determine if the trauma has exacerbated those conditions.
Second opinion evaluations on individuals who have already been identified as experiencing the effects of psychological trauma. This is often called an IME (Independent Medical Exam) by insurance carriers, even if the assessment is psychological rather than medical. The goal may be to confirm or challenge earlier findings, to evaluate the causal relationship between a traumatic event and the psychological problem identified, to assess the effects of treatment, or to determine if additional treatment is warranted.
Treatment may be provided to individuals following identification of psychological trauma. This may be done in conjunction with an evaluation to identify the psychological trauma, or after a diagnosis has been made by another psychologist or other health professional.