What is a Psychological Assessment?

Psychological Assessment

Individuals, couples, or families reach out to psychologists for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes, the circumstances call for a psychological and/or academic assessment. While it can be clear that challenges exist, it’s not simple to identify causes without diving deeper. A psychological assessment is a giant step in that direction.

During such tests and assessments, a trained mental health professional will be gathering crucial information about you, your history, and your current concerns. You’ll be expected to share valuable insights into what you’re feeling and thinking — and how this impacts your behavior. In case this sounds daunting to you, let’s demystify the process.

What is a Psychological Assessment?

As with any type of health professional, diagnosis is a complex and detailed process. Different mental health conditions can frequently overlap when it comes to signs and symptoms. To correctly gauge cause-and-effect, your mental health professional will use tools like:

Structured and semi-structured interviews to gather medical, work, and school history


Rating scales

Psychological and academic tests

Since each person and each case are different, these tests and assessments are tailored to your specific situation. From there, progress can be made regarding diagnoses and treatment plans. This includes identifying, for example:

Understanding how best you learn

Current concerns

Severity of symptoms

How this information is gathered can vary. You might give written answers or engage in a verbal conversation. A psychological assessment often occurs over multiple sessions. 

Reasons Why a Psychological Assessment May Be Performed 

If you report any or all of the following, an assessment may be suggested: 

Difficulty with cognitive, academic, and/or social functioning 

Nervousness and anxiety 

Mood swings 

Disturbances in your sleeping and/or eating patterns

Inability to concentrate or stay focused 

Losing interest in activities that once brought enjoyment

Isolation and social withdrawal

Difficulty with daily functioning 

Some of the Disorders or Conditions That May Be Diagnosed via Psychological Assessment

Specific Learning Disorders (SLD)



Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Conduct Disorder (CD)

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Trauma Related Stress Disorders

4 Types of Psychological Evaluation

1) Assessment of Intellectual Functioning: Also known as an IQ test, this measures one’s cognitive and intellectual abilities and potential. 

2) Assessment of Academic Abilities. Academic testing is an important way to check what students know and can do in difference subjects (reading, writing, mathematics). It helps students learn and gives teachers useful information to improve education.

3) Personality Assessment: Your therapist will use this approach to learn about your background, family history, and more. 

4) Behavioral Assessment: When a diagnosis is particularly hard to identify, a behavioral assessment can fill in plenty of gaps. 

What to Expect

Each psychological assessment is unique, but you can expect to answer lots of questions and fill out plenty of forms. The key is to not try to “prepare” in advance. You don’t want to give planned answers or behaviors. In order to empower your mental health professional, you need to be authentic and spontaneous.

That said, you are not simply subject to the whims of the experience. You’ll be encouraged to ask questions, take breaks when you need them, and not feel coerced into any conversations that you can’t handle at that moment. A psychological evaluation is a collaboration. You and your therapist work as a team with a shared goal.

At Onyx, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of your psychological strengths, weaknesses and needs. We ask that you approach the assessment with openness and honesty, as the results will serve as a foundation for tailored interventions, treatment, recommendations, or further support to promote your overall well-being.

What’s Next?

We will follow up with a post on the benefits of a psychological evaluation. Also, we’ll go deeper into testing for ADHD and learning disorders. But you probably already have a bunch of questions. Therefore, there is no reason to wait for the next posts in this series. We invite you to reach out now to set up a free and confidential consultation to learn more.