“Psychological Evaluation” is a general term which can have a variety of meanings. If a person is recommended to have a psychological evaluation, it would be appropriate, even recommended, to ask what their particular evaluation would involve.
Psychological evaluations are usually requested when there is some question about what might be troubling a particular person, or to gather information about a person’s current emotional well-being, psychological or personality make-up, or academic and intellectual functioning.
At the minimum, a psychological evaluation typically involves an individual interview with a psychologist that would last for at least one hour. An evaluation like this might also be called an “assessment” or an “initial assessment” for the purpose of gaining information about a person or their particular problem or situation.
In the most comprehensive use of the term, a psychological evaluation would start with an interview, then proceed to include any number of psychological tests, which can sometimes take several hours or even several days of separate appointments. The evaluation may also include interviews with significant others (such as parents, spouses, or teachers), as well as a review of past records and relevant documents.
Psychological tests are often an important part of a psychological evaluation. Psychological tests are used as an additional way of gathering objective information about a person for the purpose of making decisions and sorting out questions about the particular individual. For example, a psychologist may use a battery of psychological tests to determine whether a child has an Attention Deficit Disorder or if the child is instead depressed or has a learning disorder (which can often look confusingly similar to ADD).
Psychological evaluations, including psychological testing, are often requested in legal cases, custody decisions, guardianship and competency decisions, or any time there is uncertainty about what is troubling an individual, or when information is required about a person’s psychological make-up. Psychological tests can include assessments of personality styles, tests of emotional well-being, intellectual (or “IQ”) tests, tests of academic achievement, tests for possible brain damage, and tests for specific psychological disturbances and their severity.
The use of psychological tests requires years of training that involves not only learning how to give the tests, but also how to integrate all the information from a variety of tests, background information, interviews, and knowledge of theories, research, psychological problems, personalities, and human development. Psychologists are the only mental health professionals who are fully trained and qualified to use psychological tests. The gathering and integration of all this material about a person is the process of a psychological evaluation.