What is a psychological assessment?

The psychological assessment process it is one of the most important components of intervention in the field of psychology. It is thanks to this that it is possible to propose effective measures to deal with specific problems based on what has been observed.

In this article we will see how i is defined what is a psychological assessment and the diagnosis it leads.

    The birth of the idea of ​​psychological evaluation

    The historical moment in which the greatest boom and the greatest scientific development of the psychological peculiarities of the human being took place corresponds mainly to the 19th and 20th centuries (although a considerable volume of previous studies and research is assumed) .

    With this and the development of certain disciplines of knowledge such as statistics, pedagogy, experimental psychology among others, it was possible to establish some first approaches to the diagnostic concept.

    As in most aspects related to the field of psychology, the definition of this phenomenon has been reformulated from the new contributions that authors have proposed throughout history.

    In the most contemporary perspectives, there are three theoretical currents which they served as a support to explain the type of variables to be diagnosed: The environmentalist (emphasis on situational factors as behavioral determinants), the interactionist (relevance of the interaction between the subject and the environment) and the cognitivist (the cognitive style as a behavioral basis).

    Psychological diagnosis and its components

    The findings of the three psychological currents mentioned have allowed a deeper and more complete definition of what is involved in the diagnostic process. Given its general significance, the diagnosis involves the analysis of the data collected in order to assess (or know) certain aspects of a diverse nature.

    Applying this characterization to the field of psychology, the object of study is the description of the cognitive, emotional and behavioral peculiarities of a particular subject. Consequently, it seems relevant for this purpose to consider it how this individual relates to their usual contexts of interaction.

    In addition, it is assumed that the ultimate goal of the diagnosis is intervention (as the most common goal, although not the only one) and it is defined at all times in the scientific and technical field. Its process involves the combination of different working methodologies.

    The three elements of diagnosis in psychology

    A diagnosis has three main elements: the subject on which the process is inscribed, the object which establishes what content is at the basis of the diagnosis and its purpose, which motivates the application of a specific intervention where the causes are reflected. or factors conducive to diagnosis. observations set out in the diagnosis.

    In addition, the proposed intervention may be filing (Place occupied by the subject compared to a reference group), modifier (What influencing causes need to be changed), preventive (Setting up alternatives to avoid a certain future situation) or restructuring (Reorganization of influencing factors for preventive purposes).

    Phases of the general process of psychological diagnosis

    There are several contributions from expert authors in the field on the number and type of procedures that should constitute the diagnostic process. It seems, however, that there is some consensus to include four main phases, Each of them having more specific stages.

    1. Planning

    In the planning phase, the preliminary information search with regard to the subject and his environment, an analysis that supports the initial hypotheses (according to the classification, the preventive or restructuring nature of the diagnosis) and, finally, the configuration of the development of the diagnosis where the analysis variables initially proposed .

    2. Development

    A second step consists in the elaboration of the process, in which the theoretical framework is delimited on which to base the contributions that facilitate the study of the units of analysis, being as simple as possible and with predictive ability appropriate on the results of future observations.

    3. Verification of hypotheses

    Subsequently, a third step is the verification of the theoretical hypotheses initially proposed compared to what was found in the observations made during the evaluation.

    4. Drafting of the report

    finally must prepare a results report which includes the relevant data of the assessor and the appraisee, those referring to all the procedures applied during the process, the results and their evaluation and, ultimately, the relevant guidelines that will guide the process of subsequent intervention.

    The report should be tailored to the recipient in terms of the form and type of language used, as well as the tone and expressions used in it, so that they can understand it.

    Features of the psychological report

    A psychological report is a document which reflects the result obtained from the analysis and the contrast of the hypotheses initially posed, which motivated the evaluation of the subject in question.

    This instrument has an objective character, such as communication of the data found to the recipient is facilitated.

    Generically, a report must include the identification data of the evaluator and the person evaluated, the objectives which motivate the said report, the presentation of the information collection techniques, the procedure used, the results obtained, the reviewer’s conclusion and final assessment. and the guidelines to be implemented as an intervention.

    Outraged, the format and style of a psychological report can be differentiated based on the criterion that serves as the basis for its development: theoretical (according to the guidelines of a concrete theoretical model), technical (organization of test results and applied techniques) and based on the request for the problem or the reason for the consultation mark a specific structure in the report).

    On the other hand, the psychological report it has legal validity and is considered a scientific document (Results are reproducible) and useful (includes final guidelines for psychological intervention).

    The behavioral or functional approach in psychological evaluation

    There are several types of approaches that can be taken to guide an individual’s psychological assessment process:

    • traditional approach (Or attribute model): Focused on the analysis of personality traits as fundamental units of study.

    • operational approach or evolutionary: model which defends a set of evolutionary stages in the psychological development of the subject.

    • Cognitive approach: Focused on the study of the cognitions of the person as the main axis.

    • Psychoeducational approach or prescriptive: more oriented towards the field of school learning and the analysis of the intellectual capacities of the pupils.

    • behavioral approach or functional: aiming to assess the relationship between the internal and external variables of the subject as determinants of his own behavior.

    From the most behavioral (or cognitive-behavioral) psychological currents, the functional approach this is generally the approach used during the baseline diagnostic process. This model allows for a more complete study and analysis of the determining variables in the evaluation process because it defends the premise that behavior should be considered taking into account a multiplicity of influencing factors, both internal and external.

    Thus, human behavior it should not be understood as the result of the sum of the factors individualSince every interaction that occurs between two (or more) already results in itself as a completely different type of influence from all of its original causes. Given its enormous complex and plastic (or modifiable) character, its explanation should be approached according to the same philosophy: that of considering its determining elements also as complex and variable.

    Characteristics of the functional approach

    The functional approach prioritizes environmental or contextual (initially) and interactionist (later) variables as determinants of individual behavior, thus prioritizing the analysis of these variables in the diagnostic process. Its postulates derive from the theory of behavior modification and contributions from authors such as BF Skinner, mainly.

    In this model, three perspectives can be distinguished, Which differentially emphasize the influence of the environment, the characteristics of the subject or the interaction of two factors: the behavioral-situationationalist perspective, the cognitive-behavioral perspective and the cognitive-social behavioral, respectively.

    Taking into account the relevance of the observable factors defended by this theoretical proposition, the variables which it takes as unit of analysis are those which intervene in the present moment, which are accompanied by some antecedents and close consequences.

    At the methodological level, their hypotheses are evaluated experimentally by objective observation of the subject’s behavioral repertoire as a reflection of internal skills and capacities. It therefore corresponds to a deductive-inductive intrasubjective methodology.

    This model has both an interventional (or modifying) and preventive purpose, because it has integrated the interaction between the subject and his environment as a variable object of analysis. He thus understands the dynamic power of this relationship between the two elements and gives behavior a sense of modifiability and adaptability (hence its preventive capacity).

    Psychological assessment as a process

    As we can see from reading the text, the psychological assessment process becomes a set of rigorously established procedures which are essential to allow a good diagnosis and, subsequently, a psychological intervention adapted to the particularities of each individual and to the therapeutic objectives that he wishes to achieve.

    In this sense, the functional approach has been presented as a model with significant theoretical support, which allows a complete analysis of all the variables that may affect the current state (symptoms, behaviors, cognitions, etc.) of the patient. individual.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Horse, VE and Simon, MA (2001): Manual of Clinical Child Psychology. Madrid: pyramid.
    • Cohen, R. & Swerdlik, M. (2001): Psychological testing and assessment. Mexico: McGraw-Hill.
    • Fernández-Ballesteros, R. (2000): Introduction to psychological assessment. Madrid: Pyramid.
    • Forns, M. (1993): Psychological assessment of the child. Barcelona: Barcanova.

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