Laura lives in the Boise, Idaho area with her husband and children. She holds a B.A. in secondary education (English and social studies) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school counseling (K-12) from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of South Alabama, respectively, and a Ph.D. in instructional design for online learning from Capella University. She teaches online at several colleges and universities across the country and has over 20 years of experience in education.
So Many Choices
You have a client who obviously has some psychological issues. Perhaps administering a personality assessment will help you to determine exactly what those issues are, as well as what you can do to help him or her. But there are literally thousands of personality tests out there! Which do you choose? And why would one be more beneficial than the other? Furthermore, what is it that you really need to find out so that you can help your client? So many questions!!!
This is probably a common occurrence among new psychologists and others who work in the helping professions. We want to help. We know that there is a real need to determine exactly what the client's issues are. We probably also really need to know what the origin of some of these issues are and how we can help the client, right? In this lesson, we're going to explore information on choosing the most appropriate personality assessments for your clients.
What Is a Personality Assessment?
According to the American Psychology Association, a personality assessment is 'a proficiency in professional psychology that involves the administration, scoring, and interpretation of empirically supported measures of personality traits and styles in order to refine clinical diagnoses and structure and inform psychological interventions.' Or, the short version is that it's a test whereby you can hone in on particular personality traits, so that you can better diagnose and help your client.
Now, all of that is well and good, but when you need to administer one of these (and we trust that you will know when you need to administer one), how do you go about choosing which one to use? That's a good question. There are a large number of personality tests available, and every year more are added, so choosing the right one can be downright confusing.
Choosing the Right Test
Our first suggestion when looking for just the right test to administer, is to determine if there really is a need to administer one of these tests at all. Is there something about your client that you need to know more about, or are you just curious? If you are just curious, then going through the time and expense of testing probably isn't what you need to do. On the other hand, if you really need to piece together some information about your client's personality in order to help him, then you should, by all means, administer one of these tests.
Our second suggestion is to pinpoint exactly what it is about the client's personality that you need to know. For example, are you working with a client who is looking to change careers? Are you suspecting your client of having a personality disorder? Has your client told you that she has a history of abuse? Does she have a history of cutting herself? Do you feel that he may be suffering from psychosis? In other words, you will need to have a good idea of exactly what type of information you are looking for.
If you are confounded by these questions, you should look in the Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY), which is a complete directory of thousands upon thousands of psychological assessments where you can get information such as how valid and reliable each test has proven to be, who the publisher of each test is (as in, where to get it), and you may even discover that there are some really accurate assessments out there that would fit your client perfectly.
Just as a side note, you need to remember that not only will you have to administer whichever test you choose, but you will also be the one who interprets it. So be sure you are able to do that before you administer a test! Our third, and final, suggestion is that once you do administer and interpret a test, you will need to use the results to better help your client. It is important, then, to be sure that whatever the results of said test may be, you are confident and qualified to work with your client having seen such results. Make sense?
A Not-So-Real Example
Let's use an example of how to go through the process we just discussed using a fictitious client, Sally. Let's say that Sally comes to you seeking help for her depression. In your first two sessions, she has told you about how she feels and what she does when she's depressed, but occasionally, she answers your questions with gibberish or speaks to you as if she is talking to someone else entirely. In addition, she has told you that on one occasion, she had trouble sleeping and remained awake for three days, during which time she took ten thousand dollars to the local casino and lost it all.
Now, you are fully aware that Sally is not a candidate for career guidance, relationship advice, or abuse/trauma intervention at this time. You also do not believe that there is something physically wrong with her that would require a medical type of test.
You suspect that there is more going on with Sally than her depression, however, and you decide to conduct a personality assessment. After having looked in the MMY, you see that the Minnesota Multiphasal Personality Inventory (MMPI - second edition) is a very reliable and valid test and can determine issues such as mania and psychosis, both of which you suspect in your client. So you administer the test to Sally and score it.
Indeed, you do find that she shows a high propensity toward depression, mania, and psychosis. With these results in hand, you are able to diagnose your client as having Bipolar Disorder I, or Bipolar Disorder with psychosis, and you recommend to Sally that in addition to continuing to see you, she should also see the psychiatrist who works in your office. Because you are well qualified to work with somebody with this diagnosis, you are able to help Sally to get better.
There are many, many psychological assessments, tests that measure personality traits and styles, available, but before you administer one you should understand what type of information you are looking for; know which types of tests are valid, reliable, and available; know how to interpret these tests; and be able to use the results to best help your client. The Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY), a complete directory of thousands upon thousands of psychological assessments, can be a valuable resource in helping you to decide which test to use. With all of that being said, the most important aspect of test administration is taking the information you glean and using it to help your client to better understand himself or herself and to live a better life.
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