MMPI-2: Code Types, Reliability & Validity

Instructor: Jennifer Kinder
Explore the MMPI-2 assessment and its development. Learn the difference between clinical scales and code types. Understand reliability and validity as it relates to the MMPI-2.

Overview of the MMPI-2

Dr. Puzzled is, well, puzzled, at what is really going on with his patient Kim. Kim has seen ten different psychologists over the past few years and has at least that many diagnoses. She is diagnostically complex, to say the least. Dr. Puzzled decides to give Kim an MMPI-2 assessment to give him a clear picture, in the most efficient way possible, of the mental health issues she struggles with.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, second version of the MMPI, or MMPI-2, is a psychological test used to uncover a patient's mental health symptoms. It is the most widely used psychological test today. This test can only administered, and the scores interpreted, by a psychologist.

The original MMPI was developed in 1943 by Drs. Hathaway and McKinley, who believed a psychological test completed by a patient would be a much more efficient and standardized way of collecting important information about symptoms. In comparison, it would take hours for a psychologist to gather the same information verbally.

The MMPI-2 has more than 500 statements which patients decide are true or false about themselves. Drs. Hathaway and McKinley determined that these statements were the best at discriminating between groups of people with different mental health issues. For example, people who are depressed tend to report a specific set of symptoms. People who are anxious report a different set of symptoms. Although there are some symptoms in common between the two, the questions chosen for the MMPI-2 are those that are best at differentiating between the two. For example, pain and swelling accompany both a sprained ankle and broken ankle. However, inability to bear any weight differentiates between an ankle being broken or sprained.

Clinical Scales

The MMPI-2 yields scores for ten clusters of mental health issues. These clusters of mental health symptoms and the accompanying scores are referred to as clinical scales. When the score for a specific clinical scale is elevated, it lets the patient's psychologist know that he or she is struggling with this specific mental health issue. For example, one clinical scale measures depression. When a patient receives a high score on depression, this means the patient has admitted to several symptoms of depression and is likely quite depressed.

Code Types

Code types are when two to three clinical scale scores are higher than the other clinical scales. When a certain combination of clinical scales are elevated together, it gives the psychologist a clearer picture of what mental health symptoms a patient is struggling with. This allows the psychologist to take in and integrate information about multiple mental health issues at once. It is also possible that a patient does not have a code type and only has an elevated clinical scale score. This provides a simpler diagnostic picture.

For example, a patient who has depression and psychotic symptoms (sees and hears things others don't) requires different treatment than one who has depression and anxiety. Another example might be a patient who is depressed and experiencing lots of vague physical symptoms. Looking at this patient's code type might suggest the patient's headaches and stomachaches are related to, or exacerbated by, his or her depression. This is a clinical picture you might miss if only looking at the patient's depression clinical scale score.

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