My Approach to Assessment
I think that conducting an assessment is very much like being a detective. Trying to figure out what's going on in a person's brain, or trying to gain insight into how a person's life experiences and personality style impact how they see the world and are able to cope with the challenges that life throws at them. In every case, I gather multiple pieces of information (e.g. interview, tests, observation, collateral information, history) in an attempt to figure out the cause of the problem or issue that the client is presenting with. Again, it's a collaborative, interactive process, the goal of which is to provide the person with information that they need in order to inform their therapy or their medical treatment, and to help them plan for the future.
Dementia & Cognitive Impairment
Many people worry about becoming forgetful. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's. Other causes for memory problems can include aging, medical conditions, emotional problems, mild cognitive impairment, or another type of dementia.
Neuropsychological assessment is the gold-standard for determining the cause of someone's cognitive changes. A neuropsychological or dementia assessment can determine if an individual's problems with memory, language, visual-spatial functioning, thinking or judgement are greater than the cognitive changes associated with normal aging. The assessment can assist in identifying the type of dementia an individual may be experiencing, which can help with treatment and care planning.
A capacity assessment is a formal assessment of a person's ability to make decisions about their personal and financial well-being. It is usually done as a last resort to determine if an adult is able to understand and appreciate the consequences of their personal or financial decisions and to assess the individual's ability to initiate and follow-through on those choices.
Capacity assessments are required when there is a need to enact or invoke an individual's personal directive or enduring power of attorney. They can also be requested to determine if a person is capable of writing a personal directive, power of attorney or changing their will.
Sometimes, important decisions need to me made on an individual's behalf and they don't have these legal documents in place. In those situations, an assessment of the need for guardianship and/or trusteeship is often in order.
A psychodiagnostic assessment is usually conducted to identify and differentiate a individual's symptoms, enhance diagnostic accuracy, and provide insight into his or her daily experience. Using objective tests, a psychologist can accurately map a client’s symptoms to diagnostic criteria, ultimately providing clarity, peace of mind, and a path forward.
If you are struggling with symptoms like anxiety, depression, stress, lack of motivation, hyperactivity, trouble sleeping, inattention, addiction, among others things, a psychodiagnostic assessment can likely provide helpful insight about diagnosis and how to help (i.e., treatment, special accommodations, and other recommendations). For individuals who are already in treatment, psychodiagnostic assessment can provide your therapist with additional information to help inform and guide treatment on the path to understanding and healing.
Neuropsychological assessment is a performance-based method to assess cognitive functioning. It is used to examine the cognitive consequences of brain damage, neurodegenerative disorders (such as dementia), and severe mental illness. Like psychodiagnostic assessments neuropsychological assessments help to identify and differentiate a individual's symptoms, enhance diagnostic accuracy, and provide insight into his why a client might be struggling. This type of assessment can be helpful in identifying an individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses and in predicting functional potential and recovery, as well as informing treatment plans.