What Is a Neuropsychological or Psychological Assessment?
A psychological or neuropsychological assessment is a way of gathering information about you or your child to come up with recommendations to help you overcome challenges. Westlake assessments through the ApaCenter can be used to determine why you or your child is struggling in areas of life such as:
- Social relationships
Why Get a Neuropsychological or Psychological Assessment?
Not everyone needs a neuropsychological or psychological assessment. Sometimes just a one session consultation with one of our psychologists can help you get the information you need to find the right direction. At other times, therapy can be the best approach to help you or your child get through challenges. However, a psychological or neuropsychological assessment has the advantage of gathering a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. By gaining a thorough understanding of strengths and weaknesses, we can come up with many ideas for likely solutions.
Young kids through college students are more likely to receive an assessment than adults. This is because psychological and neuropsychological assessments are often used to determine why a child, teen, or young adult is struggling developmentally or academically. In order to gain access to educational accommodations and services, often a psychological or neuropsychological assessment is required.
Here are some common situations in which a psychological or neuropsychological assessment can be helpful:
- Jack is in 1st grade and is struggling to stay focused in school. He is behind his peers on his reading skills. Why is Jack having problems in school? Is this ADHD, dyslexia, or something else? His school has been unable to provide a definitive answer. They are advocating a “wait-and-see” approach. However, his parents want some answers and direction as soon as possible.
- Britney has worked very hard to maintain Cs and above in her classes for several years. The school seems okay with that, but her parents think she should be doing better with all of her hard work. For the school to provide more extensive educational support, a psychological assessment, diagnosis, and recommendations are required. The school cannot move forward with special education or 504 services or other academic accommodations unless they have a psychological assessment.
- Maria has a history of ADHD. She was diagnosed by her pediatrician with it when she was 10. In addition to the behavioral interventions her parents have used over the years to help with the ADHD, Maria has also taken stimulant medication at times. She receives accommodations at school through the 504 program for her ADHD, which includes extended time on standardized tests. She is now 16, and she will be taking the SAT in 6 months. To get extended time on the SAT, she will need to have a comprehensive assessment to document her disability and substantiate her need for the accommodation of extended time on the SAT.
- Caleb is 2 ½ years old. His social interactions with his parents and peers seem to be different than most peers his age. He doesn’t seem socially engaged, makes limited eye contact, and seems preoccupied with spinning toys. His parents are concerned that he might have autism. They want an assessment to determine if he does and what interventions can help improve his social interactions.
What is Involved in a Neuropsychological or Psychological Assessment?
A psychological or neuropsychological assessment typically involves gathering information from multiple sources. For instance, if you were getting a psychological assessment for your school-aged child, we would gather information such as:
- Report cards
- Results of standardized tests such as the STAAR or SAT
- Behavior checklists from parents and teachers
- Teacher reports
- Parent interview
- History forms
In addition to this information, one of our psychologists would meet with your child individually to administer various types of tests. This typically lasts between 5-6 hours. When possible, we do this all in one day, but sometimes it needs to be broken up to multiple days. We use various tests to assess functioning in areas such as:
- Executive functioning (e.g., managing attention, planning, goal-direction)
- Cognitive abilities (e.g., memory, processing speed, fund of knowledge, verbal reasoning, visual-spatial reasoning)
- Academic skills (e.g., basic reading, reading comprehension, writing, math calculations)
- Mood (e.g., anxiety, depression, mood regulation)
Our psychologist then analyzes, reviews, and summarizes the information that was gathered in a comprehensive psychological assessment report. The heart of our assessments is our recommendations, which are tailored to the individual strengths and needs of you or your child. These are reviewed with you in a 90 minute feedback session. Through the report and the feedback session, we aim to answer your questions and provide the direction that you need to overcome your challenges.
What is the difference between a neuropsychological and a psychological assessment?
This is actually a difficult question to answer! If you asked 10 different psychologists, you would likely get 10 slightly different answers to this question. In general, a neuropsychological assessment looks a little more specifically at different areas of cognitive functioning (e.g., memory) than a standard psychological assessment. With a neuropsychological assessment, the psychologist is exploring how different areas of the brain are functioning based upon data gathered from various sources, including certain test batteries.
A neuropsychological assessment is not superior to a psychological assessment. They are just slightly different ways of answering different referral questions. To some extent, the difference between the two is in how the data are interpreted and explained.
In general, for more common types of issues (e.g., ADHD, dyslexia, learning problems, mood disturbances, giftedness) a comprehensive psychological assessment is all that is needed. In fact, neuropsychological assessments and psychological assessments involve many of the same types of tests. However, a neuropsychological assessment might involve looking more deeply at different aspects of memory (e.g., short- vs. long-term memory, spatial memory vs. verbal memory) or right vs. left brain hemisphere dominance.
Often, a neuropsychological assessment is used to explore issues regarding brain functioning when there are concerns regarding brain damage or some degenerative process. Some of the problems that might be best explored through a neuropsychological assessment include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Effects of brain tumors/lesions on cognitive functioning
- Cerebral palsy
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Hypoxia (or other events during pregnancy or delivery that affect the brain)
If you are unsure of whether you or your child is need of a psychological or neuropsychological assessment, one of our client care coordinators, Paige or Diane, can help. Also, at an intake session, your psychologist can help you make the best choice as well.
Is there a difference between a psychological assessment and a psychological evaluation?
In short, no there is no difference between a psychological assessment and a psychological evaluation. Those terms are interchangeable. Likewise, there is not a difference between a neuropsychological assessment and a neuropsychological evaluation.
How are psychological and neuropsychological assessments at the ApaCenter different from other practices?
Having you or your child receive a neuropsychological or psychological assessment is a big decision. When you decide on having one, you want it done “right.” This is important to keep in mind because not all practices use the same approach regarding psychological assessments. Also, not all practitioners have the same amount of training and expertise.
As you explore options regarding assessments, it is important to compare “apples to apples.” We strive to deliver the highest quality of psychological and neuropsychological assessments in Austin. We use a “best practice” approach to our evaluations. This means that we use methods and practices that are likely to give you the best possible service. Many, if not most, practices in Austin cannot (or do not) offer the same level of quality in their assessments. Here are some of the best practices that we use in our neuropsychological and psychological assessments:
- In most cases, the psychologist does the entire evaluation his or herself. Typically, one of our licensed psychologists (and thus a Ph.D.) will do the intake session, 1-on-1 testing, report writing, and feedback session. Many, if not most, other practices use graduate students or interns to do the 1-on-1 testing and/or the report writing.
- Our evaluations are very comprehensive and typically take around 20 hours (i.e., intake session, testing, report-writing, feedback).
- Most of our psychologists are also licensed specialists in school psychology (LSSPs). That means that these psychologists have additional training and credentialing with regard to academic, emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems that interfere with a person’s education. For example, we understand special education and 504 services, what educational interventions and accommodations can help your son or daughter, and how to interface with teachers and school systems.
- We focus on the whole person and are extremely interested in strengths and resources. We believe that a more complete understanding of you or your child is the best way to provide the help and direction that you want and deserve. Too often, psychologists focus on weaknesses and problems in their evaluations.
- The heart of our evaluations is the recommendations. We spend a great deal of time tailoring our recommendations to you or your child. Far too often psychologists only provide a few recommendations in their reports. Another problem is that many psychologists provide “cookie-cutter” recommendations in their reports. For example, the recommendations are practically identical for 2 school-aged boys with ADHD. At the ApaCenter, we know that you are looking for answers for yourself or your child. We work hard to ensure that our recommendations fit you or your child’s strengths and needs.
Your Next Steps?
If you are interested in learning more about our neuropsychological and psychological assessments, please contact us 512-891-1500. One of our client care coordinators, Paige or Diane, will be happy to answer any questions that you might have. We look forward to hearing from you!