What is a Psychological Assessment?

by Debbie Hegarty MIAHIP MIACP

Psychological Assessment: Introduction

A psychological assessment is the attempt of a Licensed Clinical Psychologist to use the techniques and tools of psychology to learn either general or specific facts about another person, either to inform others of how they function now, or to predict their behaviour and functioning in the future. A psychological assessment or an evaluation may result in the diagnosis of a mental illness. It is the mental equivalent of a physical examination.

One particular group of psychological tests, known as personality tests, strive to uncover the structure of the personality to include a person’s thinking, feeling and behaviour. Another groups of tests are designed to measure signs and symptoms of psychopathology and psychiatric disorders. Tests of psychopathology and personality are further subdivided into two groups: objective and projective. Objective tests include standardized, clear, specific items and questions that are presented to the respondent as well as limited response options (e.g., answering yes or no to a particular question). Projective tests include asking open ended and ambiguous stimuli and include stories from respondents (Hersen, 2003).

We at the Hazelton clinic are delighted to announce that we are now providing assessments for prospective clients using The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF). This personality testing kit which has been described as “The Gold-Star of all assessment tools” (Irish Medical Times, 2010) is utilized to assist in identifying personality structure and psychopathology. Psychopathological disorder can be as general as depression, anxiety and panic attacks or as complex as OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia and personality disorder.

The original MMPI was developed in the 1950’s and was recognized as a breakthrough in objective psychological assessment. The MMPI and the revised MMPI-2-RF are by far the most widely used questionnaires in psychological assessment. Their principle focus is on identifying pathological illness, disorders and problems.  The MMPI does not identify a subject’s strengths and abilities.  A tremendous amount of research has been conducted on the MMPI and MMPI-2. The shear volume of research on the MMPI makes the MMPI-2-RF mandatory in virtually all psychological testing for purposes of clinical diagnosis. Interpreting the MMPI and MMPI-2-RF requires a great deal of expertise and experience.  Specialized and supervised training is recommended before using these questionnaires.

Description and Structure of MMPI-2-RF

The MMPI-2-RF is a true or false paper and pencil questionnaire that has 338 items/questions like “I worry about sex matters”, or “I believe I am being plotted against”.  The test is not timed and can take anywhere from one to three hours to complete. When developing the MMPI, Hathaway & McKinley (1942) strived to make the test easily comprehendible and this is evident upon reading. Its questions are clear, concise and easy to read.

The MMPI-2-RF consists of 50 scales; 10 Clinical, 15 Content and several ‘special’ scales for assessing characteristics such as alcohol abuse and marital distress. The scale contents are as follows:

It has been psychometrically improved employing rigorous statistical methods that were used in 2003 to develop RC scales. The current scale composition entails the following:

  • Validity: Revised versions of seven MMPI-2 validity indicators and one new infrequency scale.
  • Higher-Order: Providing a broad view of emotional, thought, and behavioral dysfunction.
  • Restructured Clinical (RC) Scales: Assessing the valuable descriptive and distinctive core features of the MMPI-2 clinical scales.
  • Somatic: MLS (Malaise), HPC ( Head Pain Complaints), NUC (Neurological Complaints), GIC (Gastro-Intestinal Complaints).
  • Internalizing: BRF (Behavior-Restricting Fears), SUI (Suicidal/Death Ideation), MSF (Multiple Specific Fears), HLP (Helplessness/Hopelessness), SFD (Self-Doubt), COG  (Cognitive Complaints), STW (Stress/Worry), NFC (Inefficacy), AXY (Anxiety), ANP (Anger Proneness).
  • Externalizing: JCP Juvenile Conduct Problems), ACT (Activation), AGG (Aggression), SUB (Substance Abuse).
  • Interpersonal Scales: IPP(Interpersonal Passivity), FML (Family Problems), SHY (Shyness), DSF (Disaffiliativeness), SAV (Social Avoidance).
  • Interest Scales: AES (Aesthetic-Literary Interests), MEC (Mechanical-Physical Interests).
  • PSY-5 (Personality Psychopathology Five) Scales: AGGR-r (Aggressiveness-Revised), INTR-r (Introversion/Low Positive Emotionality-Revised), PSYC-r (Psychoticism-Revised), NEGE-r (Negative Emotionality/Neuroticism-Revised), DISC-r (Disconstraint-Revised)

The MMPI-2-RF consists of 10 Clinical, 15 Content and several ‘special’ scales for assessing characteristics such as alcohol abuse and marital distress. The MMPI-2-RF Clinical scales include Hy (Hysteria), D (Depression), Hs (Hypochondriasis), Pd (Psychopathic Deviate), Sc (Schizophrenia), Ma (Hypomania) and Si (Social Introversion) scales. The Content scales include ANX (Anxiety), FRS (Fears), OBS (Obsessiveness), HEA (Health Concern), ANG (Anger) and LSE (Low self-esteem) to name a few.

MMPI Scoring

The standardized answer sheets can be hand scored manually by the Clinical Psychologist using templates that fit over the answer sheets. They can also be inputed into a protected computer program for scoring. Computer scoring programs for the current standardized version, the MMPI-2-RF, are licensed by theto Pearson Assessments. The computer scoring programs offer a range of scoring profile choices including the extended score report, which includes data on the newest and most psychometrically advanced scales—the Restructured Clinical Scales (RC scales).

Application and Uses of the MMPI-2-RF

The MMPI-2-RF has a plethora of possible uses in terms of assessment because it has a dual purpose of being able to assess both personality structure and psychopathology. The following are just some of the groups that require this test as part of thire professional training programs:

Nuclear power plant workers, nurses, police officers, airline pilots, medical and psychology students, fire fighters and academic students. In addition, it is used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs, including substance abuse programs.

As far as we are aware The Hazelton Clinic is the only clinic that is currently using the test in Ireland. At present we are utilizing it mostly for prospective adoptive couples, whether that is an intercountry adoption or a domestic adoption.

A consultation with any member of our panel can be arranged by contacting us at the Clinic at the above number anytime between 9am and 9pm Monday through to Sunday. If you know anyone that requires the assessment please phone or send a letter of referral to us, and a member of our reception team will be happy to arrange an appointment.

Edited by Betty Quinlan.


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