Diagnostic Psychological Evaluations
Psychological evaluations, or assessments, can be conducted to answer a variety of questions. Primary care physicians, psychiatrists, neurologists, and a variety of other health care providers can refer patients for a psychological evaluation to get a clear picture of how psychological factors are influencing a person’s health.
Dr. Jessica Fritzges, as a licensed clinical psychologist, provides psychological evaluations to help patients and other providers better understand what, if any, mental health diagnoses might apply. This diagnostic process is called by various things—psychological testing, psychological assessment, and psychological evaluation—but the procedure is the same. When a psychologist conducts a psychological evaluation, they have the ability to use advanced cognitive and personality psychological tests that only psychologists are trained to provide.
There are several types of psychological evaluations that Dr. Fritzges offers; they vary by age group and by reason for referral.
For children ages 6-17:
- Mental Health Diagnostic Evaluations. These psychological evaluations typically look at emotional and behavioral concerns raised by parents, teachers, or physicians. After interviewing the parents, the child then completes age-appropriate testing to arrive at a diagnosis. Depending on the age of the child, some of the testing may be objective (tests that arrive at a numeric score) or subjective (tests that are open to interpretation by the psychologist). Both types of tests can provide valuable information about the child’s strengths, challenges, personality, and emotional state. Conditions ranging from depression and anxiety to psychotic and dissociative disorders all fall within this category, and can be diagnosed with testing.
- Psychoeducational Evaluations. These psychological evaluations establish what a child’s cognitive capacities are, usually by arriving at the child’s IQ score. The child’s ability to achieve in various subjects such as reading and math are then tested using achievement tests. This type of evaluation is very useful in diagnosing cognitive challenges or learning disabilities that may impact a child at school. Results from these evaluations are informative for school IEPs and 504 plans.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Evaluations. Although children may be given ADHD medication without it, an ADHD evaluation is a wise step in confirming whether a child has ADHD. This evaluation is very comprehensive; it looks at a child’s IQ and behavior to determine whether the child meets ADHD diagnostic criteria from a neurological standpoint. This is very useful, because without verifying a child’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses from a neurological perspective, children may receive stimulant medications to treat ADHD when their behavior in fact stems from another mental health condition.
- Intellectual Disability Evaluations. Children may be born with challenges in thinking, understanding, and functioning on par with other children their age; or, at times, an accident or head injury can impair a child’s mental status. Psychological testing can help in these cases to determine whether someone meets criteria for intellectual disability, which was formerly called mental retardation.
Please note: Dr. Fritzges does not accept referrals to confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
If you suspect that your child is suffering from an emotional or behavioral concern as described here, take the first step by contacting the office for a consultation about how a psychological evaluation might be beneficial.
For adults age 18 and older:
- Mental Health Diagnostic Evaluations. Similar to the process described above for children, a psychological evaluation aimed at diagnosing emotional and behavioral concerns uses a combination of interviews and tests. These evaluations begin with an interview where your symptoms or concerns are discussed; then, in 2-3 sessions to follow, various psychological tests are administered to answer your questions, or to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
- Post-Concussion/Post Head Injury Evaluations. At times, physicians refer patients for a post-concussive psychological evaluation in order to assess for evidence of brain injuries or cognitive impairment. In other instances, a patient seeks a psychological evaluation years after a major head injury because intellectual disability is suspected. Psychological tests—both cognitive and neurological—can help paint a clearer picture of whether a person’s mental processes are impaired by injury, and what life activities are now challenging as a result. An evaluation of this kind helps to identify what additional supports the person might need on a temporary or lasting basis.
- Bariatric Surgery and Spinal Cord/Back Pain Surgery Evaluations. Before they are able to undergo various surgeries, some patients must complete a psychological evaluation. If you are a candidate for bariatric surgery (such as gastric sleeve or gastric bypass), or if you are a candidate for spinal cord stimulators to control chronic back pain, you may have been referred by your physician or surgeon to receive clearance from a psychologist before the surgery is scheduled. Physicians require this clearance for good reason: often people seek surgeries for concerns that have an underlying emotional component, and would therefore likely still be present after the surgery is completed. A psychological evaluation does not rule out a surgery in most cases, but it can provide you and your physician with important information about your ability to cope with the surgery and lifestyle changes that are associated with it.
If you or a loved one have been receiving therapy and medication services for many years, but feel that “something is missing,” or you are not able to resolve certain concerns even though you are receiving treatment, a psychological evaluation can be immensely helpful. Getting the right treatment can get you on the path to healing and improved quality of life—and it all starts with an accurate, thoughtful diagnosis.
Dr. Fritzges has years of experience conducting psychological evaluations and will be available to answer any questions you have about the assessment process before your first visit. After the psychological evaluation is complete, you leave the office with a thorough report. The report contains your presenting problem, your personal history, details about your psychological functioning, and the results of all tests administered. A diagnosis is made, and treatment recommendations for that condition are included in each report.
Contact the office today to see how a psychological evaluation might answer your questions about psychological health, your symptoms, and what can be done to help.
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