Growing up, I always had an affinity for puzzles. With countless shapes and sizes, each presented a unique challenge that required a symbiotic interplay between logic and creativity. During quarantine, I spent countless hours working on a 1,000-piece puzzle, only to find that there was one missing piece. I thought about the amount of time I spent actively searching for that piece, repeatedly shaking the box, searching the floor, and checking under the rug. Frustrated and exhausted, I gave up the search for the piece I didn’t have. 

This made me think about my work as a psychologist. Clients often come in for treatment stating they need help for a certain diagnosis and that “nothing has worked” in the past. Additionally, parents will tell me that they are frustrated with the lack of progress they have seen in their child despite the many treatments and interventions they have tried over the years. It is not uncommon for the individuals we see to have received various diagnoses along the way. Other times, there are no clear explanations or diagnoses- just a lot of frustration, confusion, and discouragement.

Frequently, these individuals will come to find out that they had been misdiagnosed. Mental health misdiagnosis is common, which keeps individuals from being able to achieve psychological wellness. Some commonly misdiagnosed mental health disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and PTSD. There are various and complex reasons why misdiagnosis is so common, including inaccurate or insufficient history, shame or embarrassment that stops an individual from opening up about current difficulties, or complex issues that may easily be mistaken for other problems. For example, when trauma is not identified or is omitted, individuals may receive numerous diagnoses and treatments that are unsuccessful. Thus, achieving diagnostic clarity is essential to the recovery process.

Comprehensive psychological testing can provide that integral missing piece of the puzzle, as it provides diagnostic clarification, information about current level of functioning, strengths that can be incorporated into treatment, and an understanding of problematic behaviors. This allows a clinician to capture elements that may not be observed or reported in a typical interview. The information gathered during testing is summarized in a comprehensive report, which provides important background information, test results, clinical impressions, diagnoses, and recommendations for treatment or other referrals (i.e., to a psychiatrist or neurologist). 

Psychological assessment can be extremely helpful for individuals who may be struggling in different areas of their lives, particularly when past treatments have been limited or ineffective. These evaluations provide important information not only about where someone may be struggling specifically (e.g., depression, substance use, anxiety, personality disorders), but also with respect to comorbidity. When diagnosis remains unclear or is indicative of multiple underlying conditions, psychological assessment can be especially beneficial in terms of enhancing diagnostic clarity and informing interventions and treatments.

Mental health is not a one-size-fits-all paradigm, and treatment is most effective when it is tailored to each individual. Every client comes in to treatment with their own life experiences, struggles, strengths, and worldview. They want to improve their lives and may feel confused or frustrated by their struggles. Similar to how a medical doctor would order a blood test to gain an understanding of what is causing someone’s symptoms, psychological evaluations serve the same purpose. The information obtained through testing helps give both the client and the clinician insight into the individual’s world through their unique perspective. This helps empower individuals to develop and grow and can help people be more informed as to how to proceed with utilizing their cognitive and emotional strengths to help improve their overall mental health. This process gathers invaluable information that can help bridge the gap of hopelessness and frustration to developing realistic and achievable live worth living goals. 

For more information about psychological testing or to schedule a consultation, visit https://therapeuticoasis.com/testing-services/

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