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The process of psychological assessment

A psychological assessment is a way of measuring information about a person’s mental health or capacity. Psychological assessments may be interview based, written (including self-report or report from others) or activity based. Here are some frequently asked questions about psychological assessment. 

How to get a psychological assessment

You do not necessarily need to have a referral to access psychological assessments, though you may choose to speak to your GP to organise a referral for this purpose. Psychologists consider the benefits and any potential downfalls of completing assessments and use ethical judgement in administering tests. Assessments may be a part of therapy (such as questionnaires about mood, symptoms, and experience of therapy). Alternatively, the assessment process may be the goal of seeking psychological therapy. In this case, there will still be time (typically an intake session) where broad information is gathered as it is important to understand context when conducting assessments for conditions such as autism and ADHD. 

Why have a psychological assessment?

Psychological assessments may have multiple purposes, such as:

  • To understand symptoms
  • To help work towards a diagnosis
  • To assess risk 
  • To gauge therapeutic progress, process, and readiness for certain techniques and goals
  • To quantify mental health for communication with other professionals and organisations 

Read more about the importance on psychological assessments on our blog on this topic.

What does a psychological assessment cover?

Psychological assessments can measure many constructs such as intelligence, memory, symptoms experienced and diagnostic possibilities. Assessments are typically used to gather information and help make sense of this data. Some assessments have a very practical, direct use, such as risk assessments which are used to understand and mitigate the likelihood of harm to a client or another party. Assessments may cover questions about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and may measure strengths and weaknesses. 

How long does a psychological assessment take?

Psychological assessments take differing amounts of time depending on their purpose. A simple assessment questionnaire designed to measure wellbeing or experience of therapy may only take a few minutes, whereas tests designed to measure more complex constructs such as intelligence and potential neurodiversity may take hours. 

Person-based factors affect how long a test will take. Some individuals may answer items more quickly and comprehension of the questions may also influence how long an assessment takes. For child clients, distractibility, low motivation, fatigue, and hunger may all lengthen testing times. Assessments may be completed over multiple sessions, if necessary, as it is preferable to avoid any ‘noise’ factors having an impact on the results. 

Situational factors may influence the length of testing too. For example, distractions to the testing process or availability of assessment resources and ideal session times may influence an assessment. Waiting on questionnaires to be returned from multiple sources may also lengthen the assessment process in some cases. 

How to prepare for a psychological assessment

If you or your child are preparing to undertake a psychological assessment you may want to gather any relevant information and bring this to the appointment. For example, any previous assessment information, as well as any specific concerns may be useful to provide. The psychologist may conduct a full intake interview where they ask many questions about the individual to be assessed, as gathering a comprehensive understanding of the person and their environment is an important part of the assessment process. 

If your child is undertaking an assessment, it may be helpful to think about who may be the best school contact to provide information on your child (as teacher questionnaires may be given). 

How to approach psychological assessment as a client

Undergoing a psychological assessment may seem daunting, but it should not be something to fear. Psychological assessments aim to facilitate understanding of clients and our psychologists aim to use this data to help improve clients’ lives. Whilst important, psychological assessments are only one source of information, and are limited both in what they measure and their accuracy. Psychologists also work to understand who their clients are as unique individuals, beyond any assessments that may be administered. 

What happens after a psychological assessment

Psychological assessments often need to be scored and interpreted and psychologists are trained in how to understand these tools. The results of assessment will be relayed to the client in appropriate language and detail, and a report may be compiled which will have the assessment results and recommendations. 


In summary, psychological assessments involve measuring an individual’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour, or capacities in some way. Assessments may be written or verbal and can vary in purpose and length of time. If you believe that you or your child would benefit from psychological assessment, please call us on 3857 0074. 

What does a psychological assessment cover? How long does a psychological assessment take? How to get a psychological assessment. What does a psychological assessment cover? How long does a psychological assessment take? How to get a psychological assessment.