Neuropsychological Testing

This post is for people who’ve been invited to undergo a psychological/psychometric assessment and have a neurological disorder. I am currently working as an Assistant Psychologist and one of my main duties is to provide psychological testing to those with a particular neurological disorder (I won’t mention which one). Depending on what condition you have or what departments are involved in your care/treatment will change the outcome and purpose of the assessment. So for this blog, I can only comment on my experience. Your assessment and experience might be different to what I am about to discuss.

In my department, we are interested in knowing how a particular neurological disorder has affected your cognitive ability, mood, well-being and quality of life. Additionally, it helps us determine what part of your brain has been affected by your condition. The assessment changes depending on (though not limited too) if you have already reported a deficit/difficulty, such as memory problems or you are a pre/post surgical candidate.

It’s good to perform these tests on individuals as people’s brain patterns and circumstances can change over time or that some people might not have an awareness of any difficulties they are experiencing. For example, we might assess someone and find no deficits. Then a year or so later, they start to complain of short-term memory difficulties. So, they are invited back in for an assessment and we can then repeat the tests and see if there are any changes in comparison to the previous results. This is good for people who have progressive neurological disorders.

So what kind of things can be covered in psychometric testing? Things that might be assessed (though not limited too) include memory, intellectual ability, language, executive function, visual perceptual and mood. There are other domains, but so far this is what I’ve personally covered.

What happens? The assessment might start with a brief interview about your background and current situation. Questions can be about your educational background, developmental issues, living situation, employment, cognitive abilities and mood. Then the assessment begins which may include a variety of visual and verbal tasks.

It might be the case that if you are experiencing mental health difficulties if this is the case then you might (should) be referred to a psychiatrist or a consultant psychologist to help with further treatment/assessment.

Being assessed by a complete stranger can be worrying and stressful for some, so I thought I would write some points about what the assessor (me) is thinking during the assessment or some of my tips.

  1. We are not judging you.Seriously, we really aren’t. A lot of the time people come in and they feel embarrassed, worried or upset if they think they are performing poorly or got a question wrong. All we are concerned about at the time is that you try your best in the assessment.
  2. We want you to do well. We are not trying to trick you out, we follow a set of instructions for tests and sometimes we can give you a nudge in the right direction (this is very dependent on the type of test).
  3. We are human’s too. If the roles were reversed, we might feel anxious too!
  4. We’re sorry. During our assessments, they can be a maximum of 2 hours long. All I can say to this is that I’m really sorry. If you need a break or a drink or something, just say! But, it might be the case that yours is much shorter, it’s dependent on the individual.
  5. It’s not an interview. The only interview-like-thing is that we ask some questions beforehand but it’s more chit-chat about how you are doing. We like things to remain professional but informal. Plus, you can’t prepare for the assessment beforehand.
  6. Be yourself. We really want to get to know you!
  7. Ask questions. No idea why you are doing some of these tests, ask! What will the results mean, ask! Need me to repeat the instructions, ask! Got a question that you don’t think is related, ask! We can always point you in the right direction.
  8. Don’t be afraid to show how you really feel. Having a neurological disorder could make you feel depressed, anxious, stressed, frustrated, etc. In your assessment, express this. It’s a good opportunity to ‘get something off your chest’ or release any emotional difficulties you are having.
  9. Take your time. Some tests might be under timed conditions, but some are not. If they are not, take your time. We want you to do your best if that means you need more time to think, go for it!
  10. We take everything into consideration. It might be the case that you are having a bad day, feel really anxious, distracted, etc. We take all of this into consideration when testing you.

I hope these tips and points help. The point of the assessment is to see what your weakness and strengths are. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible. Bare in mind that anyone working as a health professional has ‘seen it all’. So try not to feel worried about being judged by the assessor. We want this to be a positive experience for you.

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