Graduate students taking a course on Psychological Assessment under Prof. Lucila O. Bance, Ph.D., held webinar sessions regarding trends on psychological assessments. These were held on May 11, 13, and 16, 2023.
The webinars featured three experts who shared their knowledge in the field, namely: Pedro Olvera, Psy.D., Ann Simun, Psy.D., and Mr. Paul Hoang, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
In the first session, Olvera, whose specialization is School Psychology, discussed the practical applications of school-based psychological assessments as a basis for academic support and interventions for children with special needs. An initial battery of tests can be given to the patient which can provide valuable quantitative data that can help in understanding the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
He mentioned patient observations, which are crucial to the diagnostic process. He emphasized that these observations can be done in various settings such as the classroom, at home, or during therapy sessions. These observations provide an opportunity to assess the child’s interactions, social skills, attention span, and behavior in different environments.
The diagnosis forms the basis for developing an Individual Educational Plan (IEP), which is a personalized plan tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. The IEP outlines goals, accommodations, and interventions necessary to support the patient’s educational progress and overall well-being.
The second session with Simun underscored her assessment process, highlighting the importance of selecting appropriate tests and ensuring accurate administration. She also discussed specific examples of assessments used for various cognitive processes and emphasized the significance of conducting a discrepancy analysis to determine the severity of the client’s performance.
Following the assessment, Simun’s process involves conducting a discrepancy analysis to determine the severity of the client’s performance. This analysis includes comparing the client’s performance to established criteria or norms to assess the extent of the discrepancy between their abilities and expected levels. The categorization of the discrepancy (e.g., severe, mild, moderate) helps in understanding the level of intervention or support required. Similar to Olvera, Simun also collaborates with the child’s IEP team and discusses her assessments for the purpose of planning and strategizing the support and accommodations the child needs for academic success and personal independence.
For the last session, Hoang, who primarily deals with those who have mild, severe, and persistent mental illnesses, highlighted his own method of assessment that is people-centered and culturally sensitive.
In his discussion, he introduced a method of assessment called the “What-When-How” approach. This approach appears to be a comprehensive method that goes beyond a standard mental status examination by incorporating various assessment techniques, including interviews, observations, and adapting to the patient’s environment, culture, and language. He utilizes interview techniques to gather information from the patient. These interviews likely involve structured or semi-structured questioning to elicit specific information about the patient’s experiences, symptoms, challenges, and other relevant factors.
He emphasized the importance of adapting the assessment process to the patient’s environment, culture, and language. This approach recognizes that individuals from diverse backgrounds may have unique cultural and linguistic factors that influence their presentation and understanding of symptoms or challenges. By adapting the assessment techniques and communication to align with the patient’s cultural context and preferred language, he gathers information that is more accurate and culturally sensitive.
In many Asian countries, several cultural barriers when discussing mental health hinder the proper diagnosis of mental health issues, which makes treatment difficult. He discussed certain efforts that can help break these barriers such as focus on community education campaigns, destigmatizing narratives in the media, promoting open conversations about mental health, providing culturally appropriate mental health services, and training healthcare professionals to be sensitive to cultural nuances.
Olvera is an Associate Professor and School of Psychology Program Director at the California Baptist University. He teaches courses in school psychology and assessment. Simun is a neuropsychologist and runs a private practice for psychological assessment. Hoang is President and CEO of Moving Forward Psychological Institute, an institute that was formed to provide support and services to various mental health cases.
The webinars were attended by students taking psychology courses.