Diagnostic psychological evaluations assess whether an individual appears to have any psychological problems. In particular, psychologists assess whether the individual has the symptoms of any specific psychological diagnoses. An evaluation may also describe or explain the general psychological adjustment problems being presented by an individual, in an effort to understand the individual’s behavior. Identifying specific problems is a necessary step in the development of a treatment plan.
Diagnostic evaluations can be informal assessments made during the initial interview with a client at the beginning of psychotherapy, or they can be formal procedures involving a structured interview with assessment procedures designed to identify or rule out several possible hypotheses regarding the psychological functioning of the individual. This latter procedure is usually part of a comprehensive psychological evaluation that includes the administration of psychological tests. A comprehensive psychological evaluation may take several hours depending on the problems being assessed, and the reason for the assessment.
The assessment includes questions about the problem, personal and family history, and a review of current life stressors. Once psychological problems are identified, a treatment plan can be developed to resolve them. However, the diagnostic process continues during psychotherapy. Psychologists will reassess problems, symptoms, and progress, and review other possible treatment plans.