Therapeutic assessment-Intro


Therapeutic assessment, also known as collaborative assessment, is an innovative approach to psychological evaluation, which relies on collaboration between the assessor and client (and therapist, if applicable), as they work to help clients re-conceptualize their lives and move forward in their healing.  Assessment is used as a brief psychotherapeutic intervention.  Benefits to patients include accelerated symptom change, increased hopefulness about their problems, improved self-esteem, increased satisfaction with assessment, and better compliance with treatment.

In traditional assessment,  psychological tests are used for diagnosis, treatment-planning, and treatment evaluation.  The emphasis is on the collection of standardized data by an “expert”, who compares this data to norms and conveys conclusions to the patient and/or to a treatment provider.

In therapeutic assessment,  psychological testing is more than just the collection of useful data.  The goal is to make the assessment a positive and useful experience for the client, and to help create positive therapeutic changes for the client and to enhance the impact of future psychotherapy.

Therapeutic assessment was developed by psychologists Stephen Finn, PhD, Constance Fischer, PhD, and others.  “Through collaborative exploration, clients experience themselves as having options, as being agents.” (Fischer and Finn, 2008)  The client learns that he or she can change his or her life.

The core values of therapeutic assessment are:

Collaboration (between assessor and client)
Openness and Curiosity

Therapeutic assessment can lead to positive psychological change for many clients

Research has demonstrated that after a therapeutic assessment, many clients experience less distress and have higher self-esteem.  In addition, valid and useful test data are collected, which may be used for diagnosis, treatment planning, or documentation of change after treatment. 

Documented benefits1 to clients, from research on therapeutic assessment include:

  • Decreased symptoms in adults, children, adolescents, and couples
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased hope
  • Better compliance with treatment recommendations after assessment
  • Better treatment alliance with a subsequent psychotherapist
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Steps in therapeutic assessment

In the Initial Session the assessor and client develop questions, i.e., what the client wants to learn from the assessment.  Background information is collected.  Therapists, if involved, also suggest questions.  Questions are also solicited from parents of a child or adolescent.

Psychological testing (cognitive, achievement, and/or personality) is administered using standardized procedures.

In an Assessment Intervention Session, non-standardized tests, tests used in novel ways, or family exercises are used to help clients to discover answers to their questions.

A Summary/Discussion Session is a collaborative effort by the assessor, client, family, and referring therapist to jointly discover and refine answers to assessment questions.

Written Feedback Provided to Client.  A letter is written to the client, addressing his/her questions.  Children are typically provided results in the form of a fable, written specifically for them..

Follow-up Session, 4-8 weeks after the summary discussion, to consolidate gains.

Next:  Steps in Therapeutic Assessment

Information Sheet for Referring Professionals