What is the purpose/goal of a psychological assessment?
The goals of a comprehensive psychological assessment are to better understand what may be causing a child’s current challenges, and to identify a child’s individual strengths and areas of need. A thorough assessment is often essential to effective treatment planning and management.
What is involved?
The assessment process usually begins with a careful understanding of the presenting concerns and questions, past history and understanding of environmental factors. Tests that are typically used include ones that assess one's cognitive abilities, achievement, memory, attention, and other processing skills (e.g., visual-motor, auditory/phonological). A child’s behaviours, mood, and social functioning are assessed via clinical interviews, questionnaires, and observations.
Why would someone need an assessment?
Assessments may lead to a diagnosis, but sometimes there is no diagnosis given. A formal diagnosis if often required to access various supports and funding supports in the school and community. Some of the more common diagnoses include: Specific Learning Disorder/Learning Disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders, Intellectual Disability, etc.
What are other benefits of an assessment?
An assessment is also helpful in providing specific strategies for the school, home, and community environments. For example, results can help inform an elementary/high school student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), or a College/University student's accomodations plan (e.g., special classroom/examination arrangements, use of computer for exams, alternate formats for course materials). These supports can ultimately help a student reach their full potential.
The American Psychological Association has a detailed article on "Understanding Psychological Testing and Assessment" www.apa.org/helpcenter/assessment
The first step is always to build your child’s (and your) trust, and to understand the reasons why you are seeking support. Next, a social‐emotional-behavioural assessment will help identify treatment priorities and diagnose a psychological disorder(s), when appropriate. Then, a treatment plan is developed in partnership with you and your child.
Dr. Martinez offers evidence-based practice, meaning that she uses therapeutic interventions that have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. The most commonly used evidence-based approach for the treatment of childhood psychological symptoms is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). CBT is an approach that focuses on helping people understand how thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all connected. The efficacy of CBT has been demonstrated for a wide-range of symptoms in adults, adolescents, and children.
CBT empowers children and parents by teaching coping strategies to manage present challenges in a more effective and healthy way. This may involve learning more about how the brain and body work, recognizing and accepting feelings, understanding what behaviours might be trying to communicate or achieve, learning ways to ride out or cope with uncomfortable physical symptoms (e.g. relaxation skills), paying attention to our thoughts and interpretations, and collaborating on an action plan to try out new brave behaviours. Dr. Martinez also integrates other well-researched therapeutic approaches (e.g., Mindfulness-based interventions, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, parent-child relationship or attachment-based interventions) into her work.
Effective therapy for children and adolescents always include:
Dr. Martinez also provides consultation to parents/caregivers, school staff and administrators, community agencies, and health professionals.
Parenting Support and Consultation
Parents play a big role in psychological treatments. Parents are at the front-line, and they can serve as their child's strongest advocate. Research (and practice) has also shown that parents are the most important influence of their children.
When a child is displaying a challenging behaviour, it takes considerable effort to change behaviour patterns, and it is the parents’ commitment, effort and energy, working with me, that makes it happen.
How can Dr. Martinez help/support parents?
Dr. Martinez can provide parents with the techniques and ongoing support they need to help their child. For example, some strategies can involve improving sleep hygiene, improving parent-child relationships and communication, largely using behavioural principles and positive approaches to parenting. Parent support also involves providing information about normal child/adolescent development.
What Dr. Martinez Cannot Provide Parents who have their own struggles such as feeling depressed, anxious, or in an unhappy relationship, may require help with their own problems as well as getting parenting support. Dr. Martinez can provide referrals to parents in these instances.
The Ontario Psychological Association (OPA) website has information on "What to Expect" at your first appointment: http://www.psych.on.ca/About-Psychology/Getting-help/What-to-expect-when-seeing-a-psychological-profess
Copyright © 2019 Dr. Yvonne J. Martinez, Ph.D., C.Psych. - All Rights Reserved.