What Is Psychodiagnostic Testing?

What is the difference between a psychodiagnostic assessment and a psychiatric consultation?

A psychiatric consultation consists of a thorough clinical interview, review of records, and observation of the patient's behavior by a psychiatrist or psychologist. For many psychiatric concerns, this is the most appropriate referral and connects the patient with a mental health provider. Psychodiagnostic testing is a specialized diagnostic procedure that identifies and quantifies degrees of psychopathology. In contrast to a psychiatric consultation, it uses written, oral and projective instruments to evaluate a patient's mental processes and to assess how their thinking and emotions are likely to impact their behavior. Therefore, psychodiagnostic testing provides objective data on a patient's psychological functioning and is a useful tool for clarifying confusing clinical presentations.

How would psychodiagnostic testing help my patients? 

Psychodiagnostic testing enhances diagnostic accuracy by controlling for subjective opinion because it uses highly reliable, standardized tests that have been validated in clinical trials. For example: the reliability of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, which measures cognitive abilities and determines intelligence quotients, ranges from impressive .93 to .97. Because it is able to provide both accurate diagnostics and to grade the severity of impairment, psychodiagnostic testing helps the physician or psychiatrist to make pharmacological or psychotherapeutic treatment recommendations that have the highest likelihood of success. "Differential therapeutics", the prescription of effective treatments and proscription of ineffective ones, is the standard of care in contemporary medicine. Psychodiagnostic testing, because of its standardized and objective qualities, aids the practitioner in developing differential treatment recommendations.

When should I consider referring a patient for psychodiagnostic testing? 

Patients sometimes present confusing clinical pictures. They require sophisticated and extensive work-ups to distinguish the psychological contributions that confound accurate diagnoses and/or treatment of their conditions. Referral for psychodiagnostic testing is a cost-effective and valuable tool in the diagnostic decision-tree.

Examples of appropriate referrals for psychological testing include:

  • Patients whom you suspect have substance abuse problems
  • Patients with possible learning disabilities
  • Patients with suspected mental retardation or poor intellectual functioning
  • Patients with mood disorders
  • Patients with anxiety and panic disorders
  • Patients who have experienced trauma
  • Children and adolescents who are "acting-out"
  • Patients with suspected personality disorders

What will the report tell me? How will this affect my treatment? 

The psychodiagnostic report is designed to answer specific referral questions. These may include questions regarding diagnostic clarification, differentiation between transient "state" disorders and long-standing "trait" disorders (DSM Axis I versus Axis II disorders), intellectual functioning, learning style, current psychosocial stressors, and adaptive ability. Reports also include treatment recommendations that are based on the synthesized results of the clinical interview, mental status exam, patient's personal, family and cultural history, and findings from the standardized tests. Clinicians can use these objective recommendations to develop interventions with the highest likelihood of success

What other professions rely on psychological testing? 

Psychodiagnostic testing is a widely recognized diagnostic procedure that is used in a variety of non-medical settings. Examples include:

  • Forensics: In this context, 80% of psychological testing is ordered when the defendant's psychiatric condition is seen important in a criminal case. Other legal uses of psychodiagnostic testing include child custody evaluations, contested estates, wrongful termination and harassment cases, and conservatorship hearings.

  • Insurance Settlements: Insurance companies rely on psychodiagnostic testing for a variety of disability and Workman's Compensation cases. Similarly, the Department of Social Services routinely uses psychodiagnostic tests to make Social Security determinations. Psychodiagnostic testing is particularly useful in ruling out malingering.

  • Employment Environments: Psychodiagnostic testing was originally developed during World War II a screening device to increase the efficacy in deploying military personnel in stressful situations. It is still used extensively by police departments, the military, and other employers to ensure that recruits are psychologically suited to the required tasks.

  • School Settings: Psychodiagnostic testing is used by counselors in schools and universities to help students make career choices based on their aptitudes and abilities. It is also the mainstay of assessments for special education placement, admission to gifted programs, and learning disability assessment.

What about time and cost? Will insurance cover this procedure? 

Testing times vary from 3 hours to a whole day. However, testing that is performed by experienced psychologist, can be a pleasurable experience. Many patients enjoy the different tests and find the process helpful. BAPTA ensures that a patient's time is spent efficiently by ensuring that all collateral information is gathered prior to their appointment, and designs a test battery that accurately answers the referral questions. BAPTA's specialty practice is able to guarantee that patients receive the most efficient and precise psychometric testing currently available. Because careful diagnostics increases the likelihood of successful therapy, patients can save time and money by being tested early in their treatment.

Many insurance companies cover psychological testing if medical necessity is established. BAPTA works closely with insurance companies and takes care of third party billing.


Bay Area Psychological Testing Associates
870 Market Street, Suite 1181
San Francisco, CA 941022
Telephone (415) 296-8081 

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Copyright 2002, Bay Area Psychological Testing Associates