In this section we describe several changes we foresee in personality assessment teaching and practice, as well as changes we would like to see.
The Assessment of Psychological Health and the Rise of Positive Psychology
Psychological assessment has typically been tied to the medical model, in which health is defined as the absence of pathology rather than as an aggregate of positive psychological traits that differentiate the psychologically healthy person from others (e.g., Adler, 1958; Erikson, 1963; Maslow, 1954; May, Angel, & Ellenberger, 1958; Rogers, 1961). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) have suggested using the term positive psychology instead. Such variables as playfulness, the ability to self-soothe and to be soothed by others, psychological-mindedness, flexibility, and the ability to establish intimacy and to express tenderness in relationships are important variables to consider. Seligman has discussed the concept of optimism, and several of the variables discussed by the Big Five theorists, such as openness to experience (McCrae, 1996), surgency, and agreeableness (Goldberg, 1992) describe positive aspects of personality functioning. The surgency factor includes such concepts as extroversion, energy level, spontaneity, assertiveness, sociability, and ad-venturousness. The agreeableness factor includes interpersonal warmth, cooperativeness, unselfishness, and generosity. In the future we expect to see a number of scoring systems to measure the variables described above using traditional tests, as well as a number of new tests specially designed to tap positive psychology variables. The Journal of Personality Assessment recently published a special series, The Assessment of Psychological Health (Handler & Potash, 1999), which included a discussion of four variables that were measured using traditional tests: optimism, creativity, playfulness, and transitional relatedness. Handler and Potash (1999) suggest that in the future students should be taught to routinely measure these variables and discuss them in feedback.
There has been a major movement toward the use of instruments that focus on more detailed aspects of personality functioning, either by scoring systems devised for traditional measures or the construction of new measures. For example, there are a very large number of MMPI and MMPI-2 scales constructed to predict various types of behaviors or to identify various problems (Graham, 2000). Some of these scales, the Harris-Lingoes and Si subscales, the Content scales, and the Supplementary scales, have now been included in the complex analysis of the MMPI-2, allowing for increased specificity in personality description, dynamics, and so on. These scales provide a way to focus interpretation when they are used in context with other data. There is an increasing press to provide such measures of specificity, supported by adequate research. We expect to see an increase in the construction and use of tests that are focused on the therapy process. For example, Fowler, Hilsenroth, and Handler (1995, 1996) found that early memories responses were related to the pattern of the relationship patients established with their therapists. The Holt Primary Process Scale, the Lerner Defense Scale, and the Mutuality of Autonomy Scale have made the transition from a research setting to clinical application. Another more complex measure, derived from scoring the TAT, is the SCORS, developed by Westen (1991a, 1991b) to measure various aspects of object relations. These scales have excellent validity and excellent clinical utility. They are used as focal estimates of object relations when such issues are a central aspect of the referral issue (e.g., Kelly, 1997). Students should be taught to use these research-based measures to generate more focused interpretations.
Recently there has been a proliferation of self-report measures designed for the evaluation of very specific personality questions. These include rapid screening instruments for the presence of specific personality problems, plus inventories that contain fewer items than the MMPI-2 and will therefore be less time consuming. However, we are concerned that test publishers perhaps promise too much. For example, one reputable publisher, describing a reputable test in its recent catalog, announced, "In a relatively short time you will determine whether your clients have characteristics that will aid or impede their treatment program in as few as 80 items, but not more than 120 items." What concerns us is the proliferation of tests that purport to answer complex personality questions
(e.g., suicidality or adaptation to psychotherapy). It is possible that hurried students, unable to take time for proper assessment, will use these tests with apparent face validity, but without data on clinically important types of validity. Complex personality questions cannot be answered with confidence with the use of a single focal instrument. A number of studies support this contention (see Meyer et al., 2000). In addition, some of these tests are quite easy to fake (e.g., the Battelle Developmental Inventory, Beebe, Finer, & Holmbeck, 1996). However, in class we should teach focal instruments in conjunction with other more complex measures.
Many patients feel alienated by the traditional approach to assessment; they are often troubled by the procedures, feeling that the tasks requested of them are foolish, meaningless, and ultimately useless. These attitudes can lead to poor cooperation and uneven results. Students have more difficulty with assessment feedback than with any other aspect of assessment. An antidote for this problem, as well as a means to make assessment more meaningful and therapeutic for the person assessed, is the concept of Therapeutic Assessment (Finn, 1996; Finn & Martin, 1997; Finn & Tonsager, 1992; Fischer, 1994). Assessment questions are formulated collab-oratively, with the patient, and the feedback is also done col-laboratively. In this procedure a facilitative and constructive atmosphere is necessarily established, and the patient's investment in the assessment procedure is increased. Finn indicates that practically any test or test battery can be used as a vehicle for therapeutic assessment. He has also developed a manual for the use of the MMPI-2 as a therapeutic assessment device (Finn, 1996).
The goal of the assessment in this setting is for the person being assessed to come away with answers to his or her initially posed questions and an awareness of problems that can result in personal growth. The process by which this new awareness occurs is the exploration of the patient's subjective experience in the process that develops between the assessor and the patient. These interactions are accessed through intervention by the assessor from assessment data already collected, or in an intervention using particular assessment stimuli or procedures to tap into the patient's life issues, thereby producing them in the presence of the assessor. The facilitation of the occurrence of the problem issue is explored with the person, drawing connections to outside problems and to referral issues. The assessor then names, clarifies, and amplifies these issues, exploring the factors that are necessary and sufficient to produce the problem behavior—what elicits it, what reinforces it, and what maintains it—and provides the person with a new awareness about his or her problems and perhaps their roots. This process has understandably resulted in very substantial therapeutic gains for patients assessed (e.g., Ackerman et al., 2000; Finn & Martin, 1997; Finn & Tonsager, 1992; Hanson, Claiborn, & Kerr, 1997; M. Newman & Greenway, 1997). Students seem very motivated to use these procedures. They are eager to use a method that brings assessment and psychotherapy together very effectively. Students are also more at ease in providing feedback in this manner. We believe this method should be routinely taught in assessment classes.
Schlosser (1991) envisioned a future in which computers would present test-takers with stimuli ranging from verbal items to moving projective stimuli, including stimuli with synthesized smells. He conceived of the use of virtual reality techniques, computer-generated simulations in which images, sounds, and tactile sensations would be produced to create a synthetic, three-dimensional representation of reality. Ten years later we find a great deal of testing (not assessment) is being done on the Internet, but we have not yet approached Schlosser's vision. This procedure offers the psychologist a number of fascinating opportunities, but it also presents a number of professional and ethical problems (Barak & English, in press). Much research needs to be done to determine the effects of differences in the interpersonal setting with this more artificial Internet approach for various clinical populations. Just because the interaction simulates the traditional approach does not mean the experience of the assessor and the patient will be similar to that of the traditional approach. More disturbed patients would probably have more difficulty with such distance assessment compared with less impaired patients.
These issues seem modest to some psychologists, who even now offer screening tests for depression, anxiety, sexual disorders, attention-deficit disorder, and various personality disorders. Students should be made aware that such blunt feedback of test results does not meet APA ethics requirements. There is also a long list of other ethical issues in this approach that should be discussed in class, because these problems will face students in the future. Nevertheless, Internet testing promises to be a great help for people who for one reason or another cannot get to a psychologist's office to be tested or for people in rural communities in which there are no such services available.
More research should be done to illuminate the interpretive-integrative process in personality assessment, beyond the variables of convergent and divergent thinking. One method that needs exploration is the analysis of the thinking patterns of those who are adept at synthesizing data. By this we mean the study of people who are talented in the integrative process. Emphasis should be placed on studying these experts and on the analysis of heretofore unverbalized methods these people use to integrate data. In other words, we should attempt to focus on these often hidden processes so that the so-called magic of intuition can be described and taught in the classroom. Such studies would be directly relevant for the teaching process. The description of the teaching process in the section describing the advanced assessment course is an effort in that direction.
Wechsler's definition of intelligence—"the aggregate or global capacity to act purposefully, think rationally, and to deal effectively with [the] environment" (Wechsler, 1958, p. 7)—is hardly reflected in his intelligence tests. The definition implies that being interpersonally effective and thinking clearly are important intellectual variables. However, these and other variables suggested by Wechsler's definition are personality variables as well. Thus, it appears that personality variables and so-called intelligence variables overlap to some extent. Indeed, Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence (1995), highlights the importance of emotional and social factors as measures of intelligence. He describes an expanded model of what it means to be intelligent, emphasizing such variables as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustration; the ability to control impulses; the ability to delay gratification; the ability to regulate one's moods and to keep distress from interfering with thought processes; the ability to empathize and to hope. Other researchers in the area of intelligence have discussed similar issues. For example, Gardner (1993), and Salovey (Mayer & Salovey, 1993; Salovey & Mayer, 1989-1990) have discussed the importance of interpersonal intelligence, defined as "the ability to understand other people; what motivates them, how they work; how to work cooperatively with them" (Goleman, 1995, p. 39), and intrapersonal intelligence, defined as "the capacity to form an accurate, veridical model ofoneself and to be able to use that model to operate effectively in life" (Goleman, 1995, p. 43). In a recent chapter, Mayer, Caruso, and Parker (2000) focus on four areas of emotional intelligence: perception, facilitation, understanding, and management of emotions. Bar-On and Parker (2000) have compiled a handbook of emotional intelligence, in which they also include the concepts of alexithymia and what they term practical intelligence. Nevertheless, researchers and test constructors seem to focus on a more traditional definition of intelligence variables. Although clinical psychologists take these important variables into account in describing personality functioning, they do not typically construct intelligence tests with these interpersonal and intrapersonal variables in mind. Although there are now measures of emotional intelligence available for adults (e.g., the Bar On Emotional Quotient Inventory; Bar-On, 1997), and for children (e.g., The Emotional Intelligence Scale for Children; Sullivan, 1999), emotional intelligence measures have yet to be integrated as parts of more traditional tests measuring other intelligence factors. However, their future use will undoubtedly go a long way toward a more integrated view of human functioning than exists in the somewhat arbitrary split between the concepts of intelligence and personality.
Was this article helpful?
Enchanted Learning Experiences -Why They Should Be The Norm For Our Children. The latter part of the twentieth century has seen more discoveries about the human brain than in all previous history of mankind. It is as though we have been paddling in the shallows of a vast ocean hitherto unaware of its existence.