We conceptualize psychological assessment as a problemsolving process in which psychological tests, interviews, and other sources of data function as tools used to answer questions
(e.g., to address a referral request) and resolve perplexities (e.g., to assist in differential diagnosis; Maloney & Ward, 1976; see also chapter by Weiner in this volume). The primary purpose of psychological assessments in adult inpatient and outpatient mental health settings is to evaluate patients' cognitions, affect, behaviors, personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses in order to make judgments, diagnoses, predictions, and treatment recommendations concerning the clients (Maruish, 1994). The functional utility of psychological assessments, we believe, lies in the ability to provide information about clients' symptoms, but also their stable personality characteristics, defensive patterns, identifications, interpersonal styles, self-concepts, and beliefs (Smith, 1998). Furthermore, comprehensive assessments address the factors that led to the problems and difficulties that presumably led to the referral (Wakefield, 1998). Thus, the general goals of psychological assessment include providing an accurate description of the client's problems, determining what interpersonal and environmental factors precipitated and are sustaining the problems, and making predictions concerning outcome with or without intervention (Aiken, 2000; Lilienfeld, Wood, & Garb, 2001). In addition, assessments can support or challenge clinical impressions and previous working diagnoses, as well as identifying obstacles to therapy (Appelbaum, 1990; Butcher, 1990; Clarkin & Mattis,
1991; Hurt, Reznikoff, & Clarkin, 1991; Maruish, 1994, 1999).
Finally, assessments can also provide assistance in developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a treatment plan consistent with the client's personality and external resources, as well as allowing the client to find out more about himself or herself (Butcher, 1990). As clients continue to adapt and deal with their symptoms after their discharge, assessments can guide discharge planning and subsequent treatment of the individual.
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