Handbook of Psychological Assessment 4th Edition
Welcome to the fourth edition of Handbook of Psychological Assessment. I hope you find this edition to be a clear, useful, and readable guide to conducting psychological assessment. It is readers such as you who have enabled the previous editions to be successful and, because of your interest and feedback, have enabled each edition to be an improvement on the previous ones.
As with the previous editions, I have tried to integrate the best of science with the best of practice. Necessarily, psychological assessment involves technical knowledge. But in presenting this technical knowledge, I have tried to isolate, extract, and summarize in as clear a manner as possible the core information that is required for practitioners to function competently. At the same time, assessment is also about the very human side of understanding, helping, and making decisions about people. I hope I have been able to comfortably blend this technical (science) side with the human. An assessment that does not have at least some heart to it is cold and lacking. To keep in touch with the practitioner/human side of assessment, I have continually maintained an active practice in which I have tried to stay close to and interact with the ongoing personal and professional challenges of practitioners. I hope that within and between the sentences in the book, my active involvement with the world of practice is apparent.
A number of changes in the field of assessment (and psychology in general) are consistent with bringing assessment closer to the person. One is the impact of freedom of information legislation, which means that a report written about a client is more likely to be read by the client; therefore, we as practitioners need to write the report with this in mind. In particular, we must word information about clients in everyday language and in a way that is likely to facilitate personal growth. This is quite consistent with writings by a number of authors who have conceptualized and provided strategies on how to combine assessment with the therapeutic process (therapeutic assessment).’
This involves not only the use of everyday language, but also a more empathic understanding of the client. It also involves balancing descriptions of clients’ weaknesses with their strengths. This is quite consistent with the positive psychology movement that has emerged within mainstream psychology. One of the issues this movement questions is the deeply embedded (medical) model that requires us to identify what is wrong with a person and then go about trying to fix it. Why is this a more effective avenue of change than identifying a client’s strengths and then working with the person to enlarge these strengths both as a means in and of itself as well as to overcome any weaknesses? In addition, a client who reads a report describing an endless set of weaknesses will no doubt find it demoralizing (untherapeutic). Unfortunately, clinical assessment has still not yet devised a commonly used multiphasic instrument of client strengths. At the same time, I realize that there are certainly a number of referral situations in which capturing this human-centered approach are difficult, such as in forensic contexts when the referral questions may relate to client placement by health professionals or decisions regarding competency.
In addition to this general philosophy of assessment, a number of rather specific developments have been incorporated into the fourth edition (and provide much of the rationale for a further edition). One is the publication of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III (WAIS-III; 1997) and the subsequent research on it, which required that I include a WAIS-III supplement as part of a revised third edition in 1999. Readers now find that information in the Wechsler intelligence scales chapter (Chapter 5) itself. A further development has been the publication of and increased popularity of the third edition of the Wechsler Memory Scales (WMS-III ). The most recent survey of test use by clinical psychologists ranks it as the ninth most frequently used instrument (and third most popular instrument used by neuropsychologists). At least part of its popularity is the growing importance of assessing memory functions because of an increasing aging population in which distinguishing normal from pathological memory decline has important clinical significance. Other important areas are monitoring the effects of medication to improve memory; detecting cognitive decline resulting from substance abuse; and detecting impairment caused by neurotoxic exposure or the impact of brain trauma, stroke, or the progression of brain disease (Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS-related dementia). As a result, a brief introductory chapter (Chapter 6) was developed on the Wechsler memory scales.
A further change is the inclusion of a chapter on brief instruments for treatment planning, monitoring, and outcome assessment (Chapter 13). This chapter was considered essential because of the increasing emphasis on providing empirical support for the effectiveness of clinical interventions. Many managed care organizations either encourage or require such accountability. It is hoped that this chapter provides readers with a preliminary working knowledge of the three instruments used most frequently in this process (Symptom Checklist 90-R, Beck Depression Inventory, State Trait Anxiety Inventory). Because of the decreasing use of projective drawings combined with continued research that questions the validity of many, if not most, of the interpretations based on projective drawing data, the chapter on projective drawings included in the previous three editions was omitted to make room for these new chapters (Chapters 6 and 13).
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