A combination of services is used during the course of treatment. Typically, psychological therapy begins with a psychological assessment followed by treatment interventions. However, these services often overlap. Patients find the initial assessment to be therapeutic in that it helps them to understand the nature of their problems and start to identify useful coping strategies.
The purpose of a psychological assessment is to clarify the types of problems a person may be experiencing and identify their strengths and resources. A discussion of the client’s therapy goals is typically part of the assessment. An assessment usually involves a clinical interview and the administration of some psychological questionnaires. This is usually done during the first one to three sessions and continues throughout the course of therapy.
Psychological treatment involves interaction between the patient/client and the psychologist with the goal of helping the patient address, resolve, and/or cope with their personal or interpersonal problems. These problems may be quite specific or more general in nature. Treatment may be brief (1-12 sessions) or longer term. Human emotions and behaviour are often complex, so while predicting the length or outcome of treatment may be estimated, the extent to which an individual’s outcome is consistent with group findings may be unclear.
Psychologists have specialized training in the use of psychological testing instruments that aid in clarifying personality strengths and areas of difficulty. They can assist in obtaining information about the way one sees oneself and others, and the way individuals interact with others. Psychological testing often involves self-report questionnaires. Much like the way that physicians use blood tests or imaging, psychologists use tests to confirm a clinical impression as well as to obtain information that may otherwise require many therapy sessions to uncover.