Psychological Assessments 101: What, Why, When and How?


Layla Team

April 20, 2023

Mental health is key to our overall well-being. Recognizing when it’s time to ask for help on your mental wellness journey is an essential step, and for some, the first step may be a psychological assessment. “Psychological assessment” sounds pretty intense, so let’s break it down. What does “psychological assessment” mean - and how and when do you know if you need one? 

What is a psychological assessment? 

A psychological assessment is an in-depth mental health evaluation conducted by a qualified mental health professional for diagnosis on ADHD and other disorders. This type of evaluation aims to better understand how a person is thinking, feeling, and behaving, and whether they are struggling to meet the demands of everyday life. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychological evaluations use diverse tools and strategies to gather information, including: 

  • Standardized psychological tests
  • Surveys
  • Structured interviews
  • Observational data
  • Medical and school history
  • Talking with others who know the person well

Psychological assessments are not necessarily a one-time tool - they can be done at different times to track a person’s wellness journey and evaluate their progress over time. 

When is a psychological assessment needed?

Sometimes a psychological assessment is recommended for people who show signs (i.e., external behavioural changes that others might see) and symptoms (i.e., internal thoughts and feelings that the individual experiences) of a mental health condition, but it isn’t yet clear if what they are experiencing is unusual.

For example, we all feel sad sometimes - that’s just part of being human!  However, for people whose feelings of sadness are so severe that they have trouble functioning in everyday life (like socializing and/or succeeding at school or work), it’s possible that there could be something deeper going on. In these situations, a psychological assessment may be helpful to find out the nature of the issue, and to identify the most helpful strategies to move forward. 

Depending on the specific questions asked, a psychological assessment can help diagnose a number of things about a person. For example, an assessment can help identify whether an individual has a learning disorder, a mental health issue (like anxiety or depression), a substance use issue, or a neurodiverse condition like autism or ADHD. In some cases, psychological assessments can even be used to look for personality traits that might make someone a good fit for a certain job (like a leadership role), and whether a person’s character, personality and values suit a company they’ve applied to. Psychologists and other mental health professionals are uniquely trained to cater psychological assessments to diverse situations and needs like these.

Psychological assessment (ADHD and more)

Who can offer a psychological assessment?

Psychological assessments must be conducted by mental health professionals with specific experience, qualifications and training. It takes a great deal of skill for a professional to conduct an assessment and narrow in on the cause (or causes) of an individual’s symptoms, offer a diagnosis and recommend treatment options. 

In most Canadian provinces, only psychologists and physicians (like family doctors and psychiatrists) can conduct a psychological assessment and make a mental health diagnosis. However, in some provinces (e.g., Alberta and British Columbia), social workers and nurse practitioners with specialized training can offer some evaluations and diagnose specific mental health issues. 

Why are psychological assessments important?

Psychological assessment and testing isn’t necessary for everyone, but when it’s used appropriately, it can yield helpful information for people on their path to wellness. An assessment can help identify the root causes of barriers experienced at work, school, or in relationships.  Psychological assessment results can help individuals and their loved ones better understand their mental health and cognitive challenges, as well as their personal strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, psychological assessments can help to figure out what kinds of support are needed moving forward, helping people to manage, succeed, and thrive.

- Facing mental health challenges? Layla is here to helpIndividuals, couples, and families use Layla for personalized, convenient therapy. Layla matches you to a suitable therapist and manage the therapy process in a warm, dependable manner, supporting you on your journey to better health. Learn more here

- Are you seeking a Psychological Assessment? Layla offers virtual psychological assessments for adults covering ADHD, PTSD, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, BPD, Somatic Symptom Disorder, and Illness Anxiety Disorder. Conducted by Registered Psychologists, the service involves a 90-minute video interview, psychometric tests, and a debrief meeting. Learn more here

Disclaimer: The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered healthcare or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate support.