Assessment Psychology Track

What is assessment psychology?

A psychological evaluation is the use of tests and assessments – in combination with interviews, historical information and behavioral observations – to answer questions about one’s psychological functioning.

Psychological tests and assessments measure cognitive ability, academic achievement, emotional and behavioral functioning, personality, neuropsychological functioning, and more. Some tests are paper-and-pencil questionnaires, while others involve a set of standardized individually administered activities designed to explore thinking and reasoning abilities.

An assessment psychologist is an expert at collecting a lot of reliable information in a short time, weaving together and making sense of the data they’ve collected to answer a specific question, such as:

Assessment psychologists typically enjoy solving puzzles and “sleuthing,” the detective work of finding patterns in the data they collect and understanding how those patterns apply in their client’s real life. Expert assessment psychologists are able to identify which tests to give to gather the needed information, using the results to answer the referral question accurately and give meaningful guidance and recommendations to the patient.

Three Kinds of Psychological Assessment

There are many kinds of psychological assessment, three of which – generalist, neuropsychological and forensic – are described here, with the particular types of questions the assessment answers listed below.

Generalist assessment psychology addresses the following:

  • Need for diagnostic clarity (e.g., whether or not a mental health disorder is present)
  • Seeking underlying causes for an area of ongoing difficulty (e.g., emotional, relational, occupational, educational)
  • Determination of eligibility for additional services or supports at school or work
  • Seeking recommendations for what type of therapy or intervention will be the most effective
  • Exploration of one’s abilities and potential (e.g., occupational screening, career advising)

Neuropsychological assessment (in-depth assessment of skills and abilities linked to brain function) addresses the following:

  • Presence of dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • Traumatic brain injury impact on functioning
  • Impacts of concussion
  • Functional capacity (ability to drive or live independently)
  • Candidacy for neurosurgical procedures
  • Impact of brain tumors
  • Cognitive impacts of seizure disorders
  • Pre- and post-radiation therapy cognitive evaluation

Forensic assessment addresses the following:

  • Family evaluation (e.g. custody evaluation, child protective services evaluation)
  • Competency to stand trial
  • Criminal responsibility
  • Disability eligibility
  • Violence and sexual risk assessment
  • Fire-setting risk assessment
  • Civil commitment evaluations
  • Civil suits with psychological or neurological injury
counselor and student

George Fox’s assessment track equips students to obtain internships in generalist assessment psychology, with a few experiences in neuropsychology and forensic psychology along the way. The Graduate School of Clinical Psychology is a broad and general training program, with the assessment track being no exception. Students in the track are trained to think critically through test selection, precise administration, accurate interpretation, meaningful application, and the generation of helpful recommendations to address the referral question.

Students who are interested in a thorough and expansive assessment education are good fits for the assessment track, but those who are aiming for a highly specialized niche have to work harder to acquire training experiences above and beyond those built into the generalist assessment track.

Neuropsychology or forensic-interested assessment track students at George Fox are typically able to acquire an internship with a rotation in neuropsychology or forensic assessment based on their training experiences.

What kinds of jobs can you do as an assessment psychologist?

Assessment psychologists work in many settings, including:

Rates for reimbursement for psychological assessment are typically higher than for psychotherapy per hour, but require a significant amount of time in report-writing. As such, assessment psychologists spend less time in face-to-face contact with clients than psychologists engaged in psychotherapy.

How does George Fox University’s assessment track work? 

The university’s Graduate School of Clinical Psychology uses a flexible track approach that comprises 18 hours, including electives and required courses that focus on assessment. Students are not admitted to a track and need not apply for a track. They simply designate their intention to complete a track’s requirements and then do so.

Because some of the electives that count toward the assessment track also count toward the adolescent and child track and primary care track, students have the flexibility to switch tracks if they wish. They just need to be mindful that they have enough credits to complete the track they are hoping to switch to. In addition to the track-related coursework, students are required to complete a research project and a practicum in their area of specialization.

Note: Students are not required to choose a specialization track to graduate from the George Fox University PsyD program.

What courses will I take?

What makes the assessment track at George Fox stand out from similar programs at other schools?

The Behavioral Health Center at George Fox offers diagnostic assessment and other mental health services to low-income and uninsured county residents. Second- to fourth-year students in the PsyD program staff the clinic and are supervised by psychologists licensed in the state of Oregon. Clinic director Ryan Thompson is an expert in psychological assessment for children and adults.