Overview of Therapeutic Assessment

How is Therapeutic Assessment different from other types of psychological assessment?

    Therapeutic Assessment is a paradigm in which psychological testing is used to help people understand themselves better and find solutions to their persistent problems. Therapeutic Assessment differs from traditional psychological assessment, whose main goal is to diagnose disorders, plan treatments, and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions; Therapeutic Assessment can serve all these purposes as well, but its primary goal is to facilitate positive changes in clients.

    Therapeutic Assessment is a semi-structured approach developed by Stephen Finn and his colleagues at the Center for Therapeutic Assessment in Austin, Texas, which has been shown in a series of research studies to have a positive impact on clients. The term “therapeutic assessment” has also been used descriptively to refer to an attitude toward psychological assessment where the assessor intends to be helpful to clients. Finn and Tonsager (1997) contrasted therapeutic assessment and traditional (information-gathering) assessment on a number of dimensions. This website mainly concerns the specific Therapeutic Assessment methods developed by Finn and his colleagues. Therapeutic Assessment has incorporated techniques of collaborative psychological assessment, an approach to psychological assessment based in humanistic and human-science psychology, where the power differential between the client and assessor is reduced as much as possible, and clients and assessors work together to understand clients’ life problems and explore new ways of thinking and being. Collaborative assessment techniques were not initially recognized as promoting therapeutic change, but have been integrated into Therapeutic Assessment because they have been found to be essential to its therapeutic impact.

    In Therapeutic Assessment clients are involved in all parts of an assessment, from determining its goals, discussing the possible meanings of test results, preparing written summaries, and disseminating results to other professionals. Therapeutic Assessment can be used with many types of clients: inpatients, outpatients, adult individuals, couples, young children, adolescents, families, and business or work groups. Generally Therapeutic Assessment is most suited for clients being assessed voluntarily, but its usefulness in other assessment contexts (e.g., forensic or employment-screening situations) is currently being explored.