A social/emotional assessment provides insight into an individual’s patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving. They can shed light on the ways in which a person perceives and interprets the world around them, including their beliefs about themselves and others and characterological ways of coping.

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What are social/emotional assessments used for?

Social/emotional assessments are generally conducted to clarify diagnoses and make targeted recommendations for therapy. They can be conducted with individuals of all ages—children, adolescents, or adults.

The evaluations, like other psychological assessment types, can provide diagnostic clarity, including shedding light on the nature and expression of psychological symptoms. They may also show the potential impact of trauma or negative life experiences in a child or adult’s level of functioning.

Social/emotional evaluations are usually requested for individuals struggling to manage daily functioning and/or experiencing significant psychological symptoms. They may be indicated for individuals who lack understanding of the nature of their difficulties and for whom such clarity may help them progress in therapy or other treatment.

In children, social/emotional assessments may be requested when the child is having difficulties that manifest as poor emotional regulation, behavioral regulation, and/or social challenges.

Social/emotional assessments are extremely helpful for individuals who feel they are stagnating in therapy. They provide a measure and framework for understanding the individual’s inner world, including historical processes that may have contributed to current functioning. These processes can serve as important areas of focus for treatment.

How long do social/emotional assessments take?

The first step in the testing process is an in-depth interview about an individual’s developmental, social, emotional, occupational, academic, and medical history. With children and adolescents, this interview includes a portion with just the parents, as well as a portion with the child or adolescent. Additional interviews are often conducted, in which a valuable perspective is obtained from others who are familiar with the individual being tested (e.g., spouses, teachers, therapists).

The testing itself is completed over one or two sessions of 1–3 hours. The evaluation includes both self-report and projective measures.

Self-report measures consist of questionnaires and structured interviews that inquire about specific aspects of psychological functioning, including patterns of emotions, behaviors, social interactions, experiences, and beliefs. Responses to questionnaires are scored and compare the individual to his or her peers in terms of their levels of symptoms and/or strengths. Interview responses are often analyzed to determine if an individual meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition.

Projective measures are different, in that they assess an individual’s response to ambiguous stimuli (e.g., ink blots or pictures). The individual’s pattern of responding may be analyzed for thematic content, and/or compared to a sample of his or her peers to make hypotheses about the person’s emotional functioning, as well as deeper conflicts, and even subconscious processes.

Examples of measures used in social/emotional evaluations are the MMPI-3 or MMPI-RF, MCMI-IV, MACI-II, PAI, SCID-5, BDI-II, BAI, BYI-II, RCACDS, SADS, TSI-2, STAXI-II, BRIEF-II or BRIEF-A, EDI-3, Y-BOCS, VOCI, Rorschach Technique, TAT, and Sentence Completion Test, among others.

What is included in the report?

Results are analyzed and summarized in a report which is presented in a comprehensive feedback session. The report and feedback session are designed to help clarify potential diagnoses, and, perhaps more importantly, to provide a broad understanding of the client’s functioning across domains.

Thus, information is relayed related to an individual’s psychological strengths and resources, coping styles, perception of experiences, reality testing ability, thinking style, behavioral regulation, emotional processing, self-perception, and interpersonal functioning. Common processes that may underlie various diagnoses are discussed.

Finally, targeted recommendations are presented to help the client in their personal, social, occupational, and/or academic life. Suggestions for ongoing treatment (e.g., therapy or psychiatric medication) are also presented. If requested, the final report can be forwarded to an individual’s therapist or psychiatrist to facilitate treatment.

Do I need a referral?

No referrals are required for social/emotional evaluations, though they often result from the recommendation of a health or mental health provider, teacher, educator, or family member. Individuals may also self-refer. 

Social/emotional assessments are often done alongside neuropsychological testing to rule out possible alternative diagnoses, such as depression.

Are these types of assessments covered by insurance?

Insurance companies may reimburse for a part or most of the evaluation, though this varies by plan. Clients are always encouraged to check with their insurance before scheduling and inquire about benefits and rates of reimbursement.

Preauthorization, if required, can be arranged.