A social/emotional assessment provides insight into an individual’s patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving. It 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 and shed light on the nature and expression of psychological symptoms. They may also explore the impact of trauma or negative life experiences on 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 adults 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 provide a measure and framework for understanding an 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 targeting 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 may be conducted with others who are familiar with the person being tested (e.g., spouses, teachers, therapists).

The testing itself is completed over one or two sessions of 1–3 hours. The evaluation may include self-report and/ or 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 combined to derive scores that are compared to age-matched peers; these scores provide a way of quantifying symptoms. Interview responses are also 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 respondent’s pattern of responding is analyzed for thematic content and compared to a sample of age-matched 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 individual’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 or posttraumatic stress disorder.

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.