Use of Assessment Tests in Residential Treatment


By Leslie Davis

When being admitted to residential treatment for addiction, it is common to undergo a series of assessment tests that help determine if you are depressed, hopeless or suicidal. This helps to ensure your safety and to get you stabilized before your recovery can begin.

During your time in treatment, the doctor may order you to undergo certain other tests that can help confirm your diagnosis and help better tailor treatment to your needs. Those tests include the following:

  • A personality test to diagnose major psychiatric conditions and personality styles. This is the most common test, and it can help diagnose disorders such as mental illness, substance-related disorders, anxiety and mood disorders, eating disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • A cognitive test to determine your cognitive ability to benefit from treatment and determine your strengths and weaknesses. This tests looks at your capacity for memory, reasoning, concentration, attention, reaction time and spatial processing.
  • An intelligence test to determine your intellectual ability, which also helps determine your strengths and weaknesses for treatment purposes.
  • A vocational assessment to help you determine your areas of aptitude and interest when deciding what career to pursue, or if you are considering an occupational change.
  • Standardized testing to identify the existence of specific disorders (such as eating disorders, dissociative disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and to determine how severe they are.

Other tests may include brain mapping, screening for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, educational needs assessment, speech testing and a learning disorders assessment.

How Assessment Tests Work

Assessment tests are given at the discretion of your treating doctor. Your doctor may have a question that assessment tests can answer, or there may be a diagnosis from your past that your doctor wants to confirm. The tests can also be given upon your request if you are interested in finding out more about any conditions you may be dealing with.

Once a test is ordered, you will be oriented to how the test works and how it will be administered. Some tests are administered by staff at the treatment center, while others are done at your discretion. The assessments are either interactive or standard pencil and paper tests, depending on what is being tested. A test can last anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours or more.

Once you have completed an assessment test, you will receive the results of the test and any necessary feedback. The results are then reported to your treatment team, which is generally made up of a primary therapist and primary medical provider, along with treatment recommendations.

Benefits of Assessment Tests

The assessment tests will help your treating therapist determine which treatment modalities will work best for you, based on your diagnosis, strengths and weaknesses. They can also identify areas where you may need accommodations or special help (for example, you may respond better to therapies that involve activities rather than talking).

One of the greatest benefits of the assessment tests is that they can help the medical staff be more certain about your diagnosis. That way you will receive the individualized treatment plan that will work best for you during your recovery.

Patients generally like assessment tests because they provide insight into their personality and how it interacts with their disorder. They often enjoy learning about themselves, and find that this results in a more meaningful recovery experience.

When Assessment Tests are Given

After the initial assessments given at admission to a residential treatment center, the time when follow up testing is done likely depends on the center itself.

Some residential treatment programs, such as Sierra Tucson in Arizona, wait until a patient it settled into the center and adjusted to a new setting before ordering any additional tests. That allows patients to be less distracted by outside influences and more focused on testing, yielding better results.

At an adolescent residential treatment facility such as The Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment, patients undergo a full battery of in-house evaluation and assessment testing over many weeks. Every patient at The Aspen Institute is given a full psychiatric assessment, IQ test, personality test, and psychosocial and achievement tests, among other tests. Once the first batch of testing is done, additional assessment tests may be ordered.

Whenever they are used in treatment, assessment tests provide both patients and treating staff members with valuable insights into diagnoses and treatment plans, resulting in a more beneficial recovery.

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