This week’s blog was contributed by Sierra Iwanicki, PhD. Sierra is a clinical psychologist and project director in the research and development department at PAR.
In the mid-20th century, humanistic psychology emerged in direct response to perceived limitations of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Contrary to those earlier theories, humanism focused on the individual as a whole person, with the cardinal belief that perceived experiences fundamentally shaped us as human beings. In the 1940s and 1950s, clinicians began to encourage the collaborative use of projective instruments (e.g., drawings, Rorschach, TAT) to develop insight with clients.
A few decades later, clinicians began to write about the use of psychological assessment within a humanistic frame. Ray A. Craddick criticized the approach of treating a “person primarily as a series of building blocks of traits, factors, habits, etc. [calling] the separation of man into parts…antithetical to both the humanistic tradition and to personality assessment.” Drawing from a phenomenological perspective, researchers like Constance Fischer first wrote about the “testee as a co-evaluator,” and later articulated a model of collaborative, individualized psychological assessment. In subsequent years, clinicians continued to write about the therapeutic benefits and collaborative approaches of assessment.
In 1993, Stephen Finn coined the term therapeutic assessment to describe a semi-structured, systemized method for using assessment in a collaborative, therapeutic fashion. Since then, he and psychologists like Constance Fischer and others have promoted collaborative methods to conduct assessments.
According to Finn and colleagues, defining elements of collaborative and therapeutic assessment include:
• Having respect for clients (e.g., providing them with comprehensible feedback)
• Taking a relational view of psychological assessment (e.g., acknowledging the vulnerability of clients in the assessment situation)
• Maintaining a stance of compassion and curiosity rather than judgment and classification (e.g., fully understanding clients in all their complexity, not just summarizing them in terms)
• Having a desire to help clients directly (e.g., not just providing helpful information to other stakeholders)
• Taking a special view of tests (e.g., viewing tests as tools and results as ways to understand and help clients)
• Staying flexible (e.g., conducting a home visit as part of an assessment)
Fast forward to 2021: A multidisciplinary database search yielded more than 4,000 peer-reviewed journal articles related to psychological assessment as a therapeutic intervention, therapeutic assessment, or collaborative assessment. However, Kamphuis et al. note that the treatment utility of assessment has long been controversial, stipulating a broader view of relevant outcome metrics, more powerful research designs, and use of stepped assessment, taking into account the complexity of the patient’s psychopathology. Nevertheless, there is consensus that therapeutic assessment tends to yield more useful psychological assessment data as well as increase the effectiveness of assessment feedback.
In fact, a meta-analysis found the therapeutic benefits of individualized feedback following psychological assessment yielded a notable effect size of .42. More recently, a meta-analysis compared well-defined therapeutic assessment compared to other forms of intervention and showed three areas where it was superior: 1) decreasing symptoms (effect size .34), 2) increasing self-esteem (effect size .37), and 3) fostering therapeutic alliance and engagement and satisfaction with treatment (effect size .46). Overall,
research has shown that collaborative and therapeutic assessment is effective for adults, couples, children, adolescents, and families. According to the Therapeutic Assessment Institute, more than 35 studies have demonstrated that collaborative/therapeutic assessment is generally effective at improving outcomes for a wide range of clients with diverse clinical problems across various settings.
The Therapeutic Assessment Institute was formed in 2009 to promote and coordinate training in Therapeutic Assessment. Learn more.
This week’s blog was contributed by Maegan Sady, PhD, ABPP-CN. Maegan is a project director in PAR’s research and development department in addition to being a licensed psychologist and board-certified neuropsychologist. She worked as a pediatric neuropsychologist for nearly a decade before joining PAR.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for flexibility in assessment is here to stay. The only way to begin to combat socioeconomic and technological disparities is to offer more options, but how do we do it? Several themes on flexible assessment have emerged from what we learned during the pandemic, and PAR is ready to help.
Many psychologists have adopted a hybrid, in-person/telehealth assessment model, necessitating careful deliberation over personal and professional implications. Which tests can be given remotely, and what evidence is needed to make that decision? Which clients are a good fit for teleassessment? Which tests can be given while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)? If we sit six feet away from our client, how do we indicate where to start on the response page? How do we assess patients who cannot travel and do not have high-speed internet? In essence, how can we answer every referral question without compromising our ethical obligations to our tests, our patients, and each other?
Thankfully, timely guidelines emerged from the American Psychological Association; the Inter Organizational Practice Committee, which focuses on neuropsychology; and a new book, Essentials of Psychological Tele-Assessment. More recently, journal articles are beginning to present viable models for teleassessment and hybrid practice, both generally and for special populations (e.g., older adults, pediatric medical patients, historically underserved populations). Evidence is building that testing remotely or with PPE can be valid for many tests and within many populations. A few articles even address the impact of teleassessment on trainees, with recommendations for supervisors.
Digital tools are more flexible
Whether you’re testing someone face-to-face, from the next room, or fully remotely, electronic materials make life easier. Digital versions of more than 150 test manuals allow you to access administration and normative information from your home office and clinic any day of the week. Digital stimulus books, available for some of PAR’s most popular tests, allow you to cut back on the number of items you’re transporting and cleaning. They also make it easier to switch to a new test in the moment. To provide full remote administration options, we modified or specially designed eight performance-based tests for remote administration, and indirect evidence supports the remote utility of multiple others.
To use these tools most effectively, you can find white papers and video demonstrations for digital and remote administration on our website. Our digital materials do not confine you to a single device type, and our E-stimulus books do not require Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Screening as a model of care
With longer waitlists, pressure to assess more patients in less time, and more complex presenting problems, screening approaches are becoming more valuable. Screening can assist with triage, and doing so within a telehealth format has been shown to reduce wait times, increase satisfaction, and lead to more timely intervention and referral. Questionnaire-only assessment can be an efficient way to make treatment recommendations for patients with primarily emotional or behavioral concerns. More than 60 rating scales are available on PARiConnect as well as in print, meaning this evaluation approach can save time whether it’s executed remotely or in-person.
Screening in the context of a full evaluation allows you to cover more domains in less time. With 15 screeners/short forms of rating scales available on PARiConnect and several more in print, you can quickly add a measure of suicide risk, substance abuse, trauma, or depression to your battery. You can also use one of our performance-based screening tests to efficiently determine whether mental status, intellectual ability, or academic performance requires a closer look.
New presenting problems
In addition to new formats, testing is also changing in terms of content. Psychologists know all too well that the past two years have magnified or introduced multiple forms of stress and trauma, including anxiety, grief, effects of systemic racism, and food and housing insecurity. As a result, experiences of PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and parenting stress have increased. Adding a few extra measures to your test library is a good way to ensure you’re able to assess for a wide range of presenting issues.
With new procedures come new potential threats to validity. Practitioners must consider the integrity of testing remotely, in PPE, and under the general stress of a pandemic, in addition to more traditional considerations around effort and applicability of tests. There are creative ways to mitigate these threats, and we must document our efforts in our reports, citing limitations in interpretation where necessary.
Poised for success
In spite of challenges, psychologists have persisted. Testing settings are fluid, clinical conclusions have more caveats, and the list of areas for future research is longer than ever—but patients continue to depend on you. We have our work cut out for us, but together we can make psychological assessment more accessible, meaningful, and innovative.
Learn more about our digital assessment options.
May is when Americans recognize the service and sacrifice members of the military and their families have made—and continue to make—for their country.
Introduced by Senator John McCain and designated by Congress in 1999, Military Appreciation Month provides opportunities for Americans to honor and remember those who serve and have served—and recognize and thank those who support them.
2022 observations include:
May 1: Loyalty Day is a time to reflect on American heritage
May 6: Military Spouse Appreciation Day pays tribute to the partners who support service members
May 13: Children of Fallen Patriots Day raises awareness of the struggles facing children of fallen service members
May 21: Armed Forces Day honors those in all branches who are currently serving
May 30: Memorial Day provides a time to pause and remember the service members who sacrificed their futures to ensure ours
May is also Month of the Military Caregiver, which recognizes the people who care for more than two million veterans.
During the month of May, many organizations give back to those who are active military or have previously served. Here is a list of businesses that are offering Military Appreciation Month discounts.
Families, caregivers, active servicemembers, veterans, and retirees face unique circumstances that may require your assistance, and PAR has developed a range of products to help you meet these needs, including the DAPS, the PSS, and the TSI-2 (to assess symptoms of PTSD); the PAS, the PAS-O, and PAI (to evaluate for a broad range of symptoms, including anxiety and depression); and the SDS (to assist veterans with postmilitary careers).
According to Mental Health America, 60.3% of youth in the U.S. with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. In the 2022 report, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona had the highest prevalence of mental illness and lowest rates of access to care. Curious how your state ranks in comparison? You can access the youth data chart here.
As a PAR customer, you know the crucial role mental health plays in the development of children. It’s in that spirit that we recognize National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on Saturday, May 7.
Started by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) more than a decade ago, the purpose of the event is to highlight the importance of the mental health needs of children and reinforce the concept that mental health is a key element in a child’s development.
How is this accomplished? Nationwide, more than 1,100 communities and 170 organizations get involved by taking part in community and virtual events, health fairs, youth-oriented educational programs, and social media interactions.
Children will always need help with various challenges, including behavioral, mental, social–emotional, interpersonal, adjustment, and learning difficulties. Visit the PAR school resources page to learn more about our most popular assessments and tools.
Since 1970, the U.S. has had 1,316 school shootings—18% of which occurred after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012. In almost every case, the shooter exhibited warning signs beforehand. And in four out of five cases, at least one other person knew about the plan but did nothing to stop it.
The Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Promise Club, a student-led initiative of Sandy Hook Promise, works year-round to enact change by educating and empowering youth, engaging communities through prevention efforts, and empowering hope through positive peer influences.
One of those programs is National Youth Violence Prevention Week (NYVPW), an annual effort that brings students, parents, educators, business leaders, and more together to raise awareness about youth violence and get communities involved in making schools and neighborhoods safer.
Observed April 25 to 29 this year, NYVPW encourages businesses, government, media outlets, schools, and community organizations, along with parents, teachers, and youth, to get involved and take a stand against violence.
A free Youth Leader Action Kit provides inspiration and ideas for a week of activities that inspire others to educate and inform, encourage respect and inclusion, empathize and connect, empower change, and more.
When educators. clinicians, and school psychologists have questions about risk of violence in children and adolescents, PAR tools help them find answers. The Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY), the Psychosocial Evaluation & Threat Risk Assessment (PETRA), and the Adolescent Psychopathology Scale (APS) provide information about a range of concerns to help inform follow-up and intervention—and ultimately help prevent violence.
One of PAR’s core values is to give back to the community—and we’ve started 2022 off with plenty of activities that help the causes we support in our area. Here are some highlights:
January: Several PAR staff members joined forces with Feeding Tampa Bay to support their Mega-Pantry program. Held several times per week in various locations around Tampa, the Mega-Pantry distributes fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, dry goods, and more in a drive-through-style event to those in our community who are experiencing food insecurity. The beautiful weather provided an ideal backdrop as PAR staff members sorted food and loaded hundreds of cars with enough food to feed each family for a week.
Feeding Tampa Bay is dedicated to eradicating hunger in the Tampa Bay region by 2025. For more information, visit Feeding Tampa Bay.
February: The PARty Animals took home first place at this year’s Bark in the Park, an annual fundraiser for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB). One of PAR’s most popular staff events, it combines our mission of giving back with our love of animals. Between holding neighborhood walks and running a robust fundraising campaign, we raised an all-time record of more than $11,000. The event raised nearly $160,00 overall, surpassing this year’s HSTB goal and providing much-needed funds that will be used to help house, heal, and feed hundreds of animals in the Tampa Bay area.
April: PAR staff participated in United Way Suncoast’s annual Week of Caring. This year, we worked with MacDonald Training Center, an organization that supports people with disabilities via training, vocational opportunities, life enrichment opportunities, and residential help.
To support this organization, staff members participated in MacDonald Training Center’s Bead Recycling Program. We sorted donated Gasparilla beads—about 7,000 in all!—to make new bundles that will be resold to pirates participating in next year’s parade—with all proceeds going to the center.
Learn more about MacDonald Training Center and the comprehensive services it provides to people with disabilities at macdonaldcenter.org.
We are so grateful to be able to give back to our community with our time, energy, and resources. To learn more about what we are doing to make a difference in the Tampa Bay Area, visit our Community PARtners page.
This week’s blog was contributed by Melissa Milanak, PhD, PAR’s clinical assessment advisor–national accounts. Melissa is a licensed clinical psychologist and internationally recognized academic. She has extensive clinical experience providing therapy and conducting assessments with a diverse array of patient populations.
It comes as no surprise we’ve seen a steady increase in mental and behavioral health concerns as our society continues to face challenges resulting from a global pandemic and ongoing social justice issues. This leaves many mental health providers questioning what they can do to positively impact those affected by this mental health crisis. Some patients and clients will have a clear presentation of symptoms and diagnosis. Many others may underreport, not realize there is any concern, or simply be on a slow decline, where small decreases in functioning go undetected over a prolonged period. This is compounded in those who have been isolated (whether they live alone or recently lost a companion), meaning they lack an accountability partner or someone to notice potentially harmful changes in mindset and behavior.
As these stressors persist, even the most resilient individuals are showing an increase in burnout and fatigue, a decrease in healthy behaviors like prioritizing quality sleep, and more frequent reliance on unhealthy coping strategies like an extra drink after work to try to unwind or induce sleepiness.
As individuals’ anxiety goes up, their mood goes down—and unhealthy ways of coping (such as drinking) increase. This in turn impacts and reduces the restorative abilities of sleep and can impair psychological factors such as memory, focus, concentration, and physical recovery. This cycle perpetuates as patients and clients feel more exhausted but continue to struggle to achieve relaxation and sleep.
Mental health providers need support in their efforts to stay connected with patients and clients. You may need to track mood and anxiety levels to detect early signs of symptoms, to allow for preventive strategies and interventions, and to provide ongoing progress monitoring.
To assist you in these efforts, PAR recently launched a new assessment product line, ChecKIT. With ChecKIT, you can quickly and regularly send industry gold-standard assessment measures for mood (Patient Health QUenstionnaire-9 [PHQ-9]), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD-7]), alcohol dependence (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test [MAST]), and depression (Geriatric Depression Scale–Short Form [GDS-SF]) to clients through a secure, HIPAA-compliant link. Tests are easy to complete, even on a mobile phone.
Though collecting qualitative reports from patients and clients is incredibly valuable, ChecKIT solutions augment provider sessions, allowing for more frequent monitoring. This enables you to effectively and efficiently identify which patients and clients may need follow-up sooner and to identify a disconnect between subjective experience and reporting and assessment scores.
Learn more about ChecKIT today!
Looking for additional mental health resources? Visit our mental health resources page.
April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time to not only recognize, but to open up and accept individuals with autism.
Up until last year, this had been referred to as Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society of America suggested by the name change to encourage people to move beyond awareness and into acceptance of those affected by autism. This change in mindset can help drive positive changes for individuals and families affected by autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism. More than 7 million people in the U. S. are on the autism spectrum across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. There is a growing need for first responder training and employer advocacy programs. For more information regarding these and other types of autism support, please visit the Autism Society.
If you’re treating a child you suspect may have ASD or another developmental disorder, remember that PAR has products to assist you, such as the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™), the PDDBI-Screening Version, and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF2).
There are additional free resources on the PAR Training Portal for those who specialize in assessing and treating autism or other learning disorders. Located under the Achievement/Development header, you can find a recorded webinar on how to use the PDD Behavior Inventory (PDDBI) on PARiConnect as well as an interactive course on the PDDBI family of products.
Executive functions are brain-based abilities that help people control or manage behaviors, feelings, and thoughts. They are critical for supporting learning and success in school (and later, in life) and influence social, emotional, behavioral, and daily living skills.
Injury, poverty, disabilities, mental health diagnoses, trauma, stressful events, and more can affect the executive functions. Knowing more about if and how a child or adolescent struggles with their executive function helps professionals put supports into place that will help them succeed.
The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function, Second Edition (BRIEF2) is the gold-standard rating scale for executive function testing. It provides the information professionals need to make informed and impactful intervention and accommodation recommendations.
Two new BRIEF2 reports on PARiConnect help professionals—and parents and teachers—get that information more efficiently.
The new BRIEF2 Score Report includes a summary of BRIEF2 scores, including an optional ADHD profile; the updated Interpretive Report features scores and detailed interpretive text for BRIEF2 clinical scale, index, and composite scores as well as intervention recommendations and optional ADHD scores and interpretation and a DSM-5 ADHD Symptom Checklist—now together in one comprehensive report!
The new BRIEF2 Interventions Handouts, developed by the test authors and designed for students, parents, and teachers, provide detailed information, evidence-based supports, and helpful resources to improve and reinforce student executive functioning.
To learn more about the BRIEF2, visit parinc.com/BRIEF2
This week’s blog was contributed by Theo Miron, PsyS. Theo is a licensed specialist in school psychology and a nationally certified school psychologist. He spent nearly 18 years providing psychological services to public school students in Minnesota, Arizona, and Texas.
School psychologists in the U.S. report that completing student assessments is the task they perform most frequently. These psychoeducational and psychological tests are based on the basic principles of measurement theory, standardized testing, and normal distributions. Practitioners receive extensive training in measurement theory—maybe even to the extent that their dreams are filled with visions of the normal or bell curve.
The normal curve is a fundamental concept psychologists use to help measure and explain student performance; that is, how a student functions in comparison to other children of the same age or grade level. We psychologists love to throw around the numbers associated with standard scores, percentile ranks, T scores, and scaled scores, knowing our fellow psychologists and well-versed teachers will know exactly what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, though, measurement theory is a relatively obscure field, so this type of language may puzzle parents, students, and clients.
During my first few years as a school psychologist, I struggled to find an effective way to explain these types of results. As a visual learner, I thought adding visual aids to my results meetings might help explain the information more clearly. So one year, I harnessed my inner artist and drew a nice normal curve with standard deviations clearly marked out. I then headed to the copy machine and generated a hundred more. During results meetings, I’d break out my box of colored markers and a ruler and start mapping out the standard scores from the different tests I had given, with the normal curve as the back drop. Once done, I’d have a few marked-up normal curves for each measure the student had taken.
Using these visual aids during results meetings helped both parents and teachers start to understand what the different scores meant. Not only did I receive some nice compliments on my “art projects,” but I also started noticing that more parents had questions and comments about the results. One parent explained she’d sat through several of these types of meetings over the years, but mine was the first one where she completely understood what the scores meant and how her child compared to other students his age.
These days, you can keep your art supplies in your drawer. Simply log on to PARiConnect, our online assessment platform, scroll to the Quick Links section in the bottom right corner, and click Interactive Bell Curve.
This new interactive tool allows you to enter relevant student data, and then add scores for up to three different tests on the same normal curve. You can enter the name of the specific assessment, the type of score you’d like to report (standard, scale, T score, or percentile), and up to 10 index or subtest raw scores. The system plots each score across the normal curve using vertical lines color-coded to the specific tests entered. When finished, you have a few options to explain results to parents, teachers, and clients: present “as is” on-screen, print out a paper copy, or print to a PDF file that can be presented (and shared) digitally.
The interactive bell curve is a free feature available to every PARiConnect user, and it can be used for any test on the market—not just those published by PAR. So put those markers away, log on to PARiConnect, and try it out yourself.
Interested in or have questions about other assessment products for schools? Visit our school resources page.