This week’s blog was contributed by Nikel Rogers-Wood, PhD, LP, HSP. Dr. Rogers-Wood is a licensed psychologist and a project director at PAR. She has a PhD in counseling psychology. “I’ve been feeling really anxious, my heart races, and I can’t concentrate. I already know I have generalized anxiety disorder because I watched a bunch of TikToks and took a quiz online that came back with a diagnosis.” Sound familiar? Social media, particularly TikTok, is a place where clients and potential clients sometimes go to find answers to their mental health questions . Though it's encouraging to see more social acceptance and support for mental health challenges, there are so many influencers out there that it can be difficult to know who has professional expertise and what information is accurate. Further complicating the situation are online quizzes. Type “Do I have depression?” into Google and get pages of results. Many of these quizzes also show up as ads and links embedded in social media feeds. What differentiates these free social media quizzes from well-researched and empirically validated tests? A great deal. Can the general public tell the difference? Not yet. That’s where PAR can help. As one of our assessment customers, you already know the value of an accurate evaluation. After all, quality assessment results in accurate diagnosis, which drives effective treatment and positive client outcomes. That’s why it’s so important for clients to seek testing and support from qualified professionals. So how do you help someone who has self-diagnosed find their way to more accurate and helpful information? Why validity and reliability matter The first step is to validate what they’re seeking—answers. Something is happening in their lives that has driven them to find the answer on the internet. However, much like it's hard to find the right street when your GPS is programmed to another part of the country, it’s hard to find answers when you take a quiz that isn’t reliable or valid. It’s important to educate our communities so they realize that building a good assessment measure goes beyond choosing questions to ask. They need to know that researchers and test publishers devote time and energy into determining whether individual items (and the test as a whole) measure what they are supposed to measure; if there are differences in outcomes based on demographic factors like age, sex, and race/ethnicity; if the results can be trusted to be reliable; and how the results fit in with diagnoses. Although it may be tempting to take a free quiz that pops up on our social media feed, when it comes to our mental health, wouldn’t it be better to find a resource that will give us accurate results? PAR provides a wide variety of high-quality assessments that have been well built, validated, and thoroughly researched. We also offer our products in performance-based and self-report formats. For individuals who prefer a self-serve style of assessment, the Self-Directed Search asks questions about career interests and preferences and produces a thorough, client-friendly report with results and guidance on next steps. When a deeper dive is necessary, individuals can collaborate with a licensed professional and use an instrument like the PAI for answers. The difference between unvalidated quizzes and validated assessment measures is the difference between cookies and a real meal. Can you eat either one when you’re hungry? Sure. However, the cookies only take the edge off hunger and your nourishment can’t be based on cookies alone. At PAR, we offer the five food groups. Snacks aren’t going anywhere, but when you want to get what you really need, come to us.