Four Winds Hospitals

News & Blogs

Psychological Testing Part 1: What is it?

David Pogge, Ph.D., Director of Psychology, Research and Training, Four Winds Westchester

While all of the other areas of medicine draw on fantastic new technologies to look into the human body and determine what is wrong and how best to address it, mental health practitioners rely almost exclusively on conversation as their primary assessment tool.  Whether it is called an interview, therapy session, or mental status examination, the verbal exchange between clinician and patient is the primary basis for diagnosis and treatment planning.  Often this is sufficient.  However, when things are less clear, the individual cannot easily describe the problem, or a greater degree of precision is required, mental health professionals can turn to psychological testing to provide critical information.

Psychological tests are tools developed to measure mental abilities, personality traits, current states, and symptoms.  This information can then be used to establish a diagnosis and provide a formulation, or integrated understanding, of an individual’s problems.  For example, two people may be equally depressed, but the differences in their personalities and mental abilities may be critical to understanding why each is depressed and how best to help them.

While there are many psychological tests that measure a wide array of psychological attributes, all are defined by a few specific characteristics.  First, and most importantly, they are standardized.  The questions or tasks are always presented in the same way; the person’s performance is always captured in the same way; and there are rules for turning their performance into a score.  No matter who gives the test, it is always given and scored the same way.  

Second, the value of a test score is determined by comparing it to appropriate norms.  For example, a 7 year old child’s performance on a test of attention is compared to the average of a large sample of 7 year olds to determine if it is better, worse, or the same as that of most 7 year olds.  

Third, a test must be validated before it can be used.  Studies are conducted to determine if the test score predicts the things it should predict and correlates with the things it should correlate with.  For example, a test of intelligence should correlate with grades in school, SAT scores, choice of career, etc.  A test can only be used in clinical assessment if there is sufficient evidence that it works as it should; and even after it becomes available psychologists continue to gather data to learn more about its strengths and limitations.  

Tools that are standardized, have appropriate norms, and have been adequately validated can be called psychological tests.  These critical properties offset many of the subjective and idiosyncratic qualities that can affect clinical interviews and provide quantitative information about intellectual abilities, cognitive processes, personality traits, and current problems and symptoms.  They make it possible to collect this information in a relative short amount of time.  In this way, psychological testing allows for a better understanding of the problems that people have, and of the people that have these problems.

We Are Here To Help

Four Winds Hospitals are committed to serving our patients. Please know that, as always, the health and safety of our patients and staff is our highest priority as we continue to provide treatment during this time of crisis. We are continuing to accept inpatient referrals for children, adolescents and adults and invite you to call our Admissions Office directly at 
1-800-528-6624 or
, select prompt "1" to be connected. 

We have implemented measures for the protection 
of those on our campus in response to the Covid-19 crisis, following the directions of 
both the CDC and  DOH, and our own protocols. As we remain committed to providing the very best in mental health care, please let us know if we can help.

Four Winds Blog/Newsletter Articles


January 2022

February 2022

March 2022

April 2022

May 2022

June 2022

July 2022

August 2022

September 2022

October 2022

November 2022


From Our Experts

Mental Health Topics Discussed
by Members of Our Expert Staff

June 2018

November 2017

October 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017






Four Winds Westchester

800 Cross River Road
Katonah, NY  10536

Phone: 914-763-8151
Toll-Free: 1-800-528-6624