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Therapist and client experience of collaborative psychological assessment: A qualitative study

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: John V Danna
Abstract:
Within the field of assessment psychology, only recently have efforts been made to study the potentially therapeutic benefits of increasing the involvement of client participation in the assessment process. Little attention has been paid to the experiential aspects of this style of assessment from both therapist and client perspectives during the assessment and discussion sessions. Gaining insight into these experiences in order to better inform and enhance the practice of a collaborative and therapeutic style of psychological assessment is the primary focus of this research project. This study's methodology draws from qualitative methods used previously to study the process of both assessment and psychotherapy. The analysis focused on the accounts provided by psychological assessors and assessment clients regarding their experiences during collaborative assessment. Nine individuals (five clients and four therapists) provided written descriptions of their assessment experience and participated in individual audio-taped interviews during which we watched video tape selections of their assessment and discussed those video segments along with segments from their written descriptions. These interviews were then transcribed and interpreted by means of qualitative methodology. The analysis yielded thematic experiences for both clients and therapists that were grouped into larger general experiential categories--three for clients and four for therapists. Clients and therapists share three of these general experiential categories: finding assessment experiences to be helpful or enjoyable, finding assessment experiences to be difficult or unpleasant, and descriptions of the assessment process. The additional experiential category for therapists explores the effect that the extent of one's practice conducting assessments can have on his or her experience of it. The dissertation provides insight into what it is like to experience a collaborative assessment as either a therapist or client, give suggestions for therapists regarding approaches they use during a collaborative assessment that can make it more fruitful and enjoyable for both participants, and make interesting comparisons to other research on this type of psychological assessment.

Table of Contents Page Abstract………………………………………………………………………………..….iv Dedication……………………………………………………………………………...…vi Acknowledgement……………………………………………………………………….vii List of Tables…………………………………………………………..……………..….xii List of Appendixes…………………………………………………..……………….….xiv List of Abbreviations……………………………………………..……………………..xvi CHAPTER ONE: Introduction………..……………………………………………………..………………..1 Historical and Theoretical Foundations…………………………………………...3 Portrait of Individualized Assessment…………………………………………….5 Research Question……………………………………………………………….14 Review of Research Literature…………………………………………………...15 CHAPTER TWO: Methods and Procedures...…………………………………………...27 Theoretical Foundations of Method……………………………………………...28 Research Method………………………………………………………………...32 Participants……………………………………………………….………34 Data Collection…………………………………………………………..37 Method of Analysis………………………………………………………………41 Giorgi‘s Method………………………………………………………….41 Marshall and Rossman‘s Method………………………………………...45 Grounded Theory………………………………………………………...47

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CHAPTER THREE: Results…………………………………………………………….51 Introduction to the Results………………..………………………….…………..52 Client Experiences……………………………………………………….………53 As Helpful or Enjoyable…………………………………………………54 Contextualizing……………………………………….………….55 Okay Receiving Discordant Feedback……………………...……57 Finding Discordant Feedback to be Helpful……………..59 Creating Useful Themes and Metaphors…………………………62 The ―Humanness‖ of the Therapist………………………………65 An Exciting and Promising Catalyst for Psychotherapy…..……..67 Increasing Comfort, Involvement, and Empowerment…………..70 Comforting Explanations……………………...…………………72 Fun and Enjoyable Aspects………………………………………74 Skepticism Transforming into Appreciation……….…………….75 As Difficult or Unpleasant……………………………………………….77 Difficulty with Discordant Feedback…………………………….78 Discomforting Explanations……………………………………..80 Feeling that Talking is as Productive as Assessment…….………81 Questioning and Mistrusting Assessment………………………..83 Client Descriptions of the Assessment Process……….…………………85 Protective and Guarded Feelings……………….………………..86 The Desire to Open Up…………………………………………..88 Preferring ―Projective‖ Tests to ―Objective‖ Tests……….……..89

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Emotionally Evocative…………………….……………………..91 Therapist Experiences…………………………………………………………....96 Increased Experience and Comfort with Collaborative Assessment, or Lack Thereof………………………...………………………………..….97 Lack of Experience may Increase Difficulty and Discomfort...…98 Increased Experience may Increase Comfort and Effectiveness……………………………………………………100 As Helpful or Enjoyable………………………………..………………103 Enjoying the Flexibility…………………………...…...……….104 Contextualizing…………………………………….…...………106 Discordant Feedback can be Helpful and Productive…..………110 A Catalyst for Psychotherapy…………………………………..112 Preparing the Client for Therapy……………………….115 Relationship Dynamics and Rapport Building…...…….116 Creating Themes and Metaphors Early On……………….…….119 Allowing Space to Respond and Disagree………...……………123 Increasing Comfort and Involvement…………………………..127 Skepticism Transforming into Appreciation……….…………...129 Enjoyment and Appreciation of the Process……………………131 As Difficult or Unpleasant……………………………..……………….134 Difficulty Giving Discordant Feedback……………….………..134 Much to Manage, Remember, and Tend To……………...…….137 Concerns that the Assessment may be an Interruption………....140

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Therapist Descriptions of the Assessment Process………………..……143 Using Discordant Feedback to Challenge Clients……...………145 Some Tests can be More Collaborative than Others……………146 Offering a ―Snapshot‖…………………………………………..148 Offering Alternative Interpretations based on Collaboration…..150 Setting the Frame with Explanation…………………………….152 Assessment Resembling Therapy………………………………154 Therapist Impressed by Client………………………………….157 Therapist Collaborates during Test Administration….…………159 Tailoring the Assessment to the Client…………………...…….161 Comparable Experiences of Clients and Therapists.…………………..……….162 Contextualizing…………………………………………………………164 Dealing with Discordant Feedback……………………………………..165 Allowing Space for Guardedness and Opening Up…………………….166 Preferring ―Projective‖ Tests to ―Objective‖ Tests…………...………..167 Creating Themes and Metaphors………………….……………………168 A Catalyst for Psychotherapy…………………………………………..169 Increasing Comfort, Involvement, and Empowerment…………………171 Setting the Frame with Explanations and Reactions to that Process…...171 Fun and Enjoyable Aspects………………….………………………….173 Skepticism Transforming into Appreciation………………...………….173 Concerns that Compare Assessment to Psychotherapy……...…………174 CHAPTER FOUR: Discussion and Reflections on this Research Project.….…………177

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The Importance of Reflexivity………………………………………………….178 Validity Considerations…………………………………………...……………184 Comparisons with Other Research……………..……………………………….187 Hilsenroth and Cromer…………………………………….……………188 Holm-Denoma..…………………………………………………………193 Ward…………………………………………………………………….195 Goicoechea……………………………………………...………………205 Implications of this Study for the Practice of Collaborative Assessment....……209 Limitations and Considerations for Continued Research on Collaborative Assessment……………………………………………………………..……….213 References………………………………………………………………………216

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List of Tables

Table 2.1: Flowchart of Method…………………………………………..……………..32

Table 2.2: Demographic Information about Participants……………………….………..36

Table 3.1: Client Experiences……………………………………………………...…….53

Table 3.2: Client Experiences as Helpful or Enjoyable...………………………………..54

Table 3.3: Client Experiences as Difficult or Unpleasant…………………………..……77

Table 3.4: Client Descriptions of the Assessment Process………………...…….………85

Table 3.5: Therapist Experiences………………………………………………….……..96

Table 3.6: Therapist Experiences as Increased Experience and Comfort with Collaborative Assessment, or Lack Thereof……………….……………………….……97

Table 3.7: Therapist Experiences as Helpful or Enjoyable………………..……………103

Table 3.8: Therapist Experiences as Difficult or Unpleasant………………..…………134

Table 3.9: Therapist Descriptions of the Assessment Process……………....………….143

Table 3.10: Comparable Experiences of Clients and Therapists…………..……….…..163

Table 4.1: Comparisons with Hilsenroth and Cromer…..……..……………………….189

Table 4.2: Comparisons with Ward………………………....………………………….196

Table 4.3: Comparisons with Goicoechea………………………………...……………206

Table 4.4: Implications for the Practice of Collaborative Assessment…………………210

Table 4.5: What Clients May Expect to Experience in Collaborative Assessment…….213

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List of Appendixes Appendixes A: Forms and Paperwork…………….……………………………………223 Appendix A1: Consent Form……………………………………...……………224 Appendix A2: Solicitation Letter………………………………………………226 Appendixes B: Textual Documentation of Identified Experiences…………………….228 Appendix B1: Client Experiences………………………………………………229 Appendix B2: Therapist Experiences…………………………..………………276 Appendixes C: Participants‘ Written Descriptions…..…………………………...……334 Appendix C1: C1‘s Written Description…………………………………….….335 Appendix C2: C2‘s Written Description……………………………….….……338 Appendix C3: C3‘s Written Description…………………………………..……341 Appendix C4: C4‘s Written Description……………………………….……….343 Appendix C5: C5‘s Written Description………………………………….…….345 Appendix C6: T1‘s Written Description…………………………….………….346 Appendix C7: T2‘s Written Description……………………………….……….351 Appendix C8: T3‘s Written Description………………………………………..355 Appendix C9: T4a‘s Written Description………………………………………359 Appendix C10: T4b‘s Written Description……………………………….…….361 Appendixes D: Video Summaries of Assessment Segments used in Interviews……….364 Appendix D1: Video Summary 1………………………………………………365 Appendix D2: Video Summary 2………………………………………………367 Appendix D3: Video Summary 3………………………………………………370 Appendix D4: Video Summary 4………………………………………………372

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Appendix D5: Video Summary 5………………………………………………374 Appendixes E: Transcribed Interviews…………………………………………………376 Appendix E1: Interview with C1………………………………….……………377 Appendix E2: Interview with C2……………………………………………….395 Appendix E3: Interview with C3……………………………………………….413 Appendix E4: Interview with C4……………………………………………….427 Appendix E5: Interview with C5……………………………………………….444 Appendix E6: Interview with T1……………………………………………….458 Appendix E7: Interview with T2……………………………………………….475 Appendix E8: Interview with T3……………………………………………….492 Appendix E9: Interview with T4a………………………………………………510 Appendix E10: Interview with T4b……………………………………...……..522

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List of Abbreviations

C1 through C4b: Client Participants T1 through T4b: Therapist Participants R: Researcher C1WD through C4bWD: Client Participant‘s Written Descriptions T1WD through T4bWD: Therapist Participant‘s Written Descriptions TC1 through TC4b: Client Participant‘s Transcribed Interviews TT1 through TT4b: Therapist Participant‘s Transcribed Interviews VS1 through VS4b: Summarized Video Segments from each Therapist-Client Pair‘s Assessment CE1 through CE17: Client Experiences TE1 through TE22: Therapist Experiences

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Chapter One: Introduction

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Psychological assessment can be an invaluable therapeutic tool. It can help clinicians to know and understand their clients, while simultaneously helping clients to develop insights and perspectives on the ways they cope with and move through the world. Traditionally, the teaching and practice of psychological assessment has largely ignored its potentially therapeutic aspects. The benefits that could be gained by implementing a collaborative relationship between assessor and client also traditionally have been ignored in favor of a style of assessment that focuses on information-gathering for the sake of communicating data about clients to other clinicians. Within the past few decades, however, a different style of psychological assessment has been taking the field in a new direction and is continuously drawing attention and support. This style of psychological assessment is commonly referred to as individualized, collaborative, interventional, or therapeutic assessment, and it will be the focus of the research project presented in this dissertation. I will begin by painting a picture of what this unique type of psychological assessment is and discussing why the research I conducted regarding it is relevant before laying out the research project itself. I will generally refer to this particular style of psychological assessment as ―individualized‖ assessment until I later distinguish between other versions of this kind of assessment. One of the primary functions of individualized psychological assessment is to provide access to an individual‘s life situation or life world. It explores the different ways individuals experience the world and contribute to their experience of the world through the ways they choose to negotiate whatever obstacles they confront in their particular situations. Assessment of this process can be therapeutic in that it can offer

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individuals not only the opportunity to recognize and better understand the typical ways they respond to and deal with the obstacles they face in their daily lives, but also the opportunity to try out different ways of facing the challenges they encounter that can prove to be healthier, more productive, and fulfilling. Of course, there are circumstances in which full collaboration is not appropriate, such as in certain forensic cases. Before we get into the process itself, let us take a look at some of the theoretical foundations of this approach and how it came about. Historical and Theoretical Foundations Individualized psychological assessment is theoretically and practically grounded in humanistic and human-science psychology. Ironically, however, most of the humanistic psychology movement was in some way or another opposed to the practice of psychological assessment all together and criticized it as a judgmental, objectivistic, reductionistic, deterministic, and dehumanizing process. Humanistic psychology, as well as human-science psychology, is concerned with the fundamentally human aspects of psychology and looks to the human context for the development of psychological theory. It values human agency, meaning, choice, responsibility, and intentionality and it emphasizes subjectivity and the uniqueness of human contexts. One might see from this why some humanistic clinicians and theorists (Brown, 1972; Bugental, 1963, 1964, 1965; May, 1958; Rogers, 1951) questioned and disagreed with certain practices in psychological assessment that were characteristic at the time. Nonetheless, there were other psychologists who shared in the same humanistic ideologies as these objecting psychologists and still recognized the utility and therapeutic potential of assessment (Craddick, 1972; Dana, 1982; Fischer, 1970, 1972; Sugarman,

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1978). They heard these arguments and were not discouraged by them. Instead, they took them as a call for change. These psychologists believed that assessment could readily incorporate humanistic principles by undergoing some modifications and adaptations to the way it was conducted. They also realized that these changes would not only answer some criticisms by filling some gaps in the assessment process, such as the one between assessor and client, but they could also enhance the process itself and increase its efficacy. Humanistic psychotherapy was itself revolutionary in practice because it made the client the focal point of therapeutic work in ways no other form of therapy had done before. It has been referred to as ―client-centered‖ therapy because it did just that, it placed the client at the center of the therapeutic framework and structure (Rogers, 1951). Similarly, the major shift in the practice of psychological assessment was to invite the client to be much more involved in the assessment process. The clients were called upon to become active contributors in the process itself. Clients were invited not only to become contributors, but also to participate in a feedback session with the assessor in which they discussed the results of the testing. Providing feedback to clients was something that clinicians had been strongly warned against in the past out of fear that it could prove detrimental to the client‘s well being (Klopfer, 1954). However, many practitioners recognized this as vital and necessary to the change process. Over time, the field of psychology came to realize not only the benefits of providing clients with assessment feedback, it declared that psychologists have a moral and ethical obligation to do so (American Psychological Association, 1990).

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Providing clients with assessment feedback has been shown to have several general and therapeutic benefits for specific clients such as decreased symptomatology, reduced feelings of isolation, greater self-awareness and understanding as well as increased self-esteem, feelings of hope, and motivation to seek mental health services or more actively participate in psychotherapy (Finn & Butcher, 1991). During the same time when the inclusion of feedback sessions in assessment was gaining acceptance and acclaim, other research advocated the increased involvement of clients as participants throughout the assessment process (Allen, 1981; Berg; 1985; Fischer, 1970, 1987, 1989, 1985/1994; Jaffee, 1988). These changes in the practice of psychological assessment effectively began to blur the line between assessment and therapy, with the primary factor of change responsible for this blurring effect being the client assuming a more involved role in the assessment process. A Portrait of Individualized Assessment Before discussing the specific ways individualized assessment seeks to involve clients as participants in the assessment process, it is important for us to first take a brief look at the unique perspective this approach takes toward clients. This means fleshing out the ways this approach encourages assessors to understand or get to know the clients they are assessing. Individualized assessment is an assessment of process in that it seeks to understand the ways a person approaches, deals with, moves through, and processes his or her own experiences in the world. In life, we come to understand each other and ourselves by paying attention to what we do and where we are going. Another way of putting this would be to say that we are attuned to the intentionality and comportment of others and ourselves. Intentionality refers to the way we, as human beings, are always in

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relation to the world and how our thoughts and actions are always meaningfully and purposefully directed toward different aspects of our lived world. Comportment can be understood as one‘s conduct, demeanor, or behavior; but it can be better understood as one‘s style of moving through the world or ―the way one carries oneself‖ (Fischer, 1985/1994, p. 54). This is what is meant by saying individualized assessment encourages assessors to understand clients, and clients to better understand themselves, by paying attention to what the client does (his/her comportment) and where the client is going (his/her intentionality). Although intentionality and comportment can be seen as the realms through which individualized assessors seek to gain access to their clients‘ worlds, these realms are never expected to ―explain‖ a person or their personality, motives, and so on. We must also remember that these realms are opened up in psychological assessment with the aid of the testing materials themselves and how the materials are specifically taken up or put to use. Test materials are the necessary tools of psychological assessment. Besides providing statistical profiles as starting points for exploration they allow the assessor to bring the client‘s context into the assessment room. If a client with a pervasively tranquil demeanor reports that his friends and family tell him that he has outrageous outbursts of anger when he is in a situation where he has difficulty figuring things out, it would be somewhat absurd to try to get a sense of how he is in these moments by actually following him around in his daily life. It would be much easier to put him in a situation using testing materials where he will certainly have to struggle to complete a task. This tactic effectively brings the ―having-difficulty-figuring-it-out‖ situation into the

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assessment process for both client and assessor to observe, better understand, and wrestle with. The testing materials are a vital part of the assessment process for all kinds of psychological assessment. One feature that distinguishes individualized assessment from other styles of assessment is the way it encourages assessors to take up these tools. In Individualizing Psychological Assessment (1985/1994), Constance Fischer outlines this human-science approach to assessment according to six guiding principles, which serve more to provide a vivid characterization of this approach than to lay out rules of conduct. The first guideline for this approach is that it is descriptive, which means that it considers the client‘s comportment and experience of particular life events to be its primary data rather than numbers, constructs, and categories. The second guideline is that individualized assessment is contextual. Contexts that are typically worth consideration can range from the physical and temporal setting of the assessment space and the physical condition of the client, to the life world of reported behavior and experience, and the interpreted meanings and relationship between assessor and client. The third guideline is that individualized assessment is collaborative, which means that the assessor encourages the client to take an informed and active role in the assessment process as ―co-evaluator‖ or ―co-assessor.‖ This key aspect includes inviting the client to make contributions from the point of first contact with the assessor through the writing of the assessment reports. Collaboration may involve discussing DSM diagnoses with clients, and including in reports clients‘ disagreements with the assessor‘s opinions. The fourth guideline of individualized assessment is that it is interventional. It is interventional not only in that it serves an indexical function for the assessor and client by

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calling certain aspects of the clients‘ behavior to their attention, but also in the sense that it provides an opening beyond limitations, a space to explore new perspectives, styles, and possible ways of being or moving through the world. The assessor might ask clients to provide real world examples of how a certain aspect of their comportment pointed out by the test materials applies to their lives, as well as examples of times when they might be otherwise. The assessor may also say something like, ―You tried it this way and it didn‘t work for you, how about trying it this way (or another way)….‖ The fifth guideline is that individualized assessment is structural, which means the assessor is not searching for particular causal explanations for the client‘s behavior, but is instead trying to form a more holistic picture of the client‘s style and experience of the world. This guideline is similar to the descriptive guideline in that it looks to create a descriptive structure of the client‘s experience by asking questions like ―how,‖ ―what,‖ and ―when‖ (and when not) rather than ―why?‖ The sixth and final guideline is that this approach to assessment is circumspect, which reminds us that these are ―guidelines‖ for the practice of a style of assessment and not static or dogmatic rules for conduct. As assessors, we should mind our surroundings, exercise our own judgment, and leave room for authentic flexibility when going through the assessment process with clients. This guideline also helps us remember that when the assessment process is complete, we are still always left with an unfinished, incomplete picture of the client. We can view these principles as drawing a solid sketch of individualized assessment by showing what this approach is, does, and looks like. Maybe we can also fill in this sketch a bit and gain a fuller, more enriched, perspective on this approach by taking a look at what it is not (or by asking, ―when not?‖). We have already compared

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this approach to traditional approaches to assessment in some general ways, but now it is time to make some more specific comparisons. We just discussed how Fischer (1985/1994) provided us with six guiding principles for the practice of individualized assessment. In similar fashion, Steve Finn and Mary Tonsager (1997) contrast this individualized approach to assessment with the traditional approach to psychological assessment, or the Information-Gathering Model, by looking at these two approaches across six different aspects of assessment. The first aspect concerns the goals each approach seeks to achieve through assessment. The information-gathering model attempts to describe clients in terms of pre-existing categories in order to improve communication between professionals and make decisions about, or for, clients. In contrast, the individualized approach attempts to provide clients with new experiences and new information about themselves so they can in turn make changes in their lives by exploring new ways of thinking, feeling, coping, and being. The information-gathering model typically views the assessment process as occurring in three steps: data collection, deductive unilateral interpretation of that data, and recommendations (to other professionals). Collaboration between assessor and client, or any social interaction for that matter, is discouraged throughout the process. Despite using the same test materials and following a three-step method, the individualized approach is drastically different when it comes to process. Its three steps consist of establishing empathetic connections with the client, working with the client collaboratively to define goals of assessment, and providing the client with information for mutual exploration throughout the entire assessment process. The goal here is to

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increase understanding between assessor and client rather than between assessor and other professionals. The information-gathering model views test materials primarily as a means to gaining standardized samples of the clients‘ behavior in order to make comparisons and predictions about their behavior. Individualized assessment values the testing materials because of the access they allow to the clients‘ comportment and world which increases the assessors‘ appreciation of the clients‘ experience. They are also seen as opportunities for dialogue leading to change in perception and style. The focus of attention in the information-gathering model is mainly on the test scores (results) and the decisions to be made about, not with, the clients. The assessors in this model pay very little, if any, attention to their own feelings and thoughts during the assessment or to the clients‘ experience of the assessment process. On the other hand, the primary focus of attention for the individualized approach is the experience of both assessor and client separately, as well as the relationship and process that develops between them. Continuing Finn and Tonsager‘s (1997) portrayal of assessment, the role of the assessor in the information-gathering model is characterized by striving to be an objective observer who exerts the least influence on the data and findings as possible. In contrast, in the individualized assessment approach assessors are expected to play the role of a participant as well as an observer and to contribute to the assessment process from their end just as the clients are contributing from theirs. Lastly, the information-gathering model defines assessment failure as determining the data collected to be unreliable or invalid, making a wrong decision about the client as a result of the assessment, or the client or person responsible for the client‘s care not using the recommendations. The

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individualized approach also defines assessment failure in three ways: relational, interventional, and intrapsychic. Relational failure occurs when the client does not feel engaged, respected, appreciated, and understood by the assessor. Interventional failure happens if the client is able to walk away from the assessment without feeling that he or she has been given the opportunity to change and to try out new perspectives or styles. Intrapsychic failure is if the client leaves the assessment feeling discouraged, incapable, or even taken advantage of or abused as a result of their experience in assessment. Overall, we can see from Finn and Tonsanger‘s (1997) comparisons how individualized assessment helps to establish its own identity by diverging from traditional assessment in relation to goals, process, view of tests, focus of attention, role of assessor, and definition of failure. However, Finn still argues that these approaches to assessment are complementary because they simply try to understand clients in different ways. We should differentiate between two very similar but ultimately distinguishable styles within this particular approach to psychological assessment. Up to this point I have been using the term ―individualized assessment‖ to refer to the unique type of assessment we have been discussing, but it is really an over-arching umbrella for two styles of assessment: collaborative assessment and Therapeutic Assessment. These two specific styles are so similar that many psychologists who follow the more general individualized approach to assessment often combine various aspects of these styles. Indeed, the term ―collaborative therapeutic assessment‖ has come into common use. Both of these styles of assessment invite the client to actively participate in the assessment process. However, the distinctive aspects of these two styles can be found in

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the particular stages of the assessment process in which they engage the client collaboratively. Collaborative assessment, as introduced by Fischer (1985/1994), seeks to engage the client collaboratively throughout the entire assessment process, including the initial stages, testing, and report writing. In a sense, this approach is intended to turn the entire assessment process into a mutual feedback session. Finn‘s (1997) therapeutic approach begins the same way by mutually agreeing on assessment goals with clients. But the collaborative assessor will discuss the test findings with clients during the testing itself in order to help clients make sense of their own comportment and style so they can try out new ways of being in an ―on the spot‖ manner. The collaborative assessor will then write a report that includes the experienced insights and understandings he or she believes the client has gained, as well as any acknowledged disagreements between assessor and client. The client‘s changes or objections to the report content are then included in the final assessment report. Therapeutic Assessment, as introduced by Finn and Tonsager (1997), Finn (2007), and described by Fischer and Finn (2008), typically begins by working with the client to formulate some questions to be addressed by the assessment. Then, the assessor accumulates and examines all of the test data before discussing the results in a feedback session with the client. The assessors who follow this style are more likely to contain much of what they think they know from the test data until the latter stages of the assessment process. The assessors will then assist the clients in realizing for themselves insights provided by the test data. Specifically, the clients are placed in situations similar to those that produced the insights for the assessor during the testing and the assessor

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guides the clients through the ―re-experiencing‖ toward the insight itself. This step typically occurs during an ―assessment intervention session,‖ after an initial feedback session, toward the end of the assessment process. The similarities and differences between a collaborative and therapeutic approach to assessment were expounded in a chapter on psychological assessment that was co- authored by Fischer and Finn in 2008. Both of these approaches involve providing clients with feedback at some points during the assessment. Let me again stress that what is meant by feedback here is not a unilateral sharing of data from assessor to client. What is meant here is that assessors share their impressions and understandings with the clients in the hopes that the client will not simply accept them, but will challenge and elaborate upon them by supplying real life examples of when they ―fit‖ the tests‘ descriptions of them and when they do not. However, despite the fact that these two approaches share many commonalities, including the kind of feedback they provide, there are still distinct differences between them. The most salient difference is that Therapeutic Assessment places more emphasis on the closing intervention session by holding off on making therapeutic interventions until later in the process while collaborative assessment makes therapeutic interventions throughout the entire assessment process. This difference will have more significance for us after we have reviewed the research on these approaches to assessment. I would like to point out that throughout this dissertation a distinction is made between collaboration that takes place during the ―actual‖ assessment or the test administration portion of the assessment and collaboration that takes place in the closing intervention session, also referred to as the ―feedback‖ session. However, it should be understood that the feedback session is still considered part of the assessment and this

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distinction in no way forecloses on the possibilities for collaboration and continued discussion of what is brought to light during the assessment throughout the entire process or into psychotherapy. I hope that we created a fairly clear picture of what individualized assessment is and how it works as we looked at its principles, how it differs from traditional forms of psychological assessment, and how it is put into practice. Now it is time to see if we can illuminate that picture by contributing to and furthering the existing research on this particular kind of assessment. This Dissertation‘s Research Question: How Do Assessors and Clients Experience Collaborative Assessment? As part of their descriptive comparison between traditional assessment and individualized assessment, Finn and Tonsager (1997) discuss the importance of experiences for both assessor and client in assessment (p. 379). The three-fold focus of attention for individualized assessment is (1) the client‘s subjective experience, (2) the assessor‘s subjective experience, and (3) the dynamic interplay that occurs between assessor and client. However, the emerging research devoted to the study of individualized assessment has been concerned primarily with the experience of assessment from the perspective of either the client or the assessor, or both, leaving the third area of focus largely unstudied. This point will be elaborated momentarily. One obvious question is why has such a central aspect of this revolutionary approach to psychological assessment been largely ignored by current research on the topic? Another question would be what is there to gain from such research? It is much easier to find an answer to the latter question than it is to the former.

Full document contains 550 pages
Abstract: Within the field of assessment psychology, only recently have efforts been made to study the potentially therapeutic benefits of increasing the involvement of client participation in the assessment process. Little attention has been paid to the experiential aspects of this style of assessment from both therapist and client perspectives during the assessment and discussion sessions. Gaining insight into these experiences in order to better inform and enhance the practice of a collaborative and therapeutic style of psychological assessment is the primary focus of this research project. This study's methodology draws from qualitative methods used previously to study the process of both assessment and psychotherapy. The analysis focused on the accounts provided by psychological assessors and assessment clients regarding their experiences during collaborative assessment. Nine individuals (five clients and four therapists) provided written descriptions of their assessment experience and participated in individual audio-taped interviews during which we watched video tape selections of their assessment and discussed those video segments along with segments from their written descriptions. These interviews were then transcribed and interpreted by means of qualitative methodology. The analysis yielded thematic experiences for both clients and therapists that were grouped into larger general experiential categories--three for clients and four for therapists. Clients and therapists share three of these general experiential categories: finding assessment experiences to be helpful or enjoyable, finding assessment experiences to be difficult or unpleasant, and descriptions of the assessment process. The additional experiential category for therapists explores the effect that the extent of one's practice conducting assessments can have on his or her experience of it. The dissertation provides insight into what it is like to experience a collaborative assessment as either a therapist or client, give suggestions for therapists regarding approaches they use during a collaborative assessment that can make it more fruitful and enjoyable for both participants, and make interesting comparisons to other research on this type of psychological assessment.