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Advocacy Tip: Psycho-Social Assessment vs. Psychological Evaluation

Psycho-Social Assessment vs. Psychological Evaluation

When children are placed in the care of Child Protective Services, their parents are provided with a service plan that outlines the goals and tasks parents need to complete in order to work towards reunification with their children. Two of the common tasks that are required of parents are a psycho-social assessment and a psychological evaluation.

What is a Psycho-Social Assessment?

A psycho-social assessment is a mental health assessment that looks at an individual’s level of functioning in society. The assessment is conducted by a master’s level clinician during an interview with the individual. The assessment examines several aspects of the person’s background and current functioning. Some of the information gathered during the psycho-social includes: background information on the family, the individual’s educational background, any current or past health conditions, and other environmental factors that may be affecting the individual’s level of functioning. Once the information has been obtained, a report is created that provides all of the information obtained during the interview as well as the clinician’s impressions and recommendations. The clinician should provide a clinical summary that may include any mental health diagnosis as well as treatment recommendations. If necessary, the clinician may also recommend that an individual be referred for a full psychological evaluation.

What is a Psychological Evaluation?

A psychological evaluation is another mental health assessment that is used to determine an individual’s level of functioning. A psychological evaluation is completed by a licensed psychologist and generally takes several hours to complete. The psychological evaluation contains information similar to the psycho-social assessment. However, the psychological evaluation also includes several different diagnostic tests that assist in determining an individual’s overall cognitive functioning, their IQ, and their developmental level. When the psychological evaluation is completed a report is generated that provides all of the information obtained during the interview as well as the responses and scoring of any diagnostic tests that were completed. The psychological evaluation will include a diagnosis in each of five categories (referred to as Axis I, II, III, IV, & V). The diagnosis includes any Clinical disorders (such as ADHD, depression, PTSD, etc), Personality disorders, general medical conditions, psychosocial or environmental problems, and a Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. The evaluation will provide any recommendations for treatment, additional services that may be needed, and recommendations for a psychiatric evaluation if needed. 

1. True or False. A psychological evaluation can be completed by a master’s level clinician.

2. What types of information are gathered during both a psycho-social assessment and a psychological evaluation?

3. List three ways that a psychological evaluation is different from a psycho-social assessment. 

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Anna Munoz at