Friday, September 14, 2012
Utilizing Assessments in Counseling Practice
Wall (2004) suggests five primary uses of formal and informal assessments as well as their results, in practice. For purposes of this discussion, I will use assessment for diagnosis and tracking progress. For diagnostic purposes, formal assessments offer objective data that may not otherwise be obtained, or may only be obtained after weeks of interaction with the client. In most therapeutic circumstances this type of data is free from the constraints and limitations of the counselor's personal perspective, biases, and worldview (Whiston, 2009). Counselors must be aware of the limitations of any formal assessment, especially if its use may contribute to the marginalization of a client. For diagnostic purposes, however, reliable and appropriate assessments can contribute to an accurate portrait of the client and the most appropriate intervention (Whiston, 2009).
Tracking progress is another way to use assessment in counseling (Hiebert, 1996; Whiston, 2009). Ongoing informal assessment helps the counselor gauge effectiveness of the intervention and client change or progress throughout the therapeutic process. Equally important, it helps clients with self-evaluation and perceiving movement and change, and possibly contributing to the client's confidence of self, the counselor, and the process (Whiston, 2009). Hiebert (1996) claims success in counseling interventions is best (and perhaps only) determined by ongoing informal assessments.
Juhnke (1995) suggests counselors use a broad range of assessment devices that includes formal and informal, and alternative sources of information such as records from previous interventions. Implementing a variety of sources and using assessment on a continuing basis helps give the counselor a broader, more accurate, and thorough perspective of the client (Juhnke, 1995).
In this week's video (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), I appreciated Dr. Buckley's contention that the assessment process ultimately relies on the counselor understanding the client. As previously learned, the counselor's ability to actively listen and heed clients' assertions as well as their more covert messages supports understanding and continued assessment. Perhaps more than the benefit of other technical counseling devices, I will rely on active listening and my ability to be perceptive in communication and information gathering. These skills will help me assess and perceive the needs of my clients.
I need to further develop my skill of systematically checking in with the client as a means of informal assessment. As mentioned by Hiebert (1996) this type of evaluation, which is similar to a teacher's informal student evaluation, is critical to maintain the therapeutic process effectively and in alignment with the client's goals or learning outcomes. Informal assessments provide reliable information about the client's progress and the therapist's effectiveness (Hiebert, 1996).
Additionally, I need to learn more about the range of assessments as well as their reliability and validity in certain populations (Whiston, 2009). Understanding how to use a variety of instruments as well as on whom they will be most appropriate and effective seems critical in case conceptualization and creating goals or outcomes of consequence to the client. When selecting and implementing assessments, the counselor must choose ones that will benefit the therapeutic process; for the client to gain self-understanding and monitor self-progress and for the counselor to gain a more accurate perspective of the client's needs, strengths, and limitations (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). I found Whiston's (2009) summation persuasive: "Sound assessment information is the precursor to sound diagnostic decision making" (p. 324).
Hiebert, B. (1996). Using informal methods to assess client change. Guidance & Counseling, 11(4), 3–13.
Juhnke, G. A. (1995). Mental health counseling assessment: Broadening one's understanding of the client and the clients presenting concerns. ERIC Digest, 1–6.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Introduction to Assessment. Baltimore, MD: Executive Producer.
Wall, J. E. (2004). Why counselors shouldn’t let testing leave them behind. In Vistas: Perspectives on counseling, 2004 (pp. 69-77). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Whiston, S. C. (2009). Principles and applications of assessment in counseling (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.