The Psychological Assessment (The Key to Proving Harm in Abuse Claims)

Invisible scars

One of the greatest difficulties sexual abuse survivors have is expressing how the abuse has affected their life. It is difficult to see the harm caused by sexual abuse because the scars are invisible.

A proper psychological assessment is the key to being able to prove the harm that an abuse victim has suffered and how the abuse has affected their ability to work, raise a family and lead a normal, healthy life.

Psychological assessments use scientifically validated tests to identify the symptoms and effects of childhood abuse. The results of these tests are then compared with normative standards (people who have not suffered abuse).

Common Psychological Tests

There are a number of tests that psychologists can use to help establish the kind of symptoms you have as a result of trauma. The tests can also be used to prove what effect the symptoms have on your ability to earn income and have healthy interpersonal relationships with your family, friends and other people.

Detailed Assessment of Posttraumatic Stress (DAPS)

The DAPS test has 104 questions that provide detailed information about an adult’s history of various types of trauma exposure. The DAPS also helps uncover information about the survivors psychological reactions to the abuse at the time it happened, any long term post-traumatic stress symptoms because of the abuse, and the current level of post traumatic impairment (in other words, how the trauma effects the survivors ability to function on a day to day basis

The DAPS also allows a psychologist to make a tentative diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The DAPS also tests for event-related dissociation, substance abuse, and information about the individual’s potential for suicide.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory: (MMPI-2)

The MMPI-2 is the current form of the most frequently used test of personality in psychological assessment practice. The MMPI-2 is a standardized set of 338 true/false questions which are designed to uncover a wide range of self-descriptions of emotional adjustment and attitude towards testing.

Malingering (Are you trying to faking it?)

The MMPI-2 test has questions that are designed to identify if a patient is exaggerating or trying to fake their symptoms. This is called “malingering”.

The DAPS also includes two validity scales that evaluate under- and over-reporting of symptoms. In other words, the test can show if you are trying to downplay or exaggerate the effects of the abuse.

Symptom Checklist – 90 -Revised (SCL-90-R)

The SCL-90-R is a checklist of 90 common medical and psychological symptoms. The checklist was designed to reflect the psychological symptom patterns of psychiatric and medical patients. The Global Severity Index that is part of the SCL-90-R test is considered by many experts to be the most sensitive single indicator of a patient’s psychological distress since it combines information on the number of symptoms causing distress and the intensity of distress.

Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI)

The TSI is a 100 item test of post-traumatic stress. The inventory is designed to identify important effects following traumatic events. It is intended for use in the evaluation of both acute (recent or short term) and chronic (long term) effects stemming from exposure to trauma.

The TSI can be helpful because it not only measures symptoms typically associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but it also measures symptoms associated with intra- and inter-personal difficulties that are often found in more chronic (long term) forms of psychological trauma.

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV)

The WAIS-IV is the most frequently used test to determine cognitive and intellectual functioning. It is the most frequently used test to determine intellectual functioning in current practice. The WAIS-IV also has the advantage of having Canadian norms (test data from Canadian test subjects).

Global Assessment of Functioning (G.A.F.) Ratings

After the tests are administered, the psychologist may assign a GAF rating. The rating is used to show to what extent a person’s injuries or illness impact on their ability function on a day to day basis.

GAF Scale in a Nutshell

100-91 Superior functioning in a wide range of activities, life’s problems never seem to get out of hand, is sought out by others because of his or her many positive qualities. No symptoms.

90-81 Absent or minimal symptoms (e.g., mild anxiety before an exam), good functioning in all areas, interested and involved in a wide range of activities, socially effective, generally satisfied with life, no more than everyday problems or concerns (e.g., an occasional argument with family members).

80-71 If symptoms are present, they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors (e.g., difficulty concentrating after family argument); no more than slight impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., temporarily falling behind in schoolwork).

70-61 Some mild symptoms (e.g., depressed mood and mild insomnia) OR some difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., occasional truancy, or theft within the household), but generally functioning pretty well, has some meaningful interpersonal relationships.

60-51 Moderate symptoms (e.g., flat affect and circumstantial speech, occasional panic attacks) OR moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., few friends, conflicts with peers or co-workers).

50-41 Serious symptoms (e.g., suicidal ideation, severe obsession rituals, frequent shoplifting) OR any serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., no friends, unable to keep a job).

40-31 Some impairment in reality testing or communication (e.g., speech is at times illogical, obscure, or irrelevant) OR major impairment in several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood (e.g., depressed person avoids friends, neglects family, and is unable to work; child frequently beats up younger children, is defiant at home, and is failing at school).

30-21 Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations OR serious impairment, in communication or judgment (e.g., sometimes incoherent, acts grossly inappropriately, suicidal preoccupation) OR inability to function in almost all areas (e.g., stays in bed all day, no job, home, or friends).

20-11 Some danger of hurting self or others (e.g., suicide attempts without clear expectation of death; frequently violent; manic excitement) OR occasionally fails to maintain minimal personal hygiene (e.g., smears feces) OR gross impairment in communication (e.g., largely incoherent or mute).

10-1 Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others (e.g., recurrent violence) OR persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene OR serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death.

0 Inadequate information.

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