The Value of Psychological Testing

My friend, former teacher, mentor, Ed Welch, has posted a blog on the CCEF website on the topic of psychological testing and how biblical counselors might view it. You can see his blog here as well as my comment on their site:

Ed, as you will see, isn’t really against testing, recognizes value in it, but doesn’t really think they are all that special–no more so than a really good interview. And, in part, he is right. A really good counselor/interviewer and learn a lot. In my mind, though, testing provides confirmation of what you are learning about the counselee PLUS uncovers subtle data that you might not get quickly or at all (especially through the more objective forms of testing).

It seems people think about testing in one of two ways: either they think testing uncovers secrets that couldn’t be gotten without a test or they dismiss it as pure theory. It is neither. Good testing provides a response profile that one can look at and compare to either the general population or a specific population. That, in itself, isn’t all that helpful but when combined with a specific assessment question, the examiner can interpret the data and build good hypotheses to direct future counseling and intervention.

I love to do psych testing. I find that interacting with test results and counselees provides dialog points that wouldn’t have been as easily discovered or talked about without the data in front of us. For example, if someone takes a personality test and one of the scales suggests that they are approaching the test in a manner consistent with those who are trying to look better than they really are, that provides an opportunity to discuss an pattern in their life that we might not have had the chance to do so easily.


Filed under biblical counseling, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, Psychology

4 responses to “The Value of Psychological Testing

  1. I am cautiously in favor of psych testing. The tests administered to my daughter have helped to identify a very real gap that exists between her apparent abilities and her actual abilities. At 17, our society has expectations for developmentally appropriate behavior; she has great verbal skills. She reads a lot and memorizes a lot of facts. She appears quite functional. But, tests designed to measure abstract reasoning, math and life skills paint a different story.

    I live with her. I didn’t need tests to know that she struggled with “normal.” I was aware of these “deficits” a long time ago, but it is helpful to have an objective measure of her specific weaknesses when discussing her need for accommodation with others. It takes away the appearance of an overprotective mother. Sadly, I have found that when I present the findings, people say, “Oh that explains so much.” They are good at making accommodations for about 2 or 3 weeks and go back to treating her as if she is functional and choosing not to perform well. My own psych/heart test is how I react to her when she is having difficulty; she is my own personal spiritual dipstick.

    Francis Galton, a pioneer in eugenics, is also the “father” of psychometric testing. I am always concerned that the test results will be used to assign value to her as a person. As we move in a post-Christian society, when I read about politicians suggesting policies reminiscent of the forced sterilization of eugenics, as our country becomes debt laden and people like my daughter are seen as tax burdens rather than contributing members of society, I am even more worried about this possibility. On the flip side, IQ scores are already being used to deny services to many, many people who have recognized and severe deficits in adaptive living skills but IQ’s that are >70. My daughter’s appearance of normal and low-normal IQ have become impenetrable barriers to services.

  2. Acceptance with Joy, thanks so much for your personal response. You well articulate how testing can help clarify and yet how we tend to respond to what we “see” about others, whether true or not.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  3. As a pastor I counsel from and to scripture. As a guy with a BA, in Psych I have often wished for easily available tests. I agree that a good interview accomplishes much, but the visual imagery of a Leary Personality Inventory, or other base line tool can really help break errors in perception, or cause the interviewer to head in a differing direction. It is a shame that such tools have never been made available to the preaching crowd. There may be a market there.

  4. Connie

    Why are all the personality tests asking the ‘wrong’ questions? I am asked to pick 4 choices; none of which would be my true answer; I hate dogs, yet I must chose one. How is that helpful? It is frustrating.

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