Many people call my practice inquiring about psychological testing. Some even inquire about what testing is (for this information, click here). Of course, immediately following the discussion about the need for testing, and my availability to complete testing, comes the question of cost. Almost every time, potential patients balk when they hear the cost of psychological testing. At this point in the conversation, and based on how often and long this has happened in my practice, it is not uncommon for me to hear hesitation about undergoing testing, or even surprise in their voice when they want to know why testing is “so expensive.” It is not surprising to me because of how often this happens, but as a clinician, it is quite surprising to me how many people say they can’t afford to do it because “it’s expensive” (i.e., which for most, often means they do not see the value of it, though prior to learning the cost they likely did in some way, or they would not have called about the service. For some, it truly is out of their financial means, and realistically in most instances insurance will not cover it).
Let’s be clear: psychological testing is in no way an inexpensive endeavor. However, it is also in no way an easy or simple process. The cost of psychological testing is commensurate with the value of its purpose and implications, as well as the significant amount of work including hours and materials administering, scoring, interpreting, and synthesizing information.
Testing is Not a Brief or Simple Process
Psychologists who are trained in psychological assessment have undergone years of training, supervision, and practice with learning how to administer, score, interpret, and synthesize test results to yield diagnostic information. The truth is that psychological testing is not an easy process. It is not a short process. It cannot be conducted by simply anyone who picks up a testing manual and administers the test (in fact, you can’t even get your hands on the testing supplies if you don’t possess a doctoral degree in psychology, which represents the training and supervision a psychologist has received in order to be qualified to administer assessments). In many ways, being qualified to conduct psychological testing is akin to the precise skills a surgeon must have to be a surgeon: the only way to learn how to be a psychologist thats provides psychological assessment services is to undergo rigorous training and years of supervision and experience.
The average psychological testing case takes a psychologist 10 hours to complete. So one testing case could be a quarter of a full week’s hours worth of work. If a psychologist does testing full time, that means they can only realistically see four to five cases per week – and that doesn’t include possible follow-up appointments. When you equate that into hourly fees, the cost of testing becomes more clear. And those fees aren’t even taking into consideration the cost of testing supplies which can be a couple thousand dollars each and are not a one-time purchase (for the psychologist to order and use to complete your testing case).
Beyond Money: The Real Value of Psychological Testing
Now let’s talk about real value (meaning, why people complete psychological testing and what it can do). When someone undergoes psychological testing, they are not doing it simply for fun. They are engaging in testing because a significant area of their life has been impacted, and they are trying to find diagnostic reasons that could help to explain the impairment in their life.
For example, some children undergo educational testing (a branch of psychological testing) to determine if they have a learning disability or ADHD – both in the interest of helping to explain difficulties at school and possibly at home, and ultimately to seek recommendations as well as educational accommodations that can help them to learn better and excel academically. Just reread that sentence alone. When you consider the significant implications that testing can have on finding how to better help a child learn and do well in school, does $1500 seem like too much? To change the educational course of a child’s life by helping them to identify their limitations and what solutions may be helpful – well, that is literally life altering.
Take another example – the person who has been in and out of treatment facilities, has tried “nearly every psychotropic medication and psychotherapy out there,” and yet is still struggling to live a functional life. Sometimes making a psychological diagnosis based on brief behavioral observations and the person’s self-report is not enough to get it right. That is where psychological testing comes in. Through the use of objective measures, thorough clinical interviews, collateral information, etc., a diagnostic picture that reflects the person’s true difficulties can be made. And that means hope.
That means finally helping the person to get the right treatment (e.g., medications and/or psychotherapy) that is actually aligned with what they need because now they and their treatment team have a much clearer understanding of what problem areas are present. That is the value of psychological testing, and the monetary cost makes much more sense when you realize the impact and implications of the results.