Corresponding Author Information: Jessie Goicoechea

Session Abstract: This individual paper presentation will make use of phenomenological psychology to understand the nature of collaborative, therapeutic assessment results within a human science framework. A phenomenological approach to psychological assessment has implications for how we view findings and results. Epistemological assumptions about the nature of truth claims in traditional, information-gathering models of assessment will be examined and contrasted with a phenomenological epistemology and methodology. With illustrations from collaborative, therapeutic assessment in a residential substance abuse treatment facility, this presentation will illustrate that the truth claims offered by collaborative, therapeutic results are intersubjective, contextual, and descriptive. This is in contrast to viewing assessment results as objective, bearing reference to traits or states within a person, and as explanatory and predictive.

Situated in a natural scientific framework that prioritizes measurement, the information-gathering model utilizes norm-referenced data to provide explanations and predictions about clients. These explanations are considered accurate in so far as they demonstrate reliability and validity. Assessment results are viewed as findings, in that it is through adherence to standardized procedures and measurement that truths about the clients are found or uncovered; standardized procedure is thought to ensure objectivity. Although the traditional model acknowledges a distinction between assessment and testing and endorses the use and integration of multiple methods of data, clinical judgement is viewed primarily as enhanced or made more accurate by tests, rather than as the clinician's capacity to meaningfully integrate and interpret test data in the context of an individual's specific circumstances.  Implied in a collaborative, therapeutic model is a very different view of assessment results, but this is not yet clearly spelled out in the literature. When tests are used as tools and opportunity for dialogue with the client rather than as methods for arriving at standardized samples of client behaviors, the results bear reference to what is constructed in conversation between assessor and client and not just the test scores and nomothetic interpretations themselves. Phenomenology, as a foundation for therapeutic assessment, aims at understanding lived experience. Clients contribute to the interpretation and contextualization of test data by sharing their observations about their approach to the tests and by making connections to similar comportment elsewhere in life. Rather than culminating in the vocabulary of scores, traits, and/or diagnoses, collaborative, therapeutic assessment weaves together clinician and client perspectives in a jointly constructed, descriptive narrative about the client's life in process.


Jessie Goicoechea, PhD | Duquesne University; Department of Psychology Pittsburgh, PA

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