MARCH 20TH | 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Session Abstract:The effort to bring about meaningful positive change is one of the more complex, and at times elusive goals of collaborative assessment. Planned Assessment Interventions serve this purpose in a more structured Therapeutic Assessment. However, we have found that such material can also be explored in an unplanned way during collaborative assessments when important affect, thoughts, or behaviors emerge spontaneously. Often these opportunities allow the evaluator to address core problems and questions with the client that are at the heart of an assessment and to experience the problem “in vivo” in a way that deepens understanding. However, capitalizing on these moments sometimes results in detouring or even derailing the test plans and procedures, and we have begun to think more systematically about when it is appropriate to diverge from the formal line of inquiry. It is our intent to delineate some of the indicators for therapeutic detours and derailments from testing procedures, and to provide examples of how this has been effective in our own practices of collaborative assessment. For example, important considerations in deciding to take a detour include when to do it, under what conditions, with what test material, and when is it most likely to work.
Dr. Santas will present case material related to relatively brief therapeutic interventions during different phases of collaborative assessments with an adult and a teenager. These interventions happened when addressing an interaction within the relationship, when doing extended inquiry, or in response to questions. In both cases, the interventions were critical in deepening understanding for the client (and assessor), clarifying diagnostic questions, and impacting the client's story about themselves.
In contrast, the conditions under which one might leave a projective test incompletely administered in order to explore a therapeutic opportunity seem to us much more constrained, and thus much more rare, than when choosing to take a detour. To illustrate the decision to depart from the planned procedure, Dr. Witkin will present a case of a 17 year old girl whose assessment was derailed when the evaluator decided to challenge and explore her behavior mid-test, rather than continue to document what the therapist already knew. The conversation that ensued was enough to complete the collaborative assessment, answer all questions, make family recommendations, and ultimately set the client and her parents onto a more productive therapeutic path.
These case studies attempt to make more explicit something that we already do as assessors who are also therapists, most likely along with others in the CTA community. We hope to stimulate further discussion as we try to elucidate the conditions and boundaries for such spontaneous therapeutic interventions and how they fit into the more formal Therapeutic Assessment model (such as when this type of intervention makes a planned Assessment Intervention redundant, and when a more planned intervention is still needed). The conditions for spontaneous interventions and for disrupting a test will be addressed and discussed in this presentation.

Chair Information: Diane Santas, PhD | Private Practice, Oakland California, Assistant Clinical Professor UC Berkeley

Discussant Comments of the late Bruce Smith, PhD as read by Diane Santas, PhD

Presentation 1 Title: Therapeutic Detours along the way during Collaborative Assessment


Diane Santas, PhD | Private Practice, Oakland California, Assistant Clinical Professor UC Berkeley

Presentation 2 Title: Derailing the Plan to Explore a Therapeutic Opportunity in Collaborative Assessment


Sharon Witkin, PhD | Former Clinical Director and Founder, Clearwater Counseling & Assessment Services, Oakland California & Assistant Clinical Professor, UC Berkeley

Dr. SantasDr. Diane Santas

Dr. Santas is a licensed psychologist in independent practice in California, specializing in collaborative assessments and therapy with children, teens and adults for over 30 years. She has been trained in Stephen Finn’s six-step model of Therapeutic Assessment and integrates aspects of this more structured model into her own practice doing all types of assessments. Dr. Santas is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at UC Berkeley and an Adjunct Clinical Faculty member at The Wright Institute where she supervises graduate students in their assessment work and introduces students to a collaborative therapeutic assessment approach.

Dr. Sharon WitkinDr. Sharon Witkin

Dr. Witkin retired from clinical practice in June 2019 after over 30 years in clinical practice. During her last 25 years in California, she was an Assistant Clinical Professor at UC Berkeley, and for her last ten years she was Executive Director of Clearwater Counseling and Assessment Services, a freestanding DBT and assessment clinic. Her most recent interest was in collaborative assessments, and she trained with Dr. Stephen Finn, learning his more structured model of Therapeutic Assessments in order to integrate it into her more general practice.

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