Are self-assessments considered a reliable and valid tool in the practice of pyschology?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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To the extent self-assessments were ever considered a valid and reliable element of psychology, the emergence of the field of Humanistic Psychology during the 1960s certainly elevated the importance of such exercises.  Psychologists cannot hope to help many of their patients absent a sense of the patient’s feelings of self-worth.  While one need not emphasize the Freudian origins of Humanistic Psychology, the role of self-assessments in psychological treatment nevertheless is important in helping patients to identify the root of their emotional or psychological problems.  Self-assessments provide psychologists essential background information on their patients, for example, how an individual describes his or her response to certain situations and how they describe their attitudes to certain types of personalities or social situations. 

Self-assessments are not only helpful once in psychological treatment; they are useful for some people in determining whether they should begin psychological treatment in the first place.  If one’s response to a series of questions indicates an emotional problem that may be conducive to psychological or psychiatric treatment, then the self-assessment will have already benefited the individual by convincing him or her of the need for change in some part of his or her life.

Despite the potential benefits of self-assessments, however, there is a catch:  the individual being tested or subjecting himself to a self-assessment must be completely honest in recording answers to questions.  Many people are prone to blurring their answers out of fear that honest answers or self-descriptions might conclude that psychological treatment is warranted or could prove beneficial.  The social stigma surrounding mental healthcare is sufficiently powerful to influence how honest people are when considering their own situation.  Even self-assessments taken in the privacy of one’s own home for one’s own benefit can be unreliable if the individual taking the test is, consciously or not, recording misleading answers because of ego or insecurity or a lack of desire to confront the ramifications of test results indicating psychological help is recommended.

In conclusion, then, self-assessments can be beneficial in the realm of psychology, but only if the individuals performing the self-assessments are honest and forthright in their answers and comments.  

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