I spoke last week about referral questions, or what you are hoping to learn from a psychological evaluation. This week, I want to talk about referral sources, or who recommends that you get a psychological evaluation.
Working with kids, most of my referrals come from pediatricians, and a lot of adults get referred by their doctors as well, which makes sense. Even if the concern is mental instead of physical health, we tend to reach out to our physicians with concerns, and a good doctor knows when to refer someone for extra support and resources. Even if you know you want to get a psychological evaluation, you might need to go to your primary doctor first because some insurances require a doctor’s referral before they will approve testing. (I may or may not talk about insurance and psychological evaluations later in this series – it’s important information, but if I spend too much time thinking about health insurance I see red!)
Some kids get referred by their teachers. There is a huge range of “typical development,” especially with very young kids, so parents might not realize that a behavior goes outside of that range. The structure of the school setting can also bring out behaviors that might not be as evident at home. (By the way, if your child’s teacher recommends psych testing, check with the school to see if they will accept a report from an outside evaluator. Many school districts require that their psychologist do the testing in order to qualify for an IEP or 504 plan. In addition, if the school performs the testing, they pay for it.)
The other place I get a lot of my referrals from is other therapists. As a psychologist, I can work as a therapist and an evaluator, but many therapists do not have the additional training to perform evaluations. If you have a therapist, they might tune in to some symptoms that might indicate further testing and recommend an evaluation.
If you’re going through a legal process (possibly because you are being tried for a crime, or if you are in a custody dispute), your lawyer might suggest an evaluation, or a judge might order you to submit to an evaluation. In this case, they might have a recommendation about who completes the assessment. If they don’t recommend a specific psychologist, or if that person isn’t available to do the evaluation, you want to make sure you reach out to professionals who are familiar with the court system and who are trained in this specific type of assessment. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t specialize in these kinds of assessments, so this is not a common referral source for me.
Of course, you can always refer yourself for an evaluation. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can reach out to a psychologist and let them know your concerns, and they can determine whether additional testing will help you.