Robert Fettgather
2 min readMar 24, 2024

Thoughts On Psychological Assessment

Robert Fettgather, Ph.D. is a counselor, educator, writer and activist residing in Grass Valley, California. He holds a doctorate in psychology and master degrees in both psychology and education. Robert Fettgather has also served as Special Consultant in psychometrics to the Departments of Education and Developmental Disabilities for the State of California.

Some labels can be very tricky. Imagine a bird, Gertrud on a cold morning. She might have savored the label of “Early Bird” until the cold hard realities of an early morning freeze set in! Diagnostic labels can be tricky too. An accurate diagnosis can help to form effective treatment plans, and act as a kind of verbal shorthand for practitioners, schools, programs and insurers. In fact, accurate diagnoses can save lives! But diagnostics can also be restrictive and limiting if not cautiously applied. Labels can be stigmatizing, become a self-fulfilling prophecy and may even exacerbate symptoms.

Clinical assessment refers to a systematic evaluation (and measurement) of psychological, social and biological factors in people with psychiatric disorders to provide information that may be helpful in treatment planning. Diagnosis is the process of determining whether a given problem that distresses an individual fulfills criteria for a psychological disorder.

Assessment can take many forms. More systematic observations of behavior are called behavioral assessment. Here, the identified Behavior is described as well as that which precedes its occurrence, Antecedents, and what follows, Consequences. Thus it is sometimes referred to as an ABC model of assessment. For example,

A- Parent asks Joe to stop playing on computer B- Joe Screams no and refuses C- Parent scolds/nags Joe.

If Joe then screams all the more, this model suggests that parental scolding is reinforcing screaming behavior, not punishing it. Try this: Behavioral assessment could be applied to your everyday life as you begin to appreciate that you have the power to reinforce behaviors you prefer and to ignore, and (possibly extinguish) behavior you don’t like in boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, parents and kids. That’s behavioral empowerment!

Robert Fettgather

Dr. Robert Fettgather holds a PhD in psychology, master’s degrees in psychology and special education, and a bachelor of arts in psychology.