2.3.1. Parts of the psychological report
The psychological report is the product, and sometimes the end product, of a psychodiagnostic assessment. The content of the psychological report is tailored to the assessment question, and contains findings, reviews and opinions that are traceable to one or more persons (see Article 1.16, “Report”). The content of the report will vary, depending on whom the report is intended for. In the context of treatment, the report is intended primarily for the client, who is, after all, also the principal (see Article 88, “Reports commissioned by the Client”). For example, in education, in selection procedures, and in reporting on social-security matters, reporting is usually done to a third party, who may be external (see Article 89, “Consent required for Reports to Third Parties”; Article 90, “Reporting to Third Parties”; and Article 92, “Oral Reports to Third Parties”). In this case, too, it is assumed that the client themselves must be able to understand the report. The client also has the right, in principle, to be the first to see the report (see Article 91, “Opportunity to inspect the Report before it is issued”), and to decide whether the report can be sent to the third party (see Article 94, “Blocking the Report to the External Principal”). In certain cases, the purpose of the reporting or the need for confidentiality can mean that no recourse can be had to the right to inspect the report or to block reporting (see Article 95, “Right to inspect and block a Report on a Client System”), or that this right is limited.
The psychological report generally contains the following elements:
- The date of the assessment, and the client’s name, sex and date of birth.
- The origin and description of the question (the assignment).
- Progress of the research.
- Psychodiagnostic instruments used (sources of information – see below).
- Intake and anamnestic data.
- Results of the assessment, including observations and the degree of uncertainty surrounding the results.
- Conclusion, and findings and recommendations.
- The period of validity for the various components of the report, including the test results.
- The name of the psychologist under whose responsibility the psychodiagnostic assessment took place. It is advisable to have the report signed by the person responsible for it.
- The length of the period for which the test data and the psychological report can be kept on file.
In the psychological report, the individual sources of personally identifiable information are traceable (see Article 97, “Limiting Reports to essential Data”). It is necessary to specify the psychodiagnostic instruments used in the report. These can be included in the body of the report or in an attachment. The client can use this information to assess the quality of the instruments used. The choice of the norm group should be clearly stated and well founded.
The statements in the report should in any case be carefully substantiated. The psychologist limits themselves in reports to mentions of such data and assessments as are necessary for, and relevant to, the purpose of the reporting. The conclusions apply only to the purpose or question underlying the reporting (see Article 28, “Prevention of unintentional use and abuse of Reports”). Article 97, “Limiting Reports to essential Data”, sets out the minimum quality requirements that reports must meet. These largely correspond to the requirements below, which, according to settled case law from the NIP’s disciplinary bodies and from disciplinary boards in healthcare, are imposed on reporting on the basis of marginal testing. The requirement for expertise referred to in 5 below can be found in Article 103, “Limits of psychologists’ own expertise”.
- The report lists the facts, circumstances and findings on which it is based.
- The report exhibits a suitable assessment method for answering the question posed.
- The report insightfully and consistently sets out on what grounds the conclusions of the report rest.
- The report lists the resources on which it is based, including the literature used and the names of those who were consulted.
- The rapporteur remains within the limits of their expertise.
In cases where laypeople can make unintentionally careless use of absolute scores, such as the results of intelligence tests, it is important that confidence intervals are reported.
In their article “The IQ Score Is in Dire Need of Modernisation”, Ruiter, Hurks and Timmerman (2017) give a clear explanation of the interpretation of a confidence interval in a test score:
‘To be able to interpret a confidence interval, it is good to know something more about the theory around measurement errors. The idea is that each test has a certain measurement inaccuracy. According to classical test theory, each test score (X) observed is made up of a reliable part, also called a true score (T), and a part that is attributable to the measurement error (E). That is to say that each individual score on a test is affected by both the level of the person (what we do want to measure, the true score) and by any measurement error (what we do not want to measure). The true score is simply defined as the mean observed score where the test is taken repeatedly, and perhaps many times, by the same person, and where the person’s level remains the same. The latter is in practice, of course, impossible, because where the test is taken repeatedly there will always be memory, learning, and fatigue effects that come into play. This means in practice that, in such cases the true score changes, and the measurement error cannot be separated from it. We can never determine which part of an observed score is due to the level of the person, and which is caused by measurement error. That means that we will never be able to see exactly what the level of the person is. What we can do is express the degree to which an observed score is in general affected by the measurement error. This influence is expressed as the reliability of a test. The higher the reliability of the test, the smaller the measurement errors in general.’