ERIC Identifier: ED304626
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Hoover, Robert M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Counselors' Use of Tests: Process and Issues. Highlights: An
Counselors use tests generally for assessment, placement, and guidance, as
well as to assist clients to increase their self-knowledge, practice decision
making, and acquire new behaviors. They may be used in a variety of
therapies--e.g., individual, marital, group, and family--and for either
informational or non-informational purposes (Goldman, 1971). Informational uses
include the gathering of data on clients, assessing the level of some trait,
such as stress and anxiety, or measuring clients' personality types. The purpose
of non-informational tests is to stimulate further or more indepth interaction
with the client.
Although the published literature on testing has increased, proper test
utilization remains a problematic area. The issue is not so much whether a
counselor uses tests in counseling practice, but when and to what end will tests
be used (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 1984).
Steps involved in the process of using
tests in counseling include the following: -- Selecting the test. --
Administering the test. -- Scoring the test. -- Interpreting the results. --
Communicating the results.
Selecting. Having defined the purpose for testing, the counselor looks to a
variety of sources for information on available tests. Resources include review
books, journals, test manuals, and textbooks on testing and measurement
(Anastasi, 1988; Cronbach, 1979). The most complete source of information on a
particular test is usually the test manual.
Administering. Test administration is usually standardized by the developers
of the test. Manual instructions need to be followed in order to make a valid
comparison of an individual's score with the test's norm group. Non-standardized
tests used in counseling are best given under controlled circumstances. This
allows the counselor's experience with the test to become an internal norm.
Issues of individual versus group administration need consideration as well. The
clients and the purpose for which they are being tested will contribute to
decisions about group testing.
Scoring. Scoring of tests follows the instructions provided in the test
manual. The counselor is sometimes given the option of having the test machine
scored rather than hand scored. Both the positive and negative aspects of this
choice need to be considered. It is usually believed that test scoring is best
handled by a machine because it is free from bias.
Interpreting. The interpretation of test results is usually the area which
allows for the greatest flexibility within the testing process. Depending upon
the counselor's theoretical point of view and the extent of the test manual
guidelines, interpretation may be brief and superficial, or detailed and
explicitly theory based (Tinsley & Bradley, 1986). Because this area allows
for the greatest flexibility, it is also the area with the greatest danger of
misuse. Whereas scoring is best done by a bias-free machine, interpretation by
machine is often too rigid. What is needed is the experience of a skilled test
user to individualize the interpretation of results.
Communicating. Feedback of test results to the client completes the formal
process of testing. Here, the therapeutic skills of counselors come fully into
play (Phelps, 1974). The counselor uses verbal and nonverbal interaction skills
to convey messages to clients and to assess their understanding of it.
ISSUES IN TESTING
Confidentiality. The ethical and legal
restrictions on what may be disclosed from counseling apply to the use of tests
as much as to other private information shared between client and counselor. The
trust issue, which is inherent in confidentiality, is relevant to every aspect
of testing. No information can be shared outside the relationship without the
full consent of the client. Information is provided to someone outside the
relationship only after the specifics to be used from the testing are fully
disclosed to the client. These specifics include the when, what, and to whom of
the disclosure. The purpose of disclosure is also shared with the client and
what the information will be used for is clearly spelled out.
Issues of confidentiality are best discussed with the client before
conducting any test administration. There should be no surprises when the
counselor asks, at a later time, for permission to share test results. Clients
who are fully informed, before testing takes place, about the issue of
confidentiality in relation to testing are more active participants in the
Counselor Preparation. Tests are only as good as their construction, proper
usage and the preparation of the counselor intending to use them. The skills and
competencies counselors need for using tests in practice are to:
-- Understand clearly the intended purpose of a test.
-- Be aware of the client's needs regarding the test to be given.
-- Have knowledge about the test, its validity, reliability, and the norm
group for which it was developed.
-- Have personally taken the test before administering it.
-- Have been supervised in administering, scoring, interpreting, and
communicating results of the tests to be given.
Supervision in the practice of providing testing services ideally encompasses
all of the above areas of concern. This supervision needs to be conducted by a
knowledgeable practitioner with experience in using tests in clinical practice.
Client Involvement in the Testing Process. Throughout the process of using
tests in counseling, questions about the client's involvement need to be
considered. Will the client have a full and equal partnership with the counselor
in deciding on the purpose for which the testing will be done? Will the client
have a say in selecting the specific test to be administered? Will the client's
opinion have a bearing on the interpretation of the test results?
Counseling has developed in recent years into a humanistic partnership in
problem solving and growth. Consistent with this development is the client's
participation in decisions regarding all aspects of the counseling relationship.
Testing needs to be included here. The counselor uses developed counseling
skills to determine client readiness for participation in decision making.
Counseling skills will also help determine the client's ability to receive and
comprehend results from the testing. In this regard, clients need to realize
that tests are no more than instruments for furnishing information about
themselves, as well as a guide for the counseling process and future decision
The issues of client involvement in the testing process are not clear-cut.
Individual assessment of client readiness needs to precede test usage. The
personal counseling skills of the practitioner are essential to the entire
Computerized Testing. Many of the major tests are now available in a
computerized format. This format allows the administration and scoring of the
test to occur almost simultaneously. Despite the access to computers in testing,
clients continue to need a counselor ready to assist in answering questions that
may arise. Counselors need to keep in mind that most tests were not normed using
a computer format and that this may affect comparisons of individual scores to
the available norms.
Ethics. Standards for the ethical use of tests and assessment instruments are
given by both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American
Association for Counseling and Development (AACD). These standards spell out the
considerations to take into account when utilizing tests in practice. It needs
to be remembered that the primary purpose of using tests in counseling is the
information they will provide to the client. Clients will then be better
prepared for making decisions about meaningful changes in their lives.
Confidentiality, counselor preparation, computer
testing, and client involvement are all issues within the ethical realm.
Ultimately, test use by counselors must be seen as an adjunct to the entire
counseling process. Test results provide descriptive and objective data which
help the counselor to assist clients better in making the choices that will
affect their lives. In order to make the best use of available tests in a
counseling relationship, the process of testing and the issues which surround
the process must be examined.
Anastasi, A. (1988). Psychological
testing (6th ed.). New York: Macmillan.
Corey, G., Corey, M. S., & Callanan, P. (1984). Issues & ethics in
the helping professions (2nd ed.). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Cronbach, L. J. (1979). Essentials of psychological testing (4th ed.). New
York: Harper & Row.
Goldman, L. (1971). Using tests in counseling (2nd ed.). Pacific Palisades,
CA: Goodyear Publishing.
Phelps, W. R. (1974). Communicating test results: A training guide. Final
report. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service. (ED 134 853)
Thompson, D. L. (1986). Using microcomputer-based assessment in career
counseling. Journal of Employment Counseling, 23(2), 50-56. (EJ 338 635)
Tinsley, H. E. A., & Bradley, R. W. (1986). Test interpretation. Journal
of Counseling & Development, 64(7), 462-466. (EJ 333 980)
Underhill, J. (Ed.). (1975). Skills for adult guidance educators. Package 11:
Selecting assessment instruments. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational
Lab. (ED 192 141)