What is a Cognitive Assessment?

What is… #2.

What is a cognitive assessment?

It is a means of comparing a range of thinking skills to each other, and to a large sample of other people of the same age. This helps to determine what are the areas of strength of the person, and any areas that may be more difficult for that person. Thinking skills include memory, processing speed (how quickly you can complete a task), verbal and non verbal reasoning (problem solving using words or images). It can also include executive functioning (e.g. planning, impulse control), attention and concentration.

During a cognitive assessment you would be asked to complete puzzles, to answer some questions verbally or to write down answers. You would usually be given a range of different tasks to help look at and compare different thinking skills.

You should be provided with a summary of the results and some recommendations for how to use your strengths in order to compensate for areas of difficulty. This may relate to a school, work or home environment. If you don’t understand the report, do ask!

What is… an assessment for therapy?

When you meet a psychologist, therapist or counsellor for the first time, it is likely that the first session or two will be used as an assessment.
Firstly they will introduce themselves and tell you a few things about the way they work, such as what confidentiality means.
The assessment is a chance for the therapist to find out some specific details about why you are there, such as how long this has been a problem or something you want to change, and what you hope to be different.
They might also ask about your current situation (eg who you live with, how you spend your time) and might ask a bit about your past experiences in general terms but not much detail. The therapist might give you a questionnaire to help find out some more information.
The purpose of these questions is not to be nosy, but to gather just enough information to start to understand your situation from your conversation together, consider what type of therapy or support would be most helpful, and see whether they are the right person to work with you.
It is also a chance for you to see whether you are comfortable with the therapist and ask any questions you have.
Towards the end of the meeting(s) the therapist will probably summarise their understanding of what you have said, and make some suggestions about what they think will be helpful next.