What is a psychological assessment?


A psychological assessment generally asks three main questions:

  • is there anything in how this parent is that would cause them difficulties or problems?
  • what effect does this have on their child?
  • what help, support or therapy does this parent need to mean that their problems don't affect their child any more?

There are lots of problems and difficulties that make being a parent more difficult. These are:

  • being depressed or anxious, or having a problem like psychosis or bipolar
  • your personality, patterns in how you think, feel, behave and relate to other people that might cause you problems
  • difficulties with learning, planning or remembering
  • finding it hard to manage feelings like anger and frustration
  • what you have learned from how you were parented as a child (it isn't what happened to you as a child that makes you the parent you are, it's what you have learned from it, or how you have come to terms with it)
  • whether you can think about things from the perspective of your baby, and whether you can think about their feelings

Sometimes we are asked to do risk assessments. This means helping the Court understand if something bad or dangerous is very likely or not very likely to happen in the future.

What will happen?

Meeting your psychologist

Once you have settled into Orchard House, the psychologist will come and introduce themselves. Because you will need to be able to concentrate, you will meet the psychologist at Canon Lodge, not where you are living with your child.

They will explain about their job and what they have been asked by the Court to think about. They will explain that there is no confidentiality in a psychological assessment. Usually, when you talk to a therapist or a counsellor, what you say is kept secret and private. In an assessment, this doesn't happen. The psychologist will write down what you say and put it in a report which is given to everyone involved with the Court. This means the social worker, the guardian, the solicitors and the Judge.

Talking and listening

Lots of the assessment will be done through just talking about things. The psychologist will ask questions about how you are, how things are with your child, your relationships and your history. If there is a question you don't want to answer, then you don't have to. It is more of a discussion than an interview, if there is something you think it is important for the psychologist to know, then just say.


Questionnaires are useful because they can measure things that questions and answers can't, and they can save a lot of time by covering a lot of things very quickly. We use questionnaires to measure different personality traits, things like anger, and childhood experiences.

We also sometimes use a test called a WAIS. This is a measure of intelligence, but we mostly use it to help us understand how your brain uses information. Some people are better with words than pictures, some people think very quickly but might not retain information as well as other people. This is not a test of your parenting, and it is not a pass or fail test.

Spending time with you and your baby

There are some things that are hard to put into words, and it's easier just to show people. That is why it is important for the psychologist to see you with your child, to see how you are as a parent. Sometimes we do this in the room but sometimes this is distracting for you or for your child, so sometimes we use videos from the houses.

What happens next?

All of the information that the psychologist has from you, the papers, from talking to people who know you well, is all put together. The psychologist then writes a report that answers the questions that the Court has asked. This is written for the Judge to help her or him understand what is going on for you and what help you might need to be able to look after your children safely so it can seem like a very complicated report. Your solicitor will go through it with you to help you understand it and you can ask to see the psychologist to talk about the report.