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New guidance on carrying out psychological assessments during Covid-19

The British Psychological Society: Psychological assessment undertaken remotely

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published new guidelines for UK psychologists conducting assessments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Details

Covid-19 related restrictions have created a challenge for the assessment process, with restrictions on face-to-face meetings, the need to wear protective equipment and limited opportunities to touch physical materials.

Remote assessments can ensure that psychological assessments continue to take place during this challenging time. However, the use of technology also poses a potential threat to the validity of the assessment. This risk is particularly high for assessments involving the presentation of visual material or the physical manipulation of materials.

The BPS guidelines recommend that remote assessments are used only where it is appropriate with reference to the circumstances of the individual client. Psychologists should carry out a detailed risk assessment and provide reasoning for their decision to use remote assessments.

The following factors should be considered:

  • The potential impact on the client of cancelling, postponing and/or adapting the assessment.
  • The accessibility of the assessment medium to the client, particularly the use of digital technology.
  • The privacy of the location and technology used for the assessment.
  • The ability to maintain the confidentiality of any data collected and the security of the technology being used.

In some situations, it may be appropriate for psychologists to identify their findings as ‘preliminary’ or ‘provisional’, detailing the limitations of the assessment process and providing recommendations for further assessment.

There are additional legal considerations for psychologists carrying out remote assessments including whether existing consent agreements need to be amended to reflect the use of technology and whether the process is compliant with relevant data protection legislation such as GDPR.

Commentary

The BPS guidelines set out the circumstances when remote testing can be used, which is crucial for young people in the criminal justice system requiring psychological assessments. However, the publication also demonstrates that remote assessments will not be suitable for all cases. Very young children, in particular, may be difficult to assess without face-to-face meetings. Further guidance is required on the appropriate approach to psychological assessments during the pandemic in circumstances deemed unsuitable for remote testing.