Psyching Out People

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: Are psychologists really able to tell a person all about themselves just by being around them for a few minutes? In other words, are psychologists able to psych people out? That’s a scary thought if they are.
No. Psychologists are not mystical people who go around discerning everything there is to know about people. We are no different than anyone else, except that we have training to test and evaluate people. The evaluation process includes a Clinical Interview, but that is simply a standard set of questions obtaining one’s history from birth to the present.
Because I don’t possess those mystical powers to look into the patient I am interviewing, I frequently rely on collateral information to corroborate self-reported information on the one being evaluated. Again the extent of collateral information sought depends of the type of evaluation requested.
The second part of a psychological evaluation typically includes testing, and the kinds of tests used by psychologists are norm-referenced tests designed to answer specific questions. That means the person being evaluated is compared to a group of individuals of similar age, gender, etc.
For example if the question has to do with a person’s level of cognitive functioning, and if the person being tested is young, he or she might be compared with others within a three-month span of time (i.e., 6 years 0 months to 6 years 3 months). Older people usually have a wider age range to be compared with.
If the question has to do with psychopathology or personality, a man might be compared with other men in a similar situation. So you can see there is no hocus pocus, simply science.
So if someone who has taken a psychology course, or even has a degree in psychology and that person tries to make you believe he or she can see through you, don’t be intimidated. He or she can’t. Relax! Real psychologists are mental health practitioners using scientific methods, not intuition and psychic powers.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].