The “misuse” of psychological assessment vs CJ Sereno

Read the four functions of psychological assessments and diagnosis of psychological conditions.

The question is? was the House of Representative (HOR) ethical in showing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s psychological assessments ? Read this statement is issued by the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) which is to inform the public regarding the ethical and valid use of psychological assessments, in response to the recent legislative proceedings that highlight the alleged mental/psychological condition of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The PAP maintains that in giving this statement, the organization is neither supporting nor opposing any position regarding the issues involving Chief Justice Sereno. It only seeks to clarify the function of psychological assessments and the diagnosis of psychological conditions.

  1. The purpose of psychological assessment is to help understand a person’s functioning in various aspects of life for informed decision making (for example, for job positions) or for treatment planning. Psychological tests are developed and applied via scientific methods, but they are not perfectly accurate. Actual behaviors and performance are more valid than what psychological assessments may predict.
  2. A psychological assessment is often conducted for a specific purpose, and should only be used for that purpose. To use a psychological assessment conducted in 2012 (which was for the purpose of Chief Justice Sereno’s appointment) for the current legislative proceedings is a misuse of those results.
  3. Statements that the Chief Justice “failed” the psychological evaluation are misleading, as no one “passes” or “fails” a psychological assessment. Instead, a psychologist recommends a person to a position after the assessment indicates that he/she possesses the characteristics that fit the demands of the given position.
  4.  Decisions and recommendations are derived from psychological assessments that use a combination of methods, such as interview, observation, standardized norm-referenced tests, and relevant informal tools. Good practices entail the application of all these methods, and using only one or two of these methods is inadequate. If a psychologist bases his/her assessment on only one of these methods, or from second-hand reports, then conclusions about “mental disturbance” based on alleged symptoms that indicate such a condition are misleading, if not inaccurate.

The PAP statement adds that they uphold the dignity of every human being and  reject recent narratives that directly or indirectly use psychological assessments to stigmatize those with mental or psychological conditions. It condemns the unethical practice of using confidential psychological information for purposes of discrediting or damaging a person’s character. Even if psychological test results become public documents, this does not grant permission for anybody to use it for any purpose other than its original intent.

sereno psychological assessments

In a closed session ,Geraldine Tria, clinical psychologist and “expert witness” or amicus curiae to the impeachment committee, stated categorically on Tuesday, February 27, that she would not have recommended Sereno to the top judicial post, “based on the findings” and her assessment of the top official’s personality. She added, “You have 9 manifestations, and there are strong indicators that 5 out of 9  actually manifested, like grandiosity, unlimited power, sense of entitlement, interpersonally exploitative in order to take advantage of others in order to achieve his or her end, lack of empathy and sensitiveness to the needs of other members in the community”.

The question now begs to be answered. The ethical and valid use of psychological assessments was not followed by the House of Representatives.   There was “misuse” of the 2012 psychological assessment of Chief Justice  Sereno during the House committee hearings on the impeachment complaint against her.

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