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One of the best ways to find out what people are feeling is to ask them! This is what questionnaires do. Unlike a structured interview, which involves face–to–face questioning, questionnaires allow a person to answer questions by filling out a paper and pencil form. Some people are more comfortable with questionnaires, while others prefer direct interaction with the examiner. Both methods are designed to assess the problem from the individual’s point of view.
Some questionnaires evaluate general personality aspects, while others target more specific issues. Some assess general personality functioning. To understand how such a test works, it is important to understand what psychologists mean when they talk about “Personality”. Personality refers to a person’s stable, enduring traits, rather than their specific reactions to individual situations. Do you often get sick when you’re under stress? Do you tend to feel that people are against you when you run up against conflict? Do you depend on others to make decisions for you, or are you an independent thinker? The answers to such questions shed light on how a person generally reacts to the world and, in particular, to interpersonal situations.
Other questionnaires are designed to assess specific problems that are reported to the clinician. There are literally hundreds of questionnaires of this type, dealing with such problems as depression, anxiety, quality of life, restriction of activity, lifestyle factors or emotional instability. If any of these issues are relevant, tests may be used to assess this through one or more questionnaires. Usually, the psychologist will use many sources of information, including specific test results, to reach a conclusion about each individual’s situation.