An MMPI Vs. a Clinical Interview

The current version of the MMPI test is the MMPI-2.
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If you've chosen a career in psychology, you're in good company. This is the scientific field in which more women get Ph.D's than do men, according to a 2011 report by the American Psychological Association. As you progress into your career, you may start making psychological assessments using both clinical interviews and personality tests. The MMPI, or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, is one of the psychometric tests you may use in this context. This combined approach most often supports mental health evaluations; however, some employers also follow this route, especially if they work in sectors where the psychological stability of employees is important, such as police departments, nuclear facilities and airlines.

MMPI Testing Overview

    An MMPI test has 567 true-or-false questions; interviewees can take the test on paper, on a computer or in an audio version. You'll use the results to assess a range of personality traits, characteristics, attitudes and mental health issues; the test also helps evaluate psychological stability. Results compare the answers your interviewee gives with those from comparison groups, marking them to standardized scales. The test typically looks for problematic areas or dysfunctional behavior.

Overview of Clinical Interviews

    Clinical interviews are one-on-one meetings. They help you gather information about the person you're interviewing -- for example, in a mental health setting, you'll use this meeting to help make a clinical diagnosis. Your aim is to learn about the person, discuss her life, family history and background in some detail. Although the interview follows a Q&A structure, it also takes into account nonverbal indicators, including body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.

Advantages and Disadvantages

    You may feel that you get to know the interviewee better in a clinical interview -- you can control and direct the conversation to probe for information as you see fit. However, the people you interview may not always answer questions honestly; they may tell you what they think you want to hear. The primary advantage to MMPI testing is that people taking the test cannot easily manipulate responses. Results are also fact-focused, rather than based on your assumptions. However, the MMPI delivers results on a limited scale and is not designed to consider the individual as a whole.

Similarities and Differences

    MMPI tests and clinical interviews both reveal information about an interviewee's character, personality and attitudes. The way that tests and interviews work and the information they yield is different, however. An MMPI test focuses on a narrower range of traits; a clinical interview gives broader results. This is why you are likely to use clinical interviews and tests such as the MMPI simultaneously to get a more complete picture of the individual.

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