Explore This Research Lab

Psychological Assessment employs a battery of psychological tests (combined with a clinical interview, observation, and medical chart information) to attain a comprehensive, integrated, and detailed depiction of a person’s emotional, interpersonal, social, and cognitive abilities.

The Psychological Evaluation and Research Laboratory (PEaRL) is a clinical consultation service offering comprehensive psychological evaluations. Patients referred for PEaRL evaluations often have complex or confusing clinical presentations, a history of sub-optimal treatment response, and a possible comorbid medical condition.

PEaRL evaluations include psychological and neuropsychological instruments to provide a broad description of a patient’s intellectual, neuro-cognitive, and psychological functioning. While psychological assessment has many applications, PEaRL evaluations are clinically focused, and we do not provide educational (i.e., identification of learning disabilities), functional (i.e., disability determinations) or legal (i.e., forensic evaluations) evaluations.

PEaRL evaluations are specifically designed to answer important clinical questions such as differential diagnosis, prioritizing and tailoring treatment strategies, and progress monitoring. Our psychologists are specialists with extensive training and experience conducting psychological assessments. They collaborate with referring professionals to ensure that our evaluations address the specific concerns of each patient.

As a result, PEaRL evaluations aid clinicians by answering critical clinical questions while also providing unique insight into the neurocognitive and psychological bases of a patient’s difficulty.

Our Services

We are committed to providing prompt service with most appointments being scheduled within 4-8 weeks and reports available four weeks after the completed evaluation. In addition to providing clinical service, the PEaRL has an active research program and is a major training resource for the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School pre-doctoral psychology internship program.

Treating professional within the Partners Healthcare system can refer patients for a comprehensive psychological evaluation through EPIC. 

Research Projects

In addition to conducting state-of-the art psychological assessments, the PEaRL is an active and productive research program.

Consistent with our mission to advance the effectiveness of psychological assessment, PEaRL research is focused on understanding the validity and utility of common psychological and neuropsychological instruments. To achieve this goal, we have created an IRB-approved database that currently contains over 1,450 completed assessment protocols.

This extensive database allows us to explore the relationship of assessment findings to important life events (e.g., psychological trauma, hospitalization, academic problems and suicide attempts). Through this database, we are actively exploring the validity and clinical value of common psychological tests, while also seeking to increase our understanding of important psychiatric conditions. Members of our group have extensive expertise in psychometrics, scale development and validation, as well as specialized knowledge in the assessment of psychopathology, personality functioning, and treatment outcomes.

Trainees have the opportunity to join our ongoing research projects or develop projects consistent with our research and clinical mission. Most of our recent trainees have had successful research experiences and have presented papers or posters at professional conferences or published research articles as part of their PEaRL training.

Current Research Projects

The SPECTRA Clinical Assessment Project

Empirically-based dimensional models of psychopathology are reshaping how psychopathology is conceptualized, classified and measured. Clinical psychological assessment could benefit greatly from the conceptual insights and technical advantages offered by these dimensional views of psychopathology. However, at present methodological and conceptual limitations inherent in traditional clinical assessment limit the translation of these important findings into clinical practice. The goal of the SPECTRA Project is to develop and refine a conceptual and methodological framework for applying a hierarchical dimensional model of psychopathology in traditional clinical psychological assessment.

The Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method (SCORS-G)

There is a growing need in psychological assessment to develop measures that can reliable quantify dynamic themes and constructs present in free response narrative data. The Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method (SCORS-G) is among the most commonly used clinician-rated measures to code object relational content via narrative material. Michelle B Stein, PhD, the leading expert on this measure, has published multiple research studies exploring the reliability and validity of SCORS-G ratings. She has also written a comprehensive text on the SCORS-G system covering scoring, interpretation and innovative methods of applying the SCORS-G to a wide range of clinical encounters.

The goal of her research is to refine and improve the SCORS-G, enhance clinical utility, and increase the range of clinical applications including psychological assessment. Please contact Michelle B Stein, PhD or visit SCORS-G.com for more information.

Defensive Functioning

John H. Porcerelli, PhD, ABPP, and Laura A. Richardson, PhD, are collaborating on studying Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) narratives of defensive functioning in psychiatric patients. Defense mechanisms, which are similar to coping styles, are automatic implicit processes that attempt to maintain or restore psychological equilibrium when one experiences external and internal stressors. Studying how defenses interact with personality organization and neurocognitive function improves our understanding of the psychological processes that contribute to coping and functional efficiency in a wide range of life situations.

Exploring Meta-Cognition through Method Convergence

We are interested in exploring clinically useful information embedded within our standard clinical assessment tools, consisting of both performance-based and self-report measures of similar constructs. We are currently interested in how meta-cognition—people’s ability to accurately evaluate their strengths and limitations—may be demonstrated through utilization of standard clinical assessment tools.

Mass General Psychiatry Treatment Monitoring Program (Completed)

Maintain, monitor and analyze outcome data for all clinical services provided within and across the Mass General Department of Psychiatry.

Schwartz Outcome Scale (SOS-10) Project

The SOS-10 is a unique and highly versatile mental health outcomes measure. We maintain a growing SOS-10 database and engage in projects that expand the use and application of the scale.

Research Collaborations

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Borderline Psychopathology - Mass General DBT program, Rebecca Harley PhD, director
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Processes and Outcome Research Program - The Derner School of Psychology, Adelphi University, Mark J. Hilsenroth, PhD, professor of psychology
  • Inpatient Treatment Outcome Project - Mather Hospital, Greg Haggerty, PhD, staff psychologist
  • Psychological Instrument Validation Project - Psychological Assessment Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, Steve R. Smith, PhD, associate professor of psychology
  • Psychological Assessment of Temporally-Dynamic Traits, Emotions, and Relationships in Naturalistic Settings (PATTERNS) Lab - Penn State - Altoona, Michael J. Roche, PhD, assistant professor of psychology
  • Assessment of Defensive Functioning, University of Detroit Mercy - Detroit, MI, John H. Porcerelli, PhD, ABPP, professor of psychology
  • Interpersonal Relationships, Emotion, & Personality (IREP) Lab - University of Michigan-Dearborn, Caleb J. Siefert, PhD, associate professor of psychology
  • Utility of the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method (SCORS-G) - Augusta University, Augusta, GA, Jenelle Slavin-Mulford, PhD, associate professor of psychology

Publications

See publications

To date, our lab has numerous published works and consistently present papers, posters, and workshops at local, national, and international conferences. A selection of our clinician’s most influential work is listed below.

Blais, MA. Introduction to the SPECTRA: Indices of Psychopathology: An Assessment Inventory Aligned with the Hierarchical-Dimensional Model of Psychopathology. (2019), White Paper, Lutz, FL: PAR.

Blais MA, Hopwood CJ. Model based approaches to teaching personality assessment. J Pers Assess, 2017; 99: 136-145.

Blais M, Smith S. The Integrative Process in Psychological Assessment: In: A Guide to Personality Assessment: Evaluation, Application and Integration, 2nd Ed. Archer R, Smith S (Eds), Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Publishers, (2014), pp 405-445.

Blais MA, Malone JC. Structure of the DSM-IV Personality Disorders: What do clinicians see? J Compr Psychiatry, 2013; 54: 326-333.

Blais MA. The common structure of normal personality and psychopathology: preliminary exploration in a non-patient sample. J Pers Individ Differ, 2010; 48:322-326.

Celano CM, Gianangelo T, Millstein RA, Chung WJ, Wexler DJ, Park ER, Huffman JC. A positive psychology-motivational interviewing intervention for patients with type 2 diabetes: proof-of-concept trial. Int J Psychiatry Med, 2019; 54(2); 97-114.

Huffman JC, Feig EH, Millstein RA, Freedman M, Healy BC, Chung WJ, Amonoo HL, Malloy L, Slawsby E, Januzzi JL, Celano CM. Usefulness of a positive psychology-motivational interviewing intervention to promote positive affect and physical activity after an acute coronary syndrome. Am J Cardiol, 2019; 123(12): 1906-1914.

Malone J, Stein M, Slavin-Mulford J, Bello I, Sinclair S, Blais MA. Seeing red: Affect modulation and chromatic color responses on the Rorschach. Bull Menninger Clin, 2013;77: 70-93.

Millstein RA, Chung WJ, Hoeppner BB, Boehm JK, Legler SR, Mastromauro CA, Huffman JC. Development of the State Optimism Measure. General Hospital Psychiatry, 2019; 58: 83-93.

Porcerelli JH, Huth-Bocks A, Huprich SK, Richardson L. Defense mechanisms of pregnant mothers predict attachment security, social-emotional competence, and behavior problems in their toddlers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; 173(2): 138-146.

Porcerelli JH, Cogan R, Melchior KA, Jasinski MJ, Richardson L, Fowler S, Morris P, Murdoch W. Convergent Validity of the Early Memory Index in Two Primary Care Samples. J Pers Assess, 2016: 98, 289-297.

Richardson, L, Porcerelli, JH, Dauphin, VB, Morris, P, Murdoch, W. The use of the social cognition and object relations scale in a primary care setting. J Pers Assess, 2017. 

Sinclair SJ, Roche M, Temes C, Massey C, Chung W, Stein M, Richardson L, Blais MA. Evaluating chronic suicide risk with the Personality Assessment Inventory: Development and initial validation of the Chronic Suicide Risk Index (S_Chron), Psychiatry Research, 2016; 245, 443-450, 2016.

Sinclair SJ, Blais MA Blacker D. Rating Scales and Brief Assessments in Psychiatry. In: Kaplan, BJ, Sadock, VA (Eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (2017) Vol. 1: pp 1047-1077.

Slavin-Mulford J, Sinclair SJ, Stein M, Malone J, Bello I, Blais, MA. External validity of the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) in a clinical sample, J Pers Assess, 2012; 94: 593-600.

Stein MB, Slavin-Mulford J, Sinclair SJ, Siefert CJ, Blais MA. Exploring the construct validity of the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale in a clinical sample. J Pers Assess, 2012; 94(5): 533-540.

Stein MB, Slavin-Mulford J, Siefert CJ, Sinclair SJ, Malone JC, Renna M, Bello I, Blais MA, SCORS-G stimulus characteristics of select Thematic Apperception cards. J Pers. Assess, 2013.

Stein MB, Siefert CJ. Introduction to the Special Section on the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method: From Research to Practice. J Pers. Assess, 2017.

Stein MB, Slavin-Mulford. The Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method (SCORS-G): A Comprehensive Guide for Clinicians and Researchers. New York, NY: Routledge (2018).

Stein MB, Calderon S, Ruchensky J, Massey C, Slavin-Mulford J, Chung WJ, Richardson LA, Blais MA. When’s a Story a Story? Determining Interpretability of SCORS-G ratings on Thematic Apperception Test Narratives (under review).


National Awards

Michelle B. Stein, PhD
2014 Samuel J. and Anne G. Beck Award, Society of Personality Assessment, for “outstanding early career research in the field of personality assessment”

Mark A. Blais, PsyD
2009 Theodore Millon, Award in Personality Psychology, American Psychological Foundation,“For outstanding work in advancing the science of Personality Psychology

Professional Training

Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School offers a full-time, predoctoral internship in Clinical Psychology to matriculated doctoral students enrolled in clinical or counseling psychology programs. The PEaRL is a training site for the Adult Clinical Psychology Elective in the Internship in Clinical Psychology.

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