TPC Journal-Vol 11-Issue-3 - FULL ISSUE

267 Michael T. Kalkbrenner Enhancing Assessment Literacy in Professional Counseling: A Practical Overview of Factor Analysis Assessment literacy is an essential competency area for professional counselors who administer tests and interpret the results of participants’ scores. Using factor analysis to demonstrate internal structure validity of test scores is a key element of assessment literacy. The underuse of psychometrically sound instrumentation in professional counseling is alarming, as a careful review and critique of the internal structure of test scores is vital for ensuring the integrity of clients’ results. A professional counselor’s utilization of instrumentation without evidence of the internal structure validity of scores can have a number of negative consequences for their clients, including misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment planning. The extant literature includes a series of articles on the major types and extensions of factor analysis, including exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), higher-order CFA, and multiple-group CFA. However, reading multiple psychometric articles can be overwhelming for professional counselors who are looking for comparative guidelines to evaluate the validity evidence of scores on instruments before administering them to clients. This article provides an overview for the layperson of the major types and extensions of factor analysis and can serve as reference for professional counselors who work in clinical, research, and educational settings. Keywords: Factor analysis, overview, professional counseling, internal structure, validity Professional counselors have a duty to ensure the veracity of tests before interpreting the results of clients’ scores because clients rely on their counselors to administer and interpret the results of tests that accurately represent their lived experience (American Educational Research Association [AERA] et al., 2014; National Board for Certified Counselors [NBCC], 2016). Internal structure validity of test scores is a key assessment literacy area and involves the extent to which the test items cluster together and represent the intended construct of measurement. Factor analysis is a method for testing the internal structure of scores on instruments in professional counseling (Kalkbrenner, 2021b; Mvududu & Sink, 2013). The rigor of quantitative research, including psychometrics, has been identified as a weakness of the discipline, and instrumentation with sound psychometric evidence is underutilized by professional counselors (Castillo, 2020; C.-C. Chen et al., 2020; Mvududu & Sink, 2013; Tate et al., 2014). As a result, there is an imperative need for assessment literacy resources in the professional counseling literature, as assessment literacy is a critical competency for professional counselors who work in clinical, research, and educational settings alike. Assessment Literacy in Professional Counseling Assessment literacy is a crucial proficiency area for professional counselors, as counselors in a variety of the specialty areas of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (2015), such as clinical rehabilitation (5.D.1.g. & 5.D.3.a.), clinical mental health (5.C.1.e. & 5.C.3.a.), and addiction (5.A.1.f. & 5.A.3.a.), select and administer tests to clients and use the results to inform diagnosis and treatment planning, and to evaluate the utility of clinical interventions (Mvududu & Sink, The Professional Counselor™ Volume 11, Issue 3, Pages 267–284 © 2021 NBCC, Inc. and Affiliates doi: 10.15241/mtk.11.3.267 Michael T. Kalkbrenner, PhD, NCC, is an associate professor at New Mexico State University. Correspondence may be addressed to Michael T. Kalkbrenner, Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003,