Giselle Aguilar Hass

Giselle Aguilar Hass

Clinical Psychology, Nova University (now Nova Southeastern University), 1992 Clinical Psychology, University of Costa Rica, 1980

Current Positions

Psychologist in Private Practice

How did you become interested in Personality Assessment?

The first professional job I obtained when attending college in my native Costa Rica was as an assistant to a Psychologist who conducted Psychological and Psychoeducational evaluations with children. I became fascinated by his ability to obtain a picture of a person's functioning after one or two sessions. I have dedicated my professional life from that point on to personality evaluation. Throughout my professional career I have spent the lion's share of my time conducting or teaching personality assessment.

Tell us about your current job. We are interested in hearing about the different things that people do who work in the area of personality assessment.

I conduct forensic psychological evaluations for the courts, specifically for criminal, civil, family, and immigration courts. The two major groups that I evaluate are both victims and perpetrators of abuse in many different forms. For instance, a large population I evaluate are abused children and adolescents as well as the parents and caregivers who abuse children and adolescents. For example, I have evaluated a number of parents who have abandoned their children with strangers or in the streets, or failed to feed them, or brutalized them, or shook them, caged them, or burned them, or forced them into prostitution or into drug dealing. Another large group I evaluate are adults abused by others, such as partners, family members, employers, strangers, authority figures, etc. For instance, I have evaluated mail order brides who were abused and enslaved by their husbands, persons abused or raped by their employer or pastor, teenage girls kidnapped by a gang as a sexual slave, or immigrant women enslaved as domestic workers. I also see cases of immigrants requesting asylum due to persecution and torture, or Female Genital Mutilation, among other issues. A smaller part of my caseload is conducting custody evaluations, both in cases of separation or dispute among caregivers, and also in cases when it needs to inform a decision of adoption or termination of parental rights.

What are the most interesting and/or meaningful aspects of your job?

I am drawn to try to understand how people become who they are, why they do what they do or act the way they do. People's uniqueness never ceases to amaze me, especially when I see people acting the same way but with different issues and histories. The wisdom of human nature and the mystery of our human resiliency and flaws is something that I am never tired of observing. I find each case fascinating in both intellectual and emotional ways. Intellectually, I feel that I never know enough and I have a lot to learn about human psychology. Emotionally, I feel intimately connected with everybody I evaluate, even with people who otherwise could be considered despicable or even monstrous, but when I see inside their mind I feel like I understand them and they are not foreign to me.

Tell us how you initially learned about and joined SPA.

I learned about SPA when I first came to work at the Clinical Psychology Department of Argosy University in 1995. A colleague, Steve Lally, was an immense support to me and encouraged me to join SPA. It has been one of the best pieces of professional advice I have received.

How has SPA impacted or benefited you or your career?

It is hard to count the ways in which SPA has supported my career throughout the years. I think that in the first place, SPA helped me define my identity as an evaluator. I used to see myself as a psychologist who conducted evaluations, but after being in SPA for a while I came to realize that most of the people at SPA were first assessors and second psychologists. I realized that was the way I saw myself as well. I then dropped other conferences, conventions, other divisions, and faithfully started to attend the SPA annual conference each year because it is the most fulfilling and nurturing environment for me. The intellectual stimulation that I receive during conferences given the high standards of the work presented, the quality of the journal and list-serves is like oxygen to my mind. The social connections that I have forged over the years encourage me and are role models to continue developing my craft. I am grateful for the hard work I see SPA governance doing to enrich the practice of psychological assessment and to show the world the humane and scientific side of psychological assessment. Being a member of SPA has given me an unparalleled sense of camaraderie and meaning in my field of expertise.

As we look forward to SPA's 100th anniversary in 2038, what do you think is important in order for the field of personality assessment to thrive and to benefit others?

I think it is essential to focus on issues of diversity, both at the level of evaluators and intellectual and clinical inquiry. It is imperative that personality assessment becomes actualized and relevant to today's diverse world.

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