PSA6669 - Psychosocial Assessment: A Comprehensive Overview for Mental Health Clinicians

by Gail A. Wright

Gail A. Wright holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University, a Master of Arts degree in Psychology and Guidance from Assumption College Graduate School and a Master of Social Work degree from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. She has presented at workshops on local, regional and national levels. She is an Adjunct Professor at Kennebec Community College. She is employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs as Program Director for Care Case Management and Care Coordination Home Telehealth. She is a Master Preceptor for Care Coordination Home Telehealth. She has written and published several on line courses for the Department of Veterans Affairs Employee Education Service and is a national Peer Reviewer for proposed courses for social work continuing education credits. She has served in both elected and appointed positions in the Maine Chapter of NASW.

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The objective of this course is to provide the mental health clinician with a comprehensive introductory overview of psychosocial assessment. When the trainee completes this course, he/she will:

1. Comprehend the relationship between theory and practice
2. Know the format of a psychosocial assessment
3. Describe the factors that enhance or impede progress toward achieving optimal functioning
4. Identify personal or professional biases that might interfere with the development of clinical impressions and /or clinical assessment
5. Learn how to identify critical interventions
6. Understand how to develop targeted treatment plans
7. Comprehend intervention strategies to achieve optimal functioning
8. Recognize and understand ethical and cultural aspects of psychosocial assessment.

This course is primarily designed for clinicians in the early or middle stages of their career, or for more advanced clinicians reviewing basic concepts in this area.

Course length:
6 contact hours: Core Clinical




Section II: Introduction
Section III: Qualitative and Quantitative Measures in Assessment
Section IV: Graphic Assessments
SECTION VI: Assessment of Spirituality/Religion
SECTION VII: Cultural competency
SECTION VIII: Gathering Information from the Unpaid/informal Caregiver
SECTION IX: Ethical Considerations
SECTION X: Psychosocial Assessment Data and Plan Development
SECTION XI: Implementing the Comprehensive Psychosocial Assessment
SECTION XII: Comprehensive Psychosocial Assessment Templates
SECTION XIII: SUGGESTED TREATMENT PLAN ACTIVITIES based on Comprehensive Psychosocial Assessment
References and Test




Psychosocial assessments in some form are the bread and butter of the practicing clinician. These assessments can be brief or complex, formal or informal, quantitative or qualitative. They form the starting point for all professional interventions - the better the assessment, the easier it is to target the right interventions and therefore improve client outcomes.

In order for clinicians to be effective in their work, it is essential to have an understanding and appreciation of the nuances of the various components and aspects of the psychosocial assessment. When the clinician is able to identify the “keys” that impede or enhance results for the client, then the clinical relationship is strengthened and, more importantly, the client is better served by the professional recommendations and interventions.

Conversely, when the clinician fails to target the essential elements, the client's needs are not served as effectively or efficiently. This can be a frustrating experience for both the client and the clinician. The client can be frustrated by the apparent lack of understanding on the part of the clinician, and the clinician can experience a loss of confidence in their professional skills. At the center of whether this goes well or poorly is a thoughtful, well designed psychosocial assessment process, implementing with knowledge and skill.

Well designed psychosocial assessments are not necessarily expansive in length or detail. Fully inclusive, comprehensive psychosocial assessments are not for everyone. They are necessary for only about 5% of the client population. These individuals have complex issues across one or more domains of functioning. For the remaining 95% of clients, a less comprehensive format is often sufficient.

In order for the clinician to function at the optimal level of professional practice, he/she must have the knowledge and the professional judgment to know when to use a more comprehensive assessment tool, and when a shorter, less comprehensive assessment is appropriate.

Whether the assessment tool is more or less comprehensive, the clinician must know which specific elements of the psychosocial assessment process to use in which circumstances - and how to use them correctly. Because the psychosocial assessment is necessary for the development of treatment interventions that are relevant, timely, and effective, it is important that the clinician have the tools and the information to identify in an efficient manner those elements that would be most beneficial for each client.

It is for this reason that this course will go into an examination of the psychosocial assessment process in considerable detail. It is not sufficient for the clinician merely to fill out in a rote manner all of the sections of a "best practices" psychosocial assessment form that someone else has developed.

The clinician is supposed to understand why each piece of information is useful – and how to use that information well. However, the most important elements for one client will not necessarily be the same as the most important elements for a different client. A full and thorough knowledge of the psychosocial assessment process allows the clinician to modify the assessment process on the fly, so that the most important elements of the assessment process can be individualized, targeted and emphasized for each client.

The following course presents details for both a comprehensive psychosocial assessment that may be needed in institutional and public organizational settings, and a less expansive model that is useful in most private practice settings. It is expected that the after completion of the course, the clinician will have the skills to evaluate which elements of each model will be beneficial to the clients that they serve.

This course is appropriate for both less experienced and more senior clinicians. For the neophyte clinician it provides an overview of all aspects of the psychosocial assessment. For the more experienced clinician it provides a review of the elements of the psychosocial assessment that may have been overlooked in their agency’s striving for specialization and/or standardization.

As an added benefit to the trainee, this course will also offer two templates for a detailed psychosocial assessment, as well as numerous suggestions for tools, including quantitative measures, that can be used to supplement the body of information contained in the assessment templates. In this way, the trainee completing the course will hopefully move forward with both some useful templates and tools to use, and the knowledge of how to use them wisely.