Assessing Anxiety

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • Before any psychological treatment for anxiety can commence a detailed and accurate assessment should be made. Assessment is the very first step in the therapy process, but it continues as the therapy progresses and sometimes for months after therapy has concluded. Various methods might be used and this is the focus of this Sharepost.


    The most widely used assessment method involves structured clinical interviews. These are specifically designed to match diagnostic categories of anxiety but also to guide the clinician towards useful information about the specific nature of anxiety as to how it affects that particular person. In other words, arriving at a specific diagnosis does not really say anything about, for example, the personality of the individual that may affect the type of treatment offered.

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    Standardized techniques of assessment will assist the therapist in making a diagnosis by illuminating the nature of anxiety. They do however have their shortcomings. For example the time taken to complete the associated questionnaires will take at least one hour and sometimes much longer. This can present a problem for the therapist as much as for the patient.


    The clinical interview remains the cornerstone of the assessment process. Interviews vary because they are influenced by the particular background of the therapist and their theoretical orientation. The clinical interview is a fairly flexible tool in which the therapist will explore various issues, some in greater depth than others. During the interview the patient is likely to be asked about their treatment history, their work and lifestyle as well as the goals and expectations they have about therapy.


    A variety of reliable and valid questionnaires are available for therapists. Some use these as an efficient way to collect information. It can be a matter of personal preference as to whether none, one, or several of these are used. The potential benefit for the therapist is that they provide an account of the perceived severity of a particular disorder and whether intervention has been a success. Some questionnaires that assess a particular component of anxiety may be given on a session by session basis.


    Assessment may also involve exposing the patient to one or more situations or conditions. These behavioral assessment tests (BATs) are used for a variety of anxiety disorders. For example, a person with obsessive compulsive disorder may have particular concerns about contamination. Requesting the person to approach or touch the feared object can provide important details about the intensity and severity of the problem, the rituals associated with it and the duration associated with it until the person is able to settle.



    Davey. G (2008) Clinical Psychology. Hodder Education.

Published On: October 27, 2009