Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis in Social Work Practice

Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis in Social Work Practice

Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis in Social Work Practice

Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis in Social Work Practice


This user-friendly textbook not only guides social workers in developing competence in the American Psychiatric Association'sDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR)system of diagnosis, it also assists them in staying attuned during client assessment to social work values and principles: a focus on client strengths, concern for the worth and dignity of individuals, appreciation of environmental influences on behavior, and a reliance on evidence-based approaches.

The authors, seasoned practitioner-scholars, provide an in-depth exploration of fourteen major mental disorders that social workers commonly see in practice, integrating several perspectives in order to meet the challenges social workers face in client assessment. A risk and resilience framework helps social workers understand environmental influences on the emergence of mental disorders and the strengths that clients already possess. Social workers will also learn to apply critical thinking to theDSMwhen it is inconsistent with social work values and principles. Finally, the authors catalog evidence-based assessment instruments and treatments so that social workers can intervene efficiently and effectively, using the best resources available.

Students and practitioners alike will appreciate the wealth of case examples, evidence-based assessment instruments, and treatment plans that make this an essential guide to the assessment and diagnostic processes in social work practice.


This book is organized around the DSM (APA, 2000) classification system because it is a standard resource for clinical diagnosis in this country and has been for more than half a century. The purpose of the DSM is to [provide clear descriptions of diagnostic categories in order to enable clinicians and investigators to diagnose, communicate about, study, and treat people with various mental disorders] (APA, 2000, p. xi). However, the DSM represents only one of many possible perspectives on human behavior, a medical perspective. There has always been a tension between the social work profession's person-in-environment perspective and the requirement in many settings that social workers use the DSM to [diagnose] mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders in clients. The purpose of this chapter is to explore this uneasy relationship of social work to the DSM. As an introduction to the process, the concept of disorder is reviewed from four professional perspectives.

The Concept of [Disorder]

Many of the human service professions, all of which have their own unique value and knowledge bases, develop formal standards for evaluating and classifying the behavior of real or potential clients as normal or abnormal, healthy or unhealthy, sane or insane, rational or irrational. They use different criteria for doing so, however. Since its beginnings, the profession of social work has made efforts to put forth such classification systems (one of which . . .

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