Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Mental Health Professionals' Evaluations of the Integral Intake, a Metatheory-Based, Idiographic Intake Instrument

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Mental Health Professionals' Evaluations of the Integral Intake, a Metatheory-Based, Idiographic Intake Instrument

Article excerpt

This study assessed mental health experts' comparative evaluations of the two existing published idiographic intake instruments, the Adlerian-based Life-Style Introductory Interview (LI) and the Multimodal Life History Inventory (MI), along with Marquis' (2002; in press) newly developed Integral Intake (II), grounded in Ken Wilber's (1999d) integral theory. Fifty-eight counseling/psychotherapy educators and experienced mental health practitioners perused the three instruments and then used the author-developed Evaluation Form to respond to open-ended questions, as well as to rate and rank them on 11 dimensions: the instrument's overall helpfulness, comprehensiveness, and efficiency, and 8 fundamental dimensions of clients (thoughts, emotions, behaviors, physical aspects, culture, environmental systems, spirituality, and what is most meaningful to them). Respondents evaluated the LI consistently worst, and the II better than the MI on all three instrument dimensions and four of the eight client dimensions. We discuss the II's potential to become a standard in the field of mental health counseling.

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Most counseling theorists and practitioners agree that comprehensive assessment, in which information encompassing as many aspects of the client as is reasonable to obtain, is essential and crucial to successful counseling (Cavanagh, 1982; Eckstein, Baruth, & Mahrer, 1992; Hood & Johnson, 1991; Lazarus, 1997, 2004; Marquis, in press; Mosak, 2004; Shertzer & Linden, 1979; Wilber, 1999d). Moreover, "the ability to assess an individual is a basic skill required of all counselors regardless of the setting in which they practice" (Shertzer & Linden, 1979, p. 3).

Client intake represents one crucial point for assessment in the counseling process. Our collective experience and a thorough review of the professional counseling literature revealed that initial assessment instruments in the field of counseling are both ubiquitous and lacking in uniformity. Regarding idiographic intake instruments in particular--through which the counselor elicits unique, subjective information from the client through interview and/or questionnaire--the diversity was striking.

Our experience indicated that one reason for this diversity is the unique informational needs of each counseling setting, to which mental health counselors in many settings have responded by developing their own unique client history and data forms. Another possible reason is variations in counselors' theoretical orientations. To varying degrees of conscious awareness, every counselor operates from a guiding theory of counseling (Fall, Holden, & Marquis, 2004); thus, each counselor both seeks and interprets initial client assessment data through the filter of assumptions about clients' innate endowment, sociocultural factors, developmental dynamics, means of change, and so forth. Yet a thorough review of the literature revealed only two published, theory-based initial assessment instruments--the Adlerian-based Life-Style Introductory Interview (LI) (Eckstein, Baruth, & Mahrer, 1992) and the Multimodal Life History Inventory (MI) (Lazarus, 1997; Lazarus & Lazarus, 1991)--and an absence of research on either.

The LI begins by inquiring into the client's subjective "way of being in the world" and then has the client rate herself on the life task dimensions of work/school, friendship, love, self-esteem, and spirituality/existentialia. The majority of the inventory is devoted to exploring the atmosphere of the client's family of origin with questions such as "Who was most different from you? How?"; If you are an only child, in your peer group who was most different from you? How?"; "Who was most like you?"; and "Who took care of whom?" Next, the client is presented with 23 characteristics such as intelligence, conforming, and idealistic, and the client is asked to rate which sibling is most and least characterized by each adjective. …

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