Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis

This course builds on the skills, values, knowledge, and processes of the foundation curriculum, serving as a bridge between generalist and advanced assessment theory and practice. Specifically, the course extends the person-in-environment assessment perspective of generalist practice with the addition of more intensive assessment of the individual’s inner world, including psychodynamic conflict processes and ego defenses. The course is titled Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis rather than Psychopathology to remind students that clinical assessment need not lead to a diagnosis of mental illness.

The course covers practitioner self-awareness; the relationship between mental health and mental illness; risk and resilience; bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment; a strength-informed cooperative assessment process; a critical use of the DSM-5; and major types of mental illness and their evidence-supported treatments.

Continuing the humanistic and strengths perspectives of foundation courses, the course stresses that people are far more than whatever cluster of symptoms they may present, and social workers are not present to tally symptoms toward a diagnosis but to be witnesses to clients’ lives.

The goal of this course is to prepare students for direct social work practice with individuals, families, and groups in a range of behavioral-health settings, including family life centers, hospitals, schools, jails, and mental health and substance abuse programs.