Assessment inventories

Bronwyn Seaborn (
20 Sep 1995 18:30:30 +1000

I have been reading with interest the discussion centering on the DSM and
would like some feedback on what may be a related topic.

I have been working as a counsellor at Wollongong Uni while doing the Clinical
Masters Programme and have found the "Assessment" part of the course difficult
to deal with.I hold all the reservations about DSM-type classifications of
people that have been expressed recently on this list, and also have serious
doubts about the various scales, indexes and inventories that are used to
arrive at those classifications. So when I am required to interact with people
in terms of these inventories, I feel very uncomfortable and guilty (in the
Kellian sense).
But there is another dimension to this inventory-based assessment that I am
concerned about: I am of the view that trotting out these scales in an early
interview with a client immediately does violence to the RELATIONSHIP I am
trying to encourage. It would seem to convey to the client that I feel can
reduce him/her to a mere score on a piece of paper. It would also seem to say
that I believe I have access to some omnipotent source of knowledge which
cannot be challenged (because it is all so psychometrically valid!). Still,
when I have ventured this view to some senior (and apparently competent)
clinician-lecturers, they have assured me that my views are totally invalid.
They say that, in practice, producing the Beck Depression Inventory, for
example, to check that someone who claims to be depressed is in fact so, does
no harm whatsoever to the theraputic relationship. I am assured, in fact, that
clients usually "enjoy it".

I have tried talking to local clinicians about this, but, so far, they have
all just laughed and said they forgot all the inventories the moment they
graduated. Can anyone shed some light on this - either from a theoretical
perspective, or from clinical practice? What is the impact on the theraputic
relationship of requiring tests to be undergone or scales to be completed?

Bronwyn Seaborn