If you’re a therapist, psychologist or counselor who works with clients, you’ll know that effective, engaging treatment programs begin with assessments.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the most widely-used mental health assessment tools that have a place in every professional toolkit.
What Is A Mental Health Assessment Tool?
Mental health assessments are tools that practitioners can use to gain insight into the state of a patient’s mental health or to highlight symptoms of psychological disorders and suffering.
These tools play an important part when professionals are deciding on the best course of treatment, so it’s essential to have a few in your toolkit as a therapist.
A few examples of the conditions, states, and behaviors that some common mental health assessments aim to measure include:
- General health
When discussing mental health assessment tools, important to note that the APA makes an important distinction between “tests” and “assessments.”
While testing involves administering formal tests such as questionnaires or checklists, assessments may encompass several components such as medical evaluation, medical records, observational data, and or norm-referenced psychological tests.
In the next section, we’ll look at a few assessment tools.
7 Essential Screening Tools for Online Therapists
There is a wide array of different assessments for practitioners to choose from, and the right one will depend on your context, your client’s challenges, and how you intend to explore.
Here are a few well-known measures for assessing the mental health of your clients:
- General Health Questionnaire (GHQ): The GHQ is a 12-item self-report mental health screening tool that measures the severity of a mental problem over the past few weeks. It aims to identify short-term, non-psychotic, and minor mental health problems in the general or non-clinical population using a 4-point Likert-type scale. Example questions include: Have you recently lost much sleep over worry? Have you recently been able to concentrate on what you’re doing? The GHQ is freely available from numerous academic sources online.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7): If you are treating anxiety, the GAD-7 measures the severity of symptoms for the four most common anxiety disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This questionnaire is self-administered and has seven items.
- Insomnia Severity Index (ISI): This brief, 7-item mental health self-assessment tool measures the severity, nature, and impact of insomnia on patients.
- Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9): A self-administered, multipurpose tool for screening, diagnosing, monitoring, and measuring the severity of depression. This questionnaire includes nine items based on the DSM-IV criteria for depressive disorders, such as changes in appetite, sleep quality, and energy levels.
- Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21): This 21-item instrument is a set of three self-report scales measuring three emotional states: stress, anxiety, and depression. This self-administered test asks participants to rate the extent to which statements apply to them over the past week, for example: I found it difficult to work up the initiative to do things, I felt that I was using a lot of nervous energy. 
- Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI): This instrument includes 21 self-reported items that assess the intensity of cognitive and physical anxiety symptoms over the past week. Using a four-point scale, participants rate how often different anxiety have bothered them over the past week, e.g.: wobbliness in legs, face flushed, and nervous.
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI): The Beck Depression Inventory is a 21-question self-report inventory comprising multiple-choice questions that correspond to symptoms of depression. It is mainly used to help mental health professionals to make a diagnosis of depression by measuring somatic, affective, cognitive and vegetative symptoms.
Assembling Your Mental Health Toolkit
A few reliable assessments can go a long way when you are assessing common challenges such as depression, anxiety, and a client’s existing mental state.
Here are some examples of what you might want to include in a mental health toolkit, then share with your clients as required:
- Psychoeducational resources such as handouts, lecturettes, and infosheets on mental health conditions and the tools you plan to use
- Therapy forms like intake documents, contracts, and session rating scales
- Mental health tools such as therapy activities, between-session homework, videos, audio, and diagrams
- Patient and carer information with further reading and links to important community organizations
If you’re like most practitioners and prefer to find what you need when you need it, it helps to centralize and organize a toolkit of your most important resources in a single, easily-accessible platform such as we’ve done above using Quenza Files.
3 Digital Templates For Your Toolbox
Personalized tests can be far more engaging and relevant than generic instruments when it comes to psychological assessments.
Personalized tests can be far more engaging and relevant than generic instruments when it comes to psychological assessments, but they can be time-intensive to develop.
Rather than creating bespoke tools from scratch each time you conduct an evaluation, it helps to have some digital templates that you can customize and share with clients as needed.
The following Quenza Expansions include a few examples that might help you engage your clients in therapy.
Outcome Rating Scale
Measuring the impact of therapy allows you to identify what is working effectively and what can be improved.
Quenza’s Outcome Rating Scale can be used to assess four areas of functioning that are known to change as a result of effective therapeutic intervention: individual, interpersonal, social, and overall wellbeing.
This 4-item scale can be shared with clients before each session basis, and as shown below, participants use a 10-point scale to indicate how well they have been doing in the aforementioned four areas in the past week.
Wheel of Needs
Quenza’s Wheel of Needs Expansion, pictured below, aims to give clients insight into any of their unsatisfied needs that may be contributing to negative emotional states.
This framework explores ten customizable categories of psychological needs, a few of which are work, autonomy, challenge, and safety.
Clients are asked to rate their level of fulfilment with each of the above need categories on a 10-point scale. Through this exercise, they can consider potential actions that they could take to work towards satisfying their most neglected needs.
Life Domain Satisfaction
Establishing a client’s initial sense of life fulfilment allows you to plan appropriate treatments and interventions that will take them toward their goals.
The Life Domain Satisfaction tool measures this important component of subjective wellbeing by looking at ten domains, three of which are love, helping, and creativity as shown below.
By identifying specific life domains with which they are unsatisfied, clients are in a better position to take actions that will enhance their satisfaction with these domains.
These three mental health assessment tool can be viewed and personalized with a $1, 30-day Quenza trial.
How To Assess Mental Health Risk Online (+PDF)
Although online mental health risk assessments are not recommended for all clients, they can be a convenient and efficient way to gather the information you need to make important decisions in therapy.
Like any face-to-face assessment, some advance planning will help you ensure all your bases covered and you gather the evidence you need to make a diagnosis, create a mental health treatment plan, or simply identify the starting point for your journey.
Here are a few important things that you will need:
- A patient intake form: You will need to collect basic information about your clients, alongside their contact details and any important background information you need to conduct online therapy.
- A counseling contract: Also known as a counseling agreement, the goal of a counseling contract is to establish the nature of your therapeutic alliance in clearly defined terms. As well as outlining the conditions of your professional relationship, it’s a good idea to include a risk management plan if you intend to conduct mental health risk assessments. Among other things, these should gather information on your client’s current medications, existing health issues, and involvement with mental health services.
- Mental health assessment tools: The tests and questionnaires covered in this guide can help you establish whether you are able to help your client and, if so, your next steps. As with all other mental health resources, these should be shared digitally using a HIPAA-compliant platform so that the privacy and security of your client’s data are protected.
This might sound like a lot to remember, but with the right e-mental health toolkit it’s easy to stay organized and make sure everything goes smoothly.
Mental health software like Quenza makes it simple for you to quickly create intake forms, counseling contracts, and mental health instruments, as well as share them with your clients through a secure telehealth platform. Not only this, but you can also:
- Organize your patient forms, activities, and assessments into treatment plans or pathways
- Document your sessions using mental health note templates on a secure, convenient digital platform
- Share files such as videos, spreadsheets, and manuals quickly and easily from anywhere
- Promote your practice by branding your tools and practice documents, and more.
If you’re ready to start conducting mental health treatments and assessments online, then our free digital practice guide is a great place to start: Coach, This Changes Everything.
In this free 30-page guide, you’ll learn some of the most effective approaches for creating personalized, interactive tools for your clients, as well as the most game-changing tips for increasing your impact and revenue.
Assessing clients digitally does involve a little more in the way of resources and forethought, but it can be an incredible way to help more clients with more accessible, convenient services.
Hopefully, the mental health tests in this article provide you with few starting points for your first online treatment plan. We’d love to hear how you use them – why not join in the conversation below and share your experiences with your fellow practitioners?
- ^ Morin, C. M., Belleville, G., Bélanger, L., & Ivers, H. (2011). The Insomnia Severity Index: psychometric indicators to detect insomnia cases and evaluate treatment response. Sleep, 34(5), 601-608.
- ^ National HIV Curriculum. (n.d.). Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Retrieved from https://www.hiv.uw.edu/page/mental-health-screening/phq-9
- ^ Lovibond, S.H. & Lovibond, P.F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety & Stress Scales. (2nd Ed.) Sydney: Psychology Foundation.
- ^ Smarr, K. L., & Keefer, A. L. (2011). Measures of depression and depressive symptoms: Beck depression Inventory‐II (BDI‐II), center for epidemiologic studies depression scale (CES‐D), geriatric depression scale (GDS), hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS), and patient health Questionnaire‐9 (PHQ‐9). Arthritis Care & Research, 63(S11), S454-S466.
- ^ Counseling Tutor. (2022). Risk Assessments in Online Therapy. Retrieved from https://counsellingtutor.com/managing-risk-in-online-therapy/