Posted: February 27th, 2023

Case Formulation

Case Formulation in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A Principle-Driven Approach

Have to do the case formulation powerpoint.

see attached

Using DSM-5 in

Case Formulation

Gary G. Gintner, Ph.D., LPC

Louisiana State University

Case Formulation

• Case formulation is a core clinical skill
that links assessment information and
treatment planning

• It is a hypothesis about the mechanisms
that cause and maintain the problem

• It answers the question, “Why is this
person, having this type of problem, now?”

DSM-5 Informed
Case Formulation Process

•DSM-5 Enhancements

•DSM-5 Organization

•DSM-5 Background


• DSM-5 Criteria Sets

•DSM-5 Background


•Best practice
guidelines are often
tied to a diagnosis

• DSM-5 measures to
monitor progress

Fundamental Changes in DSM-5


• The conundrum with

• Dimensional

• Spectrum Disorders

• Severity ratings

• Dimensional
assessment tools


• Lifespan perspective
is infused throughout
the manual

• More attention to
differences in

New Organization

• Data-informed

• Proximity reflects

DSM-5’s Single Axis System

• There is one diagnostic axis on which all
of the following can be coded:

– All mental disorders (formerly on Axis I and

– Other Conditions that May be the Focus of
Treatment (V-codes; formerly Axis I)

– Medical disorders (formerly Axis III)

DSM-5 Tools and Enhancements

• Clinical rating scales


• Cultural Formulation

Clinical Rating Scales

• Rationale for adding:
– Measurement-informed care
– Dimensional assessment of severity
– Assessment of broad range of symptoms
– Adjunct to clinical evaluation

• Types

Cross-Cutting Symptom Measures

– Disorder-Specific Severity Measures
– Disability Measures (WHODAS 2.0)
– Personality Inventories
– Early Development and Home Background Form

Link to Online Assessment

• Assessment measures can be freely used
by clinicians for use with clients

• They can be downloaded at:

or DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

Cross-Cutting Symptom Measures

• Assesses symptoms across the major
domains of psychopathology

• Two types:

– Level 1

– Level 2

• Versions

– Adult self-report

– Parent/guardian-rated version (for children 6-17)

– Youth self-report (11-17)

Level 1 Cross-Cutting
Symptom Measure

• Description: Adult version measures 13 domains
of symptoms DSM-5 level1 assessment

• Rate each item:
– How much or how often “you have you been

bothered by…in the past two weeks.”
– 5-point rating scale from 4 (severe, nearly everyday)

to 0 (none or not at all)

• Scoring: Rating of 2 or higher (Mild, several days)
should be followed up by further clinical
assessment. On items for suicidal ideation,
psychosis and substance use, a rating of 1 (Slight)
or higher should be used.

DSM-5 level1 assessment

DSM-5 level1 assessment

DSM-5 level1 assessment

Level 2 Assessment Measure

• Description: A brief rating scale for a
particular symptom (e.g., anxiety,
depression, substance use)

• Indications: When a Level 1 item is rated
above the cut-off

• Can be readministered periodically to plot

• Scoring instructions are available at the site

• DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

Disorder-Specific Rating Scales

• Description: Disorder-specific rating scales
that correspond to the diagnostic criteria

• Indications: Used to confirm a diagnostic
impression, assess severity, and monitor

• Versions: Adult, Youth and Clinician rated

• DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x

DSM-5 Online Measures x


• Description: A 36-item measure that assesses
disability in adults 18 years and older

• Rating: “How much difficulty have you had
doing the following activities in the past 30
days.” Rated 1 (None) to 5 (Extreme or
cannot do)

• Scoring: Calculate average score for each
domain and overall

• Versions: Adult and proxy-administered
• DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

Domains on the WHODAS 2.0

1. Understanding and communicating

2. Getting around

3. Self-care

4. Getting along with people

5. Life activities

6. Participation in society
DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

DSM-5 whodas2selfadministered

Cultural Formulation Interview

• Description: A 16-item semistructured
interview to assess the impact of culture on
key aspects of the clinical presentation and
treatment plan

• Indications: Use as part of the initial
assessment with any client but is especially
indicated when there are significant
differences in “cultural, religious or
socioeconomic backgrounds of the clinician
and the individual”(p. 751).

CFI Domains

• Cultural definition of the problem

• Causes of the problem, stressors and
available supports

• Coping efforts and past help-seeking

• Current help-seeking and the clinician-
client relationship DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview

DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview

DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview

DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview

Clinical Applications of
DSM-5 Enhancements

• During initial assessment:
– Administer Level 1 Cross-Cutting Symptom

– Complete intake including social history, mental

status, and diagnostic assessment
– Administer Level 2 measures as needed
– WHODAS 2.0 can be administered as indicated
– Use aspects of the CFI interview throughout

• Follow-up sessions
– Administer disorder-specific measures
– Re-administer periodically to assess progress

DSM-5 and Case Formulation

• Biopsychosocial
model in case

• The Five P’s of Case

• Doing a case
formulation using

Biopsychosocial Model in
Case Formulation







The Five P’s of Case Formulation
(Macneil et al., 2012)

• Presenting problem
– What is the client’s problem list?
– What are DSM diagnoses?

• Predisposing factors
– Over the person’s lifetime, what factors contributed to the development

of the problem?
– Think biopsychosocial

• Precipitants
– Why now?
– What are triggers or events that exacerbated the problem?

• Perpetuating factors
– What factors are likely to maintain the problem?
– Are there issues that the problem will worsen, if not addressed

• Protective/positive factors
– What are client strengths that can be drawn upon?
– Are there any social supports or community resources ?

The Five P’s in DSM-5
• Diagnostic criteria

– Disorder-specific criteria set (Presenting Problem)
– Subtypes and specifiers (Presenting Problem)

• Explanatory text information
– Diagnostic features (Presenting Problem)
– Associated features (Presenting Problem)
– Prevalence (Presenting Problem)
– Development and course (Predisposing, Perpetuating and

Protective Factors)
– Risk and prognostic factors (Predisposing, Perpetuating

Protective Factors)
– Culture-related diagnostic issues (5 P’s)
– Gender-related diagnostic issues (5 P’s)
– Suicide risk (Presenting Problem)
– Functional consequences (Perpetuating Factors)
– Differential diagnosis (Presenting Problem)
– Comorbidity (Presenting Problem and Perpetuating Factors)

Case of Helen

Helen was fired from her job one month ago
because she started making numerous
mistakes and had trouble concentrating.
About three months ago she started feeling
“down“ after a break-up with a man she had
been dating for a few months. She has
trouble falling asleep and has noticed a
significant decline in her appetite. She feels
like a failure and believes that no one will
want to hire her again.

Helen Continued

She has thoughts of committing suicide but
admits, “I could never do it.” The only thing
that seems to help is when she participates in a
bible-reading group every Tuesday night. She
explains, “During that time I’m more like my
old self and at least that night I can sleep.” She
also reports that her mood improves when she
visits her friends. However, she reports such
low energy throughout the day that she is
unable to schedule a job interview.

Helen Continued

She had a similar episode about two years ago
after she was laid off from her former job. She
reports that it took four months before she began
feeling “normal” again and positive about herself.

Her history indicates that her mother had severe
depression and was hospitalized on several
occasions when Helen was young. She describes
her as “negative” and often absent in her youth.
However, Helen always did well in school and had
an active social life. Her work history has been
very consistent up to her lay off.

Diagnostic Work-Up
• DSM-5 measures:

– Level 1(positive for depression, sleep problems and
avoiding certain events)

– PHQ-9, Score = 20 (Severe)
– WHODAS 2.0

• General Disability Score = 85 (2.36; Mild)
• Subscale: Life activities = 14 (3.5; Moderate)
• Subscale: Participation in Society = 28 ( 3.5;

• Differential diagnosis: What are the possibilities?
• Diagnostic Impression:
296.33 Major Depressive Disorder, recurrent, severe
V62.29 Other Problems related to employment

Case Formulation
• Why is she so depressed?

– Predisposing factors?

– Precipitating factors?

– Perpetuating factors?

– Positive or protective factors?

• How does the diagnosis and case
formulation inform your treatment plan?

Guide to Case Formulation

1. State the problem or diagnostic

2. State the precipitant

3. Describe critical predisposing factors

4. Include a statement about perpetuating
or maintaining factors

5. Highlight protective and positive

Write a Case Formulation

Helen presents with……(1) which appears
to be precipitated by…..(2). Factors that
seem to have predisposed her to depression
include….(3). The current problem is
maintained by….(4). However, her
protective and positive factors include….(5).

From Formulation to Treatment

• How does the formulation inform the
treatment plan?
– Best practices for this disorder?

– Which types of interventions will address the
predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating

– How do you ensure that diversity factors are

– How do you tailor treatments so that they are
more strength-based?

Final Thoughts…

• Begin using DSM-5

• DSM-5 can help you
identify the five P’s

• Case formulation is a
skill and has been tied
to better outcome

American Psychiatric Association. (2014). Online assessment measures. Retrieved from

American Psychiatric Association. (2013a). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental

disorders (5th ed.). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

American Psychiatric Association. (2010). Practice guidelines for the treatment of major

depressive disorder, third edition [Supplement]. American Journal of Psychiatry. 167(10).


Craighead, W. E., Miklowitz, D. J, & Craighead, L. W. (2013). Psychopathology: History, diagnosis,

and empirical Foundations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Frank, R. I., & Davidson, J. (2014). The transdiagnostic road map to case formulation and

treatment planning. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Gintner, G. G. (In press). DSM-5 conceptual changes: Innovations, limitations and clinical

implications. The Professional Counselor.

Gintner, G. G. (2008). Treatment planning guidelines for children and adolescents. In R.R. Erk

(Eds.), Counseling treatments for children and adolescents with DSM-IV-TR mental disorders

(pp.344-380). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Publishing.

Macneil, C. A., Hasty, K., K, Conus, P., & Berk, M. (2012). Is diagnosis enough to guide treatment

interventions in mental health? Using case formulation in clinical practice. BMC Medicine,

10, 111. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-111

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