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Psychological Disorders Therapist Course

Assessment of Psychological Disorders

Online Counsellor Training Psychological Disorders

APD-400 Assessment of Psychological Disorders

Course in a nutshell:
Discussion topics: How to identify and classify symptoms of psychiatric disorders identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) in order to assess and remain within the counsellor’s scope of practice.
Skills: You’ll learn interview techniques and skills to identify clusters of symptoms; formulate and record your “speculative diagnosis”; refer to a specialist; or develop a treatment plan, and establish goals.

On-line delivery of the ASSESSMENT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS (APD-400) course provides students with information and skills necessary to evaluate the client’s bio psycho-social history and current level of functioning in order to arrive at a speculative diagnosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, (DSM-5) is the medical reference tool upon which the text ( Essentials Of Psychiatric Diagnosis) is based. This text was specifically chosen to give students the information they’ll need to identify a client’s symptoms and speculate on a diagnosis. These determinations are important factors in assessing whether or not the client falls within the counsellor’s level of training, and scope of practice.

Competence in the ability to use the DSM-5 as a reference tool is required for admission into the Canadian Professional Counselling Association (CPCA)

NOTE : A speculative diagnosis is not intended to substitute for a clinical diagnosis, which can only be determined by an advanced mental health professional such as a psychologist, or medical doctor. However the ability to arrive at a speculative diagnosis gives all counselors a framework in which to evaluate whether or not the client’s presenting issues fall within the counsellor’s scope of practice. According to the Canadian Professional Counselling Association, it is essential for entry-level counselors to recognize and operate only within the scope of one’s training.


According to the standards and ethical guidelines of our profession, all counselors are required to work only within their scope of practice. Graduates of the Diploma of Applied Psychology and Counselling program are considered to be entry-level counselors. The scope of practice for an entry-level counsellor (practicing under the supervision of an experienced professional for a minimum of two years) involves providing supportive counselling to adult clients who are marginally functional in all areas of life, but wish to enhance their personal growth, productivity or expand their life experiences. If a client is unable to function on a day-to-day basis for longer than two weeks, is unable to maintain normal family relationships, social relationships, employment, education, or emotional stability, or if the client is at a risk for suicide or homicide, it is recommended that the counsellor seek immediate consultation with his/her supervisor regarding a referral to a physician, psychologist or social worker.

This definition of scope of practice also applies to the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents. The following protocol is recommended to determine whether or not the clinical issues presented by a child or adolescent fall within the entry level counsellor’s scope of training:

  • Conduct an assessment using the observational techniques referred to in the BEACON assessment.
  • Interview parents for a description of the youths’ behavior and affect within the family unit, school environment and peer group.,
  • Obtain school records for an overview of general cognitive performance standards as measured by teachers’ comments and grades on the student’s report card.

If the youth presents with mild to moderate difficulty functioning in one area of life i.e. behavioral/affect concerns within the family; or with peers; or in school, the counselor may proceed to offer support counselling to the youth along with family and/or parenting counselling.

If one area of the youth’s life is marked with severe dysfunction; or if more than one area of the youth’s life is marked with moderate dysfunction, the counsellor is advised to seek immediate consultation with his/her supervisor regarding a possible referral to a physician, psychologist or social worker.


Topics covered in this course include:

  • The ethical, clinical, and cultural importance of conducting a thorough assessment in the early stages of the counseling process.
  • Using the DSM-5 as a framework to integrate biological, psychological, social and cultural variables.
  • Assessment procedures including the Mental Status Exam
  • Limits of scope of practice
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Recognizing clusters of symptoms typical of:
    • depression and bipolar disorders
    • anxiety disorders
    • trauma and stress related disorders
    • psychotic disorders
    • substance related disorders, and behavioral addictions
    • personality disorders
    • obsessive-compulsive, and impulse control disorders
    • eating disorders
    • dissociative disorders
    • disorders related to physical symptoms
    • disorders usually first diagnosed in childhood and adolescence


The Assessment of Psychological Disorders course will teach you the skills needed to collect information, and arrive at a speculative diagnosis using the DSM-4 or the DSM-5, as a reference guide. Your level of proficiency and competence with the skills introduced in this course will deepen as you proceed through the program. Upon graduation from the Diploma or Certificate program, you may include the following skills as part of your Professional Portfolio:

  1. Ability to conduct a clinical assessment which typically consists of a face-to-face interview to obtain information about the presenting problem, the client’s family, cultural and relational history, psychiatric and/or medical problems, predominant affect, crisis and suicide risk level.
  2. Ability to evaluate and apply information obtained from the client’s bio, psycho-social history and current level of functioning to arrive at a ‘speculative’ diagnosis.
  3. Ability to use the textbook as a reference guide to:
    • identify clusters of symptoms.
    • speculate on a diagnosis.
    • gain information about research relating to diagnostic categories.
    • understand dual diagnoses and the overlap between diagnostic categories.
  4. Ability to use clinical terms and language found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) when writing reports or communicating with mental health professionals.
  5. Ability to determine if the client’s presenting problem lies within the counsellor’s scope of practice.
  6. Ability to make appropriate referrals to professionals and/or community resources when the client’s problem falls outside the limits of the counsellor’s scope of practice.
  7. Information contained in your text book and the DSM is meant to be used as a reference manual only. Entry level counselors must refrain from applying diagnostic labels found in the DSM to clients as part of their case files, or stated as a definitive diagnosis when communicating with clients or other professionals.

(NOTE: The skill set you will learn in this course comprises areas of core competence required for the practice of professional counselling).

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