How to Choose a Mental Health Assessment Tool

Mental health assessment tools, also called outcome management tools or quality improvement tools, are often part of what is called routine outcome monitoring (ROM) or systematic client feedback. There are a multitude of assessment instruments available and vying for the attention of every mental health professional. So how do you choose the right mental health assessment tool for your organization? Consider the following points.

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1. Reliability and Validity

You must ensure that any tool you pick is reliable and valid (i.e., it has been psychometrically validated). Despite making validation claims, very few mental health assessment tools have been through the rigorous scientific process of psychometric study.

Make sure that there are published validation studies supporting the assessment tool's reliability (i.e., consistency) and validity (i.e., that the tool measures what it purports to measure). If you do not use a reliable and valid instrument, all the data you collect are suspect and unlikely to help you achieve your organizational goals.

2. Feasibility

A mental health assessment tool’s feasibility (i.e., its ease of use for front-line clinicians) is just as important as a tool's psychometric properties. In the real world of delivering services, finding the right measure means striking a balance between the competing demands of reliability, validity, and feasibility.

While some assessment tools are reliable and valid, their complexity, length of administration, outside interpretation, and cost often render them infeasible for many service providers and settings.

The average caseload of a mental health professional is already overloaded with documentation and other non-direct service-related activities (e.g., phone calls, meetings, treatment planning, progress notes, etc.). In fact, most clinicians do not consider any measurement or assessment tool that takes more than five minutes to complete, score, and interpret to be practical. As a result, a strong argument can be made for adopting mental health assessment tools that are brief in addition to being reliable and valid.

3. Empirical Support

The final consideration in choosing a mental health assessment tool involves the instrument’s published empirical support. Has the tool demonstrated that it is an evidence-based way to improve outcomes, or that it is a viable quality improvement strategy?

As a mental health professional, you need to verify that the instrument you choose has proven that it delivers what you desire to achieve in your agency. Marketing is one thing. Unpublished reports and bold claims on websites are another. Published studies in top-tier journals are significantly different.

Know the difference between what is claimed and what is proven. An assessment tool backed by studies appearing in peer-reviewed publications has empirical support.

4. Agency Alignment

Any mental health assessment tool you choose should be reliable and valid, feasible, and proven. It should also align with the goals of your organization. Is the tool capable of helping you realize the outcomes you are seeking in your agency?

The Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS), the Outcome Rating Scale and Session Rating Scale, and Better Outcomes Now fit the bill on the first three counts. As for the fourth, if your agency is looking to decrease client dropouts, no shows, and length of stay while streamlining data reporting, then these solutions fit the bill for you.

To ensure Better Outcomes Now is the right mental health assessment tool for your organization, request a free trial today.

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Categorized in: Implementation