The PCL-5 is a 20-item self-report measure that assesses the 20 DSM-5 symptoms of PTSD. The PCL-5 has a variety of purposes, including:
The gold standard for diagnosing PTSD is a structured clinical interview such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5). When necessary, the PCL-5 can be scored to provide a provisional PTSD diagnosis.
The PCL-5 can be administered in one of three formats:
Several important revisions were made to the PCL in updating it for DSM-5:
The PCL-5 is a self-report measure that can be completed by patients in a waiting room prior to a session or by participants as part of a research study. It takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete. Interpretation of the PCL-5 should be made by a clinician.
The PCL-5 can be scored in different ways:
Characteristics of a respondent's setting should be considered when using PCL-5 severity scores to make a provisional diagnosis. The goal of assessment also should be considered. A lower cutoff should be considered when screening or when it is desirable to maximize detection of possible cases. A higher cutoff should be considered when attempting to make a provisional diagnosis or to minimize false positives.
Good clinical care requires that clinicians monitor patient progress. Evidence for the PCL for DSM-IV suggests that a 5-10 point change represents reliable change (i.e., change not due to chance) and a 10-20 point change represents clinically significant change. Therefore, it was recommended to use 5 points as a minimum threshold for determining whether an individual has responded to treatment and 10 points as a minimum threshold for determining whether the improvement is clinically meaningful using the PCL for DSM-IV.
Change scores for PCL-5 are currently being determined. It is expected that reliable and clinically meaningful change will be in a similar range.
Bliese, P. D., Wright, K. M., Adler, A. B., Cabrera, O., Castrol, C. A., & Hoge, C. W. (2008). Validating the primary care posttraumatic stress disorder screen and the posttraumatic stress disorder checklist with soldiers returning from combat. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 272-281. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.2.272
Harrington, T., & Newman, E. (2007). The psychometric utility of two self-report measures of PTSD among women substance users. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 2788-2798. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2007.04.016
Walker, E. A., Newman, E., Dobie, D. J., Ciechanowski, P., & Katon, W. (2002). Validation of the PTSD checklist in an HMO sample of women. General Hospital Psychiatry, 24, 375-380. doi: 10.1016/S0163-8343(02)00203-7
Sherman, J. J., Carlson, C., Wilson, J. F., Okeson, J., & McCubbin, J. A. (2005). Posttraumatic stress disorder among patients with orofacial pain. Journal of Orofacial Pain, 19, 309-317.
Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD checklist (PCL). Behavioral Research & Therapy, 34, 669-673. doi: 10.1016/0005-7967(96)00033-2
Kimerling, R., Prins, A., Yeager, D. E., & Magruder, K. M. (2010, November). An interval approach to screening for PTSD in primary care. Poster presented at the 44th annual conference of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, San Francisco, CA.
Monson, C. M., Gradus, J. L., Young-Xu, Y., Schnurr, P. P., Price, J. L., & Schumm, J. A. (2008). Change in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: Do clinicians and patients agree? (PDF) Psychological Assessment, 20, 131-138. doi: 10.1037/1040-35126.96.36.199
Weathers, F., Litz, B., Herman, D., Huska, J., & Keane, T. (October 1993). The PTSD Checklist (PCL): Reliability, Validity, and Diagnostic Utility. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, San Antonio, TX. NOTE: Due to some confusion over versions of the PCL for DSM-IV, some of the published papers state that the PCL-C was used in this study, but the authors have confirmed that the PCL-S was the version actually used.
Orsillo (2001) (PDF) p. 281.
Orsillo, S. M. (2001). Measures for acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. In M.M. Antony & S.M. Orsillo (Eds.), Practitioner's guide to empirically based measures of anxiety (pp. 255-307). New York: KluwerAcademic/Plenum. PILOTS ID 24368
Norris and Hamblen (2004) (PDF) p. 79.
Norris, F. H. & Hamblen, J. L. (2004). Standardized self-report measures of civilian trauma and PTSD. In J.P. Wilson, T.M. Keane & T. Martin (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 63-102). New York: Guilford Press. PILOTS ID 18638
This measure was created by staff at the VA National Center for PTSD. To obtain this scale complete the online request form.
Measure availability: Information on measures is available to everyone. However, the assessment tools themselves can only be distributed to qualified mental health professionals and researchers. We maintain measures developed by affiliated staff of the National Center for PTSD.
VA Providers and Staff can find information on how to download this instrument here: Specifically for VA Providers and Staff. See "Assessment measures."