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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Screening and Assessment Basics


Rural Provider PTSD Toolkit

Screening and Assessment Basics
Proper screening and assessment of patients is essential for providing good mental health care. Accurately formulating a patient's presenting problems into a diagnosis, when appropriate, ensures a good match with treatments known to be effective for reducing symptoms of that disorder. Good screening and assessment is also important in determining the appropriate level of care for a patient, in other words, knowing whether a patient can be treated in primary care versus specialty care is crucial for maintaining access to treatments for those who need them.

Screening and assessment is particularly important with patients who have a trauma history who may have PTSD. PTSD is a highly treatable condition and matching the diagnosis with the treatment is necessary for those treatments to work.
In addition, patients with PTSD are an avoidant population, meaning they typically do not present in mental health clinics requesting treatment for PTSD. Rather, many patients with PTSD present requesting help with specific symptoms that can be attributed to PTSD such as pain, insomnia, anger problems, or marital concerns. Determining whether those patients' problems are rooted in PTSD will help them obtain treatments that are most effective in improving their lives.

Proper screening and assessment for PTSD is best accomplished with validated measures. The first assessment in the PTSD diagnostic process is of the trauma itself. The National Center for PTSD maintains a list of freely available measures of exposure to trauma and PTSD that have been shown to be valid and reliable.

PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health