By Sybil Cummin, MA, LPC, ACS
Does the term “Assessment” make you want to put your head down and take a snooze? Does it seem like assessment is something we HAVE to do just to CYA? I’m wondering if we can shift that perspective to provide our clients with the best care.
As clinicians, assessment is one of the most important jobs we do for our clients. During the assessment process, we gather data, which then determines the level and severity of our clients’ presenting issues and guides our treatment planning and process. Remember that assessment is a dynamic and ongoing process. A process that does not end after your initial intake and creation of a treatment plan. This is especially true for those who are living in or are surviving domestic violence.
Just as our assessment process is dynamic and ongoing, so is the path of an abusive relationship. There is an ebb and flow to our clients’ safety based on the patterns in their relationship. This is true whether they continue to live with their abusive partner or after they have left. Is there an upcoming family function that the couple will attend together? Is there an upcoming court date regarding divorce? Each of these life events may shift the ways in which we work with our client based on how we are assessing.
Many therapists I know feel like “assessment” is dry and clinical. I disagree. As long as you are not just doing a formal assessment and reading it like the printed score is a picture of your client, assessment can lead to improved connection with your clients. Assessment shows your curiosity in truly knowing where your client is coming from and how things have affected their lives. You are putting your client in the expert position; asking them to share their life as they know it. With proper assessment, you are attuning to your client each and every session. For survivors of domestic violence, this is a gift.
How Do I Assess?
With a new perspective on assessment, you will find that you can be more attuned to your clients and have greater outcomes. Our work is a dynamic process as are the clients we have the honor to serve. Our assessment process should reflect this.