What is Psychosocial Assessment?

Whether in the role of a counselor, problem solver or researcher, social workers are often asked to utilize a variety of skills as they seek to improve the wellbeing of individuals and families they work with. Yet before social workers move forward to help, they must have an in-depth understanding of an individual’s mental, physical or emotional status. One way that this occurs is by conducting a psychosocial assessment to identify the challenges and strengths of the client and in order to develop a plan to assist the client.
Applying the Family Systems Theory in Social Work

Explaining Psychosocial Assessment

Psychosocial assessment can be defined as the process the social worker uses to assess the mental and emotional health of their client, as well as develop an understanding of the individual’s role within their family and community. From this assessment, social workers are then able to work with the client to develop a plan to improve those areas of an individual’s life that could be contributing to difficulties.

There are a variety of important factors that go into conducting an effective psychosocial assessment, some of the most important include:

• Develop a friendly, yet professional relationship with the individual, which is founded upon trust and comfort.
• Possess a thorough understanding of the problem the client presents with and its current and potential impact.
• A Mental Status Examination (MSE) to assess mental capabilities and behaviors, such as substance abuse and self-outlook.
• Document the individual’s life, with clear emphasis on any recent life changes as well as notation on things such as reason for admission, medication, legal issues and social status.
• Obtain and understanding an individual’s medical or psychiatric history.
• With the permission of the client, speak with family or close friends to learn more about the individual’s community and support network.

While psychosocial assessments are used to to identify factors that impact the individual’s ability to achieve optimal wellbeing, it is also important that social workers identify positive factors and strengths that are unique to each individual and can be tapped into improve lifestyle or living conditions.

History of Psychosocial Assessment

Psychological assessments have been around for quite some time, with most scholars believing assessments first occurred approximately 2,000 years ago in China when the Chinese began testing the linguistic abilities of potential civil servants.

Psychosocial assessment further developed in 1905 by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon. Both Binet and Simon were psychologists who sought to identify developmental issues within children. After 15 years of study, Binet and Simon developed the Binet-Simon test which tested a child’s verbal abilities.

Modern psychosocial assessment continued to progress primarily through the psychological testing of the military. During World War I, military and government officials believed that understanding a soldier’s mental abilities was an important factor in improving military warfare. For example, through psychological testing, military officials would be able to place highly intelligent individuals in the proper positions. Upon proving successful, American colleges and universities implemented intelligence tests within the admissions process. From there, psychological and psychosocial assessments began spreading into other industries and vectors of society.

Ethics within Psychosocial Assessment

Whenever there is a situation which concerns an individual’s personal or medical history, as well as their current mental capacity, there is a logical need for ethical protocols and considerations. For example, in order for social workers to make accurate assessments, it is essential that there are no biases involved.

To help maintain ethics within the field of social work, the National Association of Social Workers developed the Code of Ethics which provides a series of standards that social workers must maintain, both in and out of work (for example, a social worker can’t speak of client information outside of work). Some of the standards documented within the Code of Ethics include:

• Ethical Principles
• Access to Records
• Responsibility to Clients and Peers
• Confidentiality

It is important to note that while these standards are currently effective, they are not unchangeable. In fact, the document has undergone a series of revisions, the most recent of which occurred in 2008.

Within any aspect of their job, social workers strive to assist and improve the lives of their clients and community as a whole. Yet, many times the care and assistance that an individual requires is not entirely identifiable, so social workers must utilize psychosocial assessments in order to understand and document the factors that are unique to the clients they are working with. Once an accurate assessment has been made, a social worker is then able to move forward with their main passion of directly helping and improving the lives of those around them.

Learn More

Social work is a profession dedicated to enhancing the quality of life, the pursuit of social justice, and helping a wide range of individuals to reach their full potential. Offered by the School of Social Work at the University of New England, the Master of Social Work online program is open to students from a variety of educational backgrounds. The program envisions a world where social workers are at the forefront of advocating with individuals and communities for human dignity and social inclusion by mobilizing efforts to end inequities, exploitation and violence.





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