Deliberate Context-Driven Conceptualization in Psychological Assessment

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Clinical formulation and case conceptualization in clinical psychological assessment typically organize a client’s presenting problems within a psychological framework and narrative that explains the cluster of symptoms, etiological and maintenance factors, and explaining both how and why a client is struggling or suffering. However, many of the most commonly used models of case conceptualization, as well as the preponderance of tests and measures used in psychological assessment, minimize or ignore the impacts of contextual factors, including dominant culture’s expectations for normative behavior and the client’s history of trauma and adverse and negative events. This paper presents a rationale and model for encouraging psychologists conducting clinical psychological assessment to be deliberate in first considering contextual factors in case conceptualization before relying entirely on primarily intrapsychic models. While contextual conceptualizations will not always replace (or join) intrapsychic models of case formulation, being deliberate and explicit about at least considering them is an important way to mitigate some of psychologists’ biases and has the potential to situate a narrative of client difficulties in a way that takes at least some of the burden off the client.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-709
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality Assessment
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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