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Beck Depression Inventory in Psychological Practice Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 11th, 2020


Carrying out a detailed psychological evaluation of the patient is crucial to be able to identify a possible depression episode and, therefore, prevent the threat of complications. However, the instruments applied to carry out the analysis are imperfect, the Beck Depression Inventory is one of the many. The tool should be credited for being very useful in testing patients of different ethnic, social, and racial backgrounds, as well as patients of both genders.

However, the tool also has several problems, the age-related restrictions being the primary ones. Not only is the tool not quite suitable for adolescents, but it also may pose a threat to their wellbeing. Because of the dilemma regarding the private information disclosure, a therapist may trigger the following aggravation of the patient’s health state by alienating the guardians from them. In the case of choosing the alternative, a therapist is under the threat of facing ethical and sometimes even legal repercussions regarding personal data disclosure.

Nevertheless, the instrument can be deemed as fairly useful and allowing the therapist to detect a depression-related issue within a comparatively short amount of time and with an impressive amount of precision. BDI can be used quite successfully when addressing the needs of people of different ethnicities and gender. Overall, BDI can be considered efficient, if a bit dated, assessment technique.

Applying the Beck Depression Inventory to Psychological Practice


Belonging to a large family of cognitive theories, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) needs to be viewed not only on its own but also through the prism of the Freudian framework that determined its existence. Suggested by Aaron T. Beck in the 1990s (Arora et al., 2014), the theory disrupted the traditional flow of Freudian theories development and introduced the audience to the concept of cognitive development, therefore, inviting psychologists to interpret the changes in the patient’s emotional state from the perspective of changes in the cognitive functions.

Particularly, Beck argued that depression stems from one’s poor self-image. While being admittedly generalized, the above assumption aligns with the current definition of the theory: “The BDIII instructions assess the presence of depressive symptomology during the minimum period necessary for the diagnosis of a major depressive episode according to the DSM-IV” (Sanz, 2013, p. 162). It is quite remarkable that beck’s approach created prerequisites for including the principle of Emotional Intelligence (EI) into the psychological practice.

Indeed, by promoting a therapist to develop a better understanding of the patient’s needs by understanding the factors that defined their poor self-image, Beck implies that the therapist must evaluate the client’s emotional issues as well. As a result, a better understanding of the challenges that the patient is experiencing, as well as the methods that will help one overcome the depression, can be developed.

The framework, therefore, needs to be tested so that it could be applied properly in diverse environments. Seeing that the requirements set by the customers are determined by their ethnic and cultural background to a considerable extent, it will be necessary to make sure that the evaluation tool in question, namely, BDI, should take the unique characteristics of the patients into account Once the patients’ needs are met, the possibility of a recovery increases. Thus, it is imperative to incorporate all characteristic features of the patient into the analysis.


It should be borne in mind, though, that the application of the test to psychology-related cases may be fraught with a range of ethical dilemmas. While the system under analysis has not yet worn out its welcome, it is admittedly flawed and, therefore, can be deemed aesthetically imperfect. For instance, the issue concerning the information validity needs to be addressed when considering the possible ethical implications. To be more accurate, the degree, to which the factor structure, data related to the reliability evaluation, and the validity of the content can be viewed as trustworthy when assessing adolescents, has not been identified yet. Thus, the implications of the assessment may lack precision or cause further misinterpretation of information (ASCA, 2012).

Another possible area of concern, the information disclosure issue must be mentioned as the essential ethical dilemma to be addressed. The subject matter will also have to be viewed in the context of assessing adolescents. Because the informed consent is provided by their guardians, it will be necessary to inform them of the outcomes of the testing, from the legal perspective. However, from an ethical standpoint, the data disclosure can be viewed as the infringement of the participants’ irrefutable rights for keeping private information as such. It should be noted, though, that the above ethical challenge is typical for most testing instruments and strategies used on the patients with guardians.

The subject matter becomes especially complicated once a serious depression episode or a threat thereof is identified in the course of the evaluation. Thus, the person experimenting will have to resolve the dilemma of either violating the right of the patient for non-disclosure of their private information or disregarding the foundational Utilitarianism principles, which compel one to act in the best interests of the parties involved (Preez & Goedeke, 2013).

Thus, as a tool for carrying out psychological assessments, BDI is far from being perfect. It would be wrong to claim that it poses extraordinary challenges to a psychologist the above commentaries are typical for a range of other assessment tools (Tusiime, Bansberg, & Mark, 2015) – yet it does not offer any solutions to the above issues, either. As a result, BDI does not further the area of psychological practice anywhere as far as the ethical challenges and the threats to the patient’s wellbeing are concerned.


As it has been stressed above, when used in the environment with younger audiences or participants with disabilities, the instrument can be considered as quite flawed. Therefore, the tool in question should be used with caution when age diversity is implied. However, when applying BDI to the environment with participants belonging to different cultural backgrounds, one must consider other properties of the device (Sanz, 2013).

The psychometric properties of BDI indicate that the device can be applied successfully to measure depression rates in both African American and Caucasian patients. The study points to the fact that being renewed and customized to meet the needs of the contemporary audience, the tool can be applied successfully to the environment of racial and ethnic diversity. According to the authors, previous research indicated that BDI might deliver the same test results for the representatives of any race, thus, causing understandable misconceptions and creating the danger of identifying wrong therapy patterns for the patient: “Thankfully, test bias against minorities has not been found in all measures” (Sashidharan, Pawlow, & Pettibone, 2012, p. 208).

Nevertheless, the study in question has pointed out that the above assumptions are rather far from the actual results that the tool helps deliver. Therefore, the device can be used successfully in the setting implying high racial and ethnic diversity rates.

The research also indicates that the same can be said about gender issues. The possibility of retrieving the results that can be deemed as commonplace and about a particular gender is rather low, as Sashidharan et al.’s (2012) study confirmed: “Both depression measures also positively correlated with age. Neither measure correlated with race or gender” (Sashidharan et al., 2012, p. 207). The above data indicates that the tool can be applied to the setting that incorporates both male and female participants and deliver authentic results.


Though having its problems and being currently in a need for a more efficient update, BDI can be deemed as a fairly efficient tool in locating depression in patients. Therefore, it can be used as the primary tool in diagnosing a psychological disorder (i.e., depression), isolating the factors that inhibit it and contribute to it, and designing the therapy framework that will serve as the foundation for the patient’s further recovery.

Requiring certain caution when it comes to underage patients, patients with disabilities, to any other person unable to provide informed consent and requiring the assistance of their guardian, BDI, nevertheless, provides grounds for a detailed evaluation of the patient’s current wellbeing and detecting possible signs of depression. Consequently, it can and should be used as one of the elements of a psychologist’s inventory.

Reference List

Arora, R., Kataria, L., Shah, S., Tanna, K., Joshi, D., Chhasatia, A. S.,… & Shah, N. (2014). Study of depression among Indian college youths. Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences, 3(2) 416-421. Web.

ASCA. (2012). . Web.

Preez, E. D., & Goedeke, S. (2013). Second order ethical decision-making in counselling psychology: Theory, practice and process. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 42(3), 44-49. Web.

Sanz, J. (2013). 50 years of the Beck depression inventory: recommendations for using the Spanish adaptation of the BDI-II in clinical practice. Papeles del Psicólogo, 34(3), pp. 161-168. Web.

Sashidharan, T., Pawlow, L. A., & Pettibone, J. C. (2012). An examination of racial bias in the Beck Depression Inventory-II. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(2), 203-209. Web.

Tusiime, J. B., Bansberg, D. B., & Mark, W. (2015). Examining the psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory-Ii using an item response modelling approach in an HIV infected population in Kampala, Uganda. Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 4(2), 1-8. Web.

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