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The Counseling Process: Features of Assessment Report (Assessment)


Abstract

The current paper is dedicated to peculiarities of assessment in the process of counseling on the whole and applied to a specific scenario. This work defines the primary assessment question for the case of Mike, which is to find the reasons for the changes in his behavior. Also, it interprets the primary presenting concern, which is the change in the behavior of the client and the consequences of this change, and personal details of the client. The assessment tools applicable to adolescents are defined. They include Child Behavior Checklist, Youth self-report, and Teacher’s report form which are interrelated and make a valid and reliable assessment toolkit. The client, his parents, and a teacher are involved in the assessment process. Evaluation of the selected tools is provided. Assessment is presented as an integral part of counseling because it provides information that will be used by a counselor to evaluate the situation and plan interventions necessary to resolve the existing problems. Finally, ethical standards that should be applied during counseling are analyzed.

Introduction

Assessment is an integral component of the counseling process. It allows us to evaluate the client’s current condition, his or her background, track changes that could have led to the existing problems, and outline the direction of further counseling interventions. Assessment procedure and tools, as well as counseling, depending on the situation and characteristics of a client. The case for counseling under consideration involves an adolescent boy Mike who is the only child of his parents. The parents are worried because of the changes in habits and behavior of their 13-year-old son and refer a counselor to find solutions to their problems. Although the boy is not very happy about attending counseling, he agreed to appease the parents. The current paper provides an analysis of assessment tools used in counseling and applicable to the case of Mike.

Primary Assessment Question

The primary question of the assessment for the scenario of Mike is: What are the reasons for the changes in his behavior? It is crucial to reveal the causes of the adolescent’s actions to provide him with the necessary help and avoid conflict situations in the future. Consequently, the assessment tools will be directed at finding the answer to the primary question and revealing the peculiarities of the client’s situation.

Although Mike is the client in this scenario, his parents provide the primary presenting concern. Thus, the primary presenting concern is the change in the behavior of their son and the consequences of this change. Thus, the parents have found a partial bottle of vodka in his bedroom, the boy stopped playing sports and has lower grades than he had before. The parents are worried about these events and are concerned about the new friends of their son who appeared during the past year. It looks that they are afraid of the harmful influence these friends have on their son. Moreover, the boy acknowledges that he is not happy in his family.

Assessment Tools

Assessment tools applicable to the current scenario should be able to evaluate the symptoms present in a client, provide personality assessment, and empower further counseling process. The first tool which should be used for the assessment is a symptom checklist. For the selected scenario with an adolescent involved, the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL age 6-18) can be useful (“Child behavior checklist for ages 6-18,” n.d.). This checklist allows us to evaluate “behavioral and emotional functioning, social problems, and competencies” of a child (Williams, 2015, para. 1). CBCL consists of eight categories or scales which allow evaluating the client’s behavior. These scales comprise social withdrawal, somatic problems, anxiety or depression, social problems, thought problems, attention disorders, delinquent behavior, and, finally, aggressive behavior (DiMaria, 2017).

The validity of this checklist is proved by some researchers. For example, Sistere, Massons, Perez, and Ascaso (2014) prove that DSM-oriented scales used in CBLC contribute to the prediction of DSM-IV disorders and, consequently, can help reveal mental disorders in early stages or even preventing serious mental health problems. Similar conclusions are made by De Caluwé, Decuyper, and De Clercq (2013). The researchers reveal the fact that the child behavior checklist can predict the pathological personality traits of an adolescent which will disclose four years later. CBCL can be completed online or in a print version by parents or other caregivers who observe a child’s behavior daily and can assess it adequately. The questions have graded answers where the test-taker should mark the frequency of this or that behavior. The scoring is provided in three competence scales such as activities, social, and school; eight scale scores, DSM-related scales, and total problem scores. A counselor should interpret the results of the test after it is completed.

The second tool applicable for the assessment of adolescent’s condition is the Youth self-report (YSL). It empowers personality assessment and is a useful instrument that provides the vision of the problem of the adolescent client. It has the same structure as CBCL, but questions in YSL are personal, and an adolescent should answer them independently. The scoring is the same as well. Reimers, Jekauc, Mess, Mewes, and Woll (2012) investigate the reliability and validity of a self-report tool and conclude that the tool demonstrated moderate to good reliability and construct validity in the aspects of such scales as social support and physical environment. Moreover, the Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms & profiles prepared by Achenbach and Rescorla (2011) includes a section about reliability, internal consistency, and stability of the suggested assessment tools. Also, the research by Semel (2017) proves that YSR can be successfully implemented in the assessment of juvenile delinquency.

The final assessment tool that is related to school counseling is the Teacher’s report form (TSR). This tool is the continuation of the previous two but is completed by a teacher who knows an adolescent well. The form repeats some sections of CBCL and YSR and includes some new sections related to academic performance, recent achievements, or data from some tests in case this information is available. TSR is a tool with proven validity (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2011). These assessment tools are most suitable for school children aged from 6 to 18. However, there is a similar assessment set for younger children. These assessment tools would not be suitable for adults because they are designed with consideration of educational components.

The interpretation of the assessment should be provided with the consideration of changes faced by an adolescent. These changes are biological (physiological, sexual, emotional), cognitive challenges (development of abstract thinking, egocentric thinking, new ways of processing information, critical thinking), psychological challenges (formation of a new identity, development of emotional responses, career identity), social challenges (expectations of society, parents, or adolescents’ themselves), and moral and spiritual challenges (moral and spiritual development) (Geldard, Geldard, & Foo, 2016).

Assessment is a necessary component of the practice of counseling. Capuzzi and Gross (2017) state that “assessment plays an important role in the work of mental health professionals and it requires specialized knowledge” (p. 233). This process of collecting information about a client helps determine the problems and concerns of a client, evaluate their severity and intensity, and assess the impact of these problems both on a client and his or her surroundings. Moreover, assessment is a tool which allows to reveal strengths and weaknesses of a client and develop a treatment plan. When dealing with adolescents, it is necessary to consider their age peculiarities and changes typical of this age. Moreover, an efficient counseling process demands information about the family of a client, its role in the life of an adolescent, the impacts that the community has on adolescent’s development, and the attitude of an adolescent client to family, friends, and the environment (Gullota, Plant, & Evans, 2015).

The assessment tools identified in the previous section will be useful for me as a counselor. Three types of assessments completed by parents, the client himself, and a teacher will provide detailed information about the adolescent client. It will be useful to compare parents’ evaluation of the boy and his vision of himself. Frequently, these assessments differ significantly because adolescents have problems with self-identification and self-presentation. These problems result in disparities between the self-perception of an adolescent and his or her behavior in a family or at school. Moreover, the teacher’s evaluation will allow us to reveal if the problems are only family-related or affect school life as well. Not only grades in school subjects matter in this case. Behavioral changes within the school should also be considered to provide effective counseling.

Information obtained during the assessment can be applied throughout the counseling process. In case discrepancies are revealed between parents’ evaluation and information provided in the self-report, they can be used to ask the patient to explain these differences. Information provided by a teacher can be used in choosing strategies for counseling with the consideration of interests of the client.

Evaluation of Tools’ Application

The mentioned assessment tools can be used with diverse clients as long as they meet age criteria. However, ethical considerations are important while presenting the results of the assessment to a client. Apart from keeping in mind that the client is an adolescent who is more vulnerable by his nature than other age groups, the results should be presented according to ethical standards for school counselors (American School Counselor Association, 2016). First of all, a counselor has the responsibility to students. It is important not to make diagnoses but to reveal the causes of the existing problems. Confidentiality is also a crucial aspect of the work of a school counselor. The client should be aware that his personal information will be protected and the details will not be transferred to the third parties.

Before starting counseling, the client should be informed about its purposes, goals, rules, and techniques that will be applied (American School Counselor Association, 2016). However, the confidentiality rule is only applicable until legal aspects are involved or the client is potentially dangerous to self or others. In case of serious and foreseeable harm, a counselor should contact parents or guardians, assess the possible risks, provide support for the client, and report the results to parents/guardians or the appropriate authorities. It is good if a counselor can demonstrate empathy and be supportive. The presentation of the assessment data can be not always pleasant for a client. Thus, a counselor should be ethical and consider the client’s unique cultural context, developmental, and personal peculiarities. Since the self-perception of an adolescent and his evaluation by parents and a teacher may differ, the counselor should present them carefully and try to avoid conflict situations.

Conclusion

On the whole, assessment is a significant component of counseling. It provides the counselor with information about the client’s background, his or her relations with family and society, preferences and interests, and can help to identify the causes of the problems which need counseling. The choice of assessment tools depends on its primary question, primary presenting concern, and personal details of the client. For example, in the scenario discussed in the paper, the client is an adolescent boy. The assessment tools applicable for adolescents include Child Behavior Checklist, Youth self-report, and Teacher’s report form. The first one is completed by the client’s parents or guardians while the other two are completed by the client and his or her teacher correspondently. The task of a counselor is to analyze the results of the assessment, reveal the problematic concerns, and develop strategies to resolve the existing problems. Apart from being guided by the client’s needs and peculiarities, a counselor should follow relevant ethical standards. Finally, the success of counseling in the scenario under consideration depends on the fruitful cooperation of a counselor, the client, the client’s parents, and teachers.

References

Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2011). Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms & profiles: An integrated system of multi-informant assessment. Burlington, VT: ASEBA.

American School Counselor Association. (2016).Web.

Capuzzi, D., & Gross, D. R. (Eds.). (2017). Introduction to the counseling profession (7th ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

(n.d.). Web.

De Caluwé, E., Decuyper, M., & De Clercq, B. (2013). European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22(7), 401-411. Web.

DiMaria, L. (2017). Web.

Geldard, K., Geldard, D., & Foo, R. Y. (2016). Counselling adolescents: The proactive approach for young people (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Gullota, T. P., Plant, R., & Evans, M. A. (Eds.). (2015). Handbook of adolescent behavioral problems. Evidence-based approaches to prevention and treatment. New York, NY: Springer.

Reimers, A. K., Jekauc, D., Mess, F., Mewes, N., & Woll, A. (2012). BMC Public Health, 12, 705. Web.

Semel, R. A. (2017). Utility of the ASEBA Youth Self-Report (YSR) in juvenile delinquency assessments. EC Psychology and Psychiatry, 1(6), 217-225.

Sistere, M. L., Massons, J. D., Perez, R. G., & Ascaso, L. E. (2014). Validity of the DSM-oriented scales of the child behavior checklist and youth self-report. Psicothema, 26(3), 364-371. Web.

Williams, J. (2013). Web.

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