Case conceptualizations are an integral part to the treatment process in any mental health field. A clinician writes a case conceptualization to document their understanding of a case and to relay how they intend to proceed in treatment according to a particular approach or theoretical orientation. Not only can writing a case conceptualization help you organize your thoughts around a client, but it can also help you defend reasoning for choosing a particular treatment. As just an example, I can argue that from a feminist theoretical perspective, my client is experiencing self-esteem issues due to social constructs related to appearance, etc. This allows me to make an informed decision concerning the client’s treatment and also helps me to defend my decision to another interested party such as in consultation, collaboration, or supervision.
A good case conceptualization has several sections including but not limited to: introduction to client and significant others, family background, cultural background, medical/mental health history, diversity considerations, any legal or ethical issues, symptoms and presenting issues, theoretical orientation, and a plan for treatment.
While case conceptualizations are usually written in paragraph form, I find it helpful to jot down some notes before putting together a case conceptualization. Below, you’ll find a worksheet that my colleague and I created as a teaching tool for our university’s research symposium.
If you would like to learn more about feminist theory before filling out the worksheet, check out the graphic below and the other links in this article:
In this worksheet, we encourage the student to not only consider the client’s background information but also to consider the power dynamics at play, an important component in feminist theory. We chose to use French and Raven’s model of power types to categorize the types of power present in the client’s life (Legitimate, Reward, etc). We also consider the types of boundaries that might be crossed as power can translate to how we hold boundaries and who we “allow” to cross those boundaries.
Feel free to use the attached worksheet below with employees, supervisees, and with yourself and let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments below.
Be sure to read other articles in the “Theory to Practice” series.