PSYCH 718 : Psychotherapeutic Assessment and Formulation


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Major theories used in clinical practice to understand psychological problems will be discussed, including behavioural, cognitive-behavioural, systems and psychodynamic models. Emphasis is on assessment and formulation of clients' problems rather than therapeutic intervention. Approaches covered are those that are most commonly employed by psychologists practicing in New Zealand.

Course Overview

This course is one of the prerequisites for entry to the Doctor of Clinical Psychology programme. The course examines a range of research-based theories used in clinical psychology practice to understand psychological problems, including behavioural, cognitive-behavioural, mātauranga Māori and systems models. The emphasis is on assessment and formulation of client problems (adult, child and whanau/family) rather than on therapeutic interventions. In addition to understanding how these theories inform the psychologist's activities, the influence of gender, age, and culture are considered. Approaches covered are those that are most commonly employed by psychologists practising in New Zealand. At the end of this course, students will have learnt how to construct an assessment and formulation report of a client (individual or family/whanau) and the presenting problems.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: PSYCH 723 Restriction: PSYCH 709

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Master of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate and apply knowledge of the DSM-V diagnostic system used in professional mental health contexts (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Demonstrate the ability to write independently write assessment reports that analyse and communicate clearly in a professional manner: (i) the client/family/whanau's presenting problems and history of these problems, (ii) client/family/whanau's presentation, (iii) client/family/whanau's background and developmental history, (iv) issues associated with safety and risk (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  3. Demonstrate the ability to independently develop and communicate in writing a psychological formulation of a client/familywhanau's problems utilising professional research-based knowledge including: (i) the psychosocial and developmental history, (ii) the current contextual/systems/maintaining factors, (iii) psychological models, (iv) client/family/whanau's 'formulation' (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  4. Demonstrate an understanding and critical analysis of the importance, in assessment and formulation, of: (i) Socio-cultural influences (e.g., gender/gender identity issues, cultural factors, socio- economic resources), (ii) interpersonal processes (e.g., the psychologist's values, the client's relational style) (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 50% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam
Students may also take part in group presentations of case material.  This activity contributes to development of learning in the course but is not assessed.

Key Topics

The course has three major components.  The first focuses on assessment and formulation with adult clients; the second with Māori clients; and the third with children and families. 

Learning Resources

Appropriate references will be provided in Canvas.

Special Requirements

Attendance is strongly encouraged as this supports learning through the regular use of group discussions.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 150 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 24 hours of lectures, 66 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 60 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Other Information

This course is a preparatory course for the Clinical Psychology programme and required by students accepted into the clinical psychology pathway.  However, a small number of places are available to students who are not applying for clinical psychology.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 07/07/2020 12:32 p.m.