PSYCH 718 : Psychotherapeutic Assessment and Formulation


2021 Semester Two (1215) (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 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
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 (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Demonstrate the ability to write assessment reports that analyse: (i) client/family presenting problems/history of these problems (ii) client/family presentation (iii) client/family background and developmental history (iv) issues associated with safety and risk (Capability 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  3. Demonstrate the ability to develop and write a psychological formulation of a client’s problems utilising: (i) psychosocial and developmental history (ii) current contextual/systems/maintaining factors (iii) psychological models (iv) client's/family’s 'formulation' (Capability 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Demonstrate an understanding 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, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Reports 25% Individual Coursework
Reports 25% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam


Nau Mai, Haere mai ki Psychology Tuākana Programme. 
The Tuākana in Science Programme began over 27 years ago! It is an Equal Opportunities initiative that acknowledges the importance of the success and retention of Māori and Pacific students. The foundation of the Tuākana Programme is the Tuākana-Teina principle an integral relationship in which older or more expert Tuākana (traditionally brother, sister or cousin) guides a younger or less expert Teina (traditionally younger sibling or cousin). This is a reciprocal relationship which fosters safe learning and teaching environments. 
The Tuākana Programme values Manaakitanga (kind and caring interactions), tautoko (support), Mana (reciprocal respect), Ako (learning and teaching), whanaungatanga (relationship, kinship, sense of family connection) and hononga (connection). 
Students involved in the Tuākana Programme include benefit: 
• Increased support and encouragement. 
• Increased communication and access to resources. 
• Increased networks – getting to know more students, at your own level and above. 
• Increased enjoyment and opportunity to succeed. 
The Psychology Tuākana study space is available for Māori and Pacific students in Room 198, Building 301. It is a warm and inviting space for students to study in. For queries or more information do not hesitate to contact the Psychology Tuākana Programme Coordinators, Hineatua on or Logan on, Room 165 in Building 303.

Key Topics

Module 1: 
Introductions and overview of the course. 
Introduction to formulation 
Principles of CT/CBT
Module 2: 
Māori perspectives on formulation
Module 3:
Cognitive formulation and the 4 Ps  
Cognitive and behavioural models of depression (DSM) 
Assessing risk 
Module 4:
Cognitive-behavioural assessments 
Writing case reports from a CBT perspective (Presenting problems) 
Cognitive and behavioural models of depression (DSM) 
Culturally adapted CBT for Māori with depression
Module 5: 
Anxiety disorders (DSM) 
Maintaining/perpetuating factors  
Assessment of risk/including suicide  
Brief introduction to personality disorders 
Module 6:
Class practice and revisions 
Module 7:
Family context and overview  
Module 8:
Whanau centred approaches with Māori Tamariki and Rangatahi 
Module 9:
Structural Family Therapy 
Module 10:
Systemic Family Therapy
Module 11: 
Behavioural assessment and formulation 
Module 12:
Child maltreatment: Implications for assessment and formulation
Course review 
Exam preparation 

Special Requirements

Student participation in group based in-class exercises and discussions is required. 

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 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, 48 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 48 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

This course is available to offshore students and students who have been exempted from in-person attendance. Different conditions will apply for these students.

Attendance is required at lectures.

Lectures will be available as recordings. 
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Readings are available on-line or at the University Library

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.

In the second part of the course there are too many frameworks taught so that students are not as confident with formulating from them in the assignment and exam. The focus will be on 3 models; Structural Family Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy and Behavioural models for understanding issues with Children and their Families. With increased class size andmore diversity of knowledge and experience, information will need to be at a more basic level and more experienced students can be extended by the readings and in-class group practice with cases. 

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Under the government’s Covid-19 Alert Levels, we anticipate using the following delivery modes. Note this is subject to change depending on the specific circumstances.
Covid Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode 
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.  The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: [Lectures, labs, tutorials, office hours, field trips, etc.] 
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely 

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 21/06/2021 03:00 p.m.