PSYCH 718 : Psychotherapeutic Assessment and Formulation


2023 Semester Two (1235) (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 whānau/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/whānau) 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 an understanding of and appraise the DSM-5 diagnostic system. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Demonstrate the ability to write assessment reports that synthesise (i) client/family presenting problems/history of these problems, (ii) client/family presentation, (iii) client/family background and developmental history and, (iv) issues associated with safety and risk. (Capability 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  3. Articulate and apply psychological models to formulate a client or family's problems utilising information regarding, (i) psychosocial and developmental history, (ii) current contextual/systems/maintaining factors and, (iii) client's/family’s understandings of the problems. (Capability 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Demonstrate a critical and informed understanding of the importance, in assessment and formulation, of (i) Socio-cultural influences (e.g., gender/identity issues, cultural factors, socio-economic resources) and, (ii) interpersonal processes (e.g., the psychologist’s values, the client’s relational style). (Capability 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6)
  5. Apply knowledge of DSM-5 to clinical case information for adults and children. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Reports 50% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

This course is supported by the Tuākana in Science Programme, which facilitates the success and wellbeing of our 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. Read more here:

Key Topics

Module 1: 
  • Introductions and overview of the course. 
  • Introduction to formulation, models of understanding (5 p’s & more), and writing case reports.
Module 2: 
  • Formulating from a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) perspective
  • Assessing and describing risk
Module 3:
  • Formulating Depressive Disorders
Module 4:
  • Formulating Anxiety Disorders (DSM 5)
Module 5: 
  • Formulating when there is Comorbidity
Module 6:
  • Formulating using Māori models of mental health and wellbeing
 Module 7:
  • Family context and overview  
Module 8:
  • Whanau centred approaches with Māori Tamariki and Rangatahi 
Module 9:
  • Formulation using  Structural Family Therapy  Models
Module 10:
  • Formulating using Systemic Family Therapy Models
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 a total of 24 hours of lectures, 48 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 48 hours of work on assignments and/or exam preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

  • Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities, including case formulation exercises within the class time, will not be available as recordings.
  • The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning 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.

Readings (chapters and articles) will be made available on Canvas as a Talis reading list.

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.

Feedback from student evaluations was received 2 days ago. It will be discussed by lecturers and changes to the course considered. 

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.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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 course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 28/10/2022 11:28 a.m.