Trauma-Informed Mental Health Assessment Resources

Trauma-Informed Screening & Assessment

What is a Trauma-Informed Mental Health Assessment and Why is it Important?
Trauma-informed mental health assessment offers a structured framework for (1) gathering information across several key domains of functioning, (2) identifying and addressing the needs of children and families exposed to traumatic events, and (3) coding and summarizing this information, so that it can be communicated to with families and other providers (Kisiel, Conradi, Fehrenbach, Torgerson, & Briggs; 2014). The following models highlighted below offer trauma assessment strategies (Kisiel, Fehrenbach, et al., 2009; Spaccarelli, 1994; Chadwick Center for Children and Families, 2009).


Examples of Trauma-Focused Mental Health Assessment Tools and/or Processes

  • Assessment-Based Treatment for Traumatized Children: A Trauma Assessment Pathway (TAP) Model—Developed by the Chadwick Center for Children and Families (2009), with funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Trauma Assessment Pathway (TAP) was designed for children 0 to 18 years of age who have experienced any type of trauma and who may or may not be in the Child Welfare (CW) system. TAP is a multifaceted assessment process enabling clinicians to screen clients and, if appropriate for the treatment setting, to gain an in-depth understanding of the child, developmental level, traumatic experience, and the child’s family, community, and cultural systems.
  • Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)—Trauma Comprehensive Version—“CANS-Trauma” is a flexible, multi-purpose tool utilized in different capacities depending on the needs of a particular child-serving system (Kisiel, Lyons, et al., 2010). The CANS methodology is intended to gather information on a range of domains relevant to the functioning of the child and caregiving system (e.g., trauma experiences, traumatic stress symptoms, emotional/ behavioral needs, risk behaviors, life domain functioning, strengths, and caregiver needs and strengths) and incorporate this information directly into individualized plans of care (Lyons, 2004; Lyons & Weiner, 2009).
  • Transactional Model—Spaccarelli (1994) proposed a transactional or interactive model for understanding the effects of child abuse (and its associated events) on the presentation of symptoms. This model examines factors related to the abuse of the child, as well as those associated with the investigation (i.e., disclosure events) and related events that may occur subsequent to, and/or due to, the investigation (e.g., placement outside the home and court hearings). Age, sex, and personality factors are identified as possible moderating variables that have the potential to effect the expression of a child’s symptomatology. Social support, as well, plays an important role in recovery (Everson, Hunter, Runyon, Edelsohn, & Coulter, 1989). Finally, this model recognizes previous coping styles and cognitive appraisal schemes (i.e., the way a child organizes and understands events in his or her world) in terms of self-talk strategies and symptom maintenance. Individually and collectively, these factors influence expression of abuse/traumatic stress symptoms.