PTSD Assessment Instruments
Careful assessment is an important part of evidence-based practice. Initial assessments can help determine possible treatment options, and periodic assessment throughout care can guide treatment and gauge progress.
The following instruments (or earlier versions that corresponded to DSM-IV) were used in the studies that served as the evidence base of the systematic review that undergirds the guideline recommendations. Each instrument has evidence of reliability and validity and several are available at no cost. These instruments include both interview and self-report measures. Potential uses include screening, diagnosis, and tracking of treatment outcomes.
Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5)
This 30-item structured interview was developed by staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. It can be used to make a diagnosis, determine lifetime diagnosis, or assess PTSD symptoms over the previous week. The interview was developed for use by clinicians and clinical researchers with knowledge of PTSD and can generally be administered in 45-60 minutes.
- Weathers, F.W., Blake, D.D., Schnurr, P.P., Kaloupek, D.G., Marx, B.P., & Keane, T.M. (2013). The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5). Interview available from the National Center for PTSD at www.ptsd.va.gov
- Weathers, F. W., Bovin, M. J., Lee, D. J., Sloan, D. M., Schnurr, P. P., & Kaloupek, D. G., … Marx, B. P. (2017). The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5): Development and Initial Evaluation in Military Veterans. Psychological Assessment.
PTSD Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I and PSS-I-5)
The PSS-I is a 17-item semi-structured interview useful for assessment and diagnosis. Respondents with a known trauma history identify a single traumatic event that causes the most current distress. The presence and severity of associated DSM-IV PTSD symptoms experienced in the past two weeks are assessed. The PSS-I takes about 20 minutes to administer. Each item is assessed with a brief, single question with no probing or follow up questions.
The PSS-I has been updated to correspond to the DSM-5 (PSS-I-5) as a brief interview that assesses presence and severity of symptoms over the past month. The PSS-I-5 consists of 20 symptom-related questions and 4 additional questions to assess distress and interference in daily life as well as symptom onset and duration.
- Foa, E.B. & Capaldi, S. (2013). Manual for the Administration and Scoring of the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview for DSM-5 (PSS-I-5).
- Foa, E., Riggs, D., Dancu, C., & Rothbaum, B. (1993). Reliability and validity of a brief instrument for assessing post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 6, 459-474.
- Foa, E. & Tolin, D.F. (2000). Comparison of the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview Version and the Clinician- Administered PTSD Scale. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 13, 181-191.
Structured Clinical Interview; PTSD Module (SCID PTSD Module)
The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) has been updated to correspond to the most recent version of the DSM (DSM-5). The SCID-5 is a semi-structured interview for making the major DSM-5 diagnoses. The instrument is designed to be administered by a trained mental health professional. The SCID is not quantitatively scored; all diagnostic symptoms are coded as present, subthreshold, or absent. Depending on the interviewee’s personal history, a SCID can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.
The SCID PTSD module that was used in some of the research studies included in the systematic review was the section for evaluating PTSD in the earlier SCID-I based on DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. As many individuals may meet criteria for other diagnoses in addition to PTSD, some clinicians and researchers find it useful to conduct the entire interview.
- First, M.B., Spitzer, R.L., Gibbon, M., & Williams, J.B. (1996). Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV Axis I Disorders.
- Spitzer, R.L., Williams, J.B., Gibbon, M., & First, M.B. (1992). The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM- III-R (SCID). I: History, rationale, and description. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 49(8):624-9.
- Ventura, J., Liberman, R.P., Green, M.F., Shaner, A., & Mintz, J. (1998). Training and quality assurance with the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV (SCID-I/P). Psychiat Res, 79, 163-173.
- Werner, P.D. (2001). Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis 1 Disorders: Clinician Version. In B.S. Plake & J.C. Impara (Eds.), The fourteenth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 1123-1125). Lincoln, NE: Buros institute of Mental Measurements.
- Multiple versions of the SCID-5 exist for different purposes such as research or clinical practice: Citations for the interviews and the accompanying user’s guides.
Structured Interview for PTSD (SIP or SI-PTSD)
The SIP is a clinical interview to assess symptoms of PTSD corresponding to DSM-IV criteria along with survival and behavioral guilt. Symptoms can be rated for the past 4 weeks and during the worst period ever. The interviewer assesses both frequency and intensity of symptoms. It takes 20-30 minutes to administer.
- Davidson, J.R., Malik, M.A., & Travers, J. (1997). Structured interview for PTSD (SIP): psychometric validation for DSM-IV criteria. Depression and Anxiety, 5, 127–129.
- Davidson, J. R. T., Kudler, H. S., & Smith, R. D. (1990). Assessment and pharmacotherapy of posttraumatic stress disorder. In J. E. L. Giller (Ed.), Biological assessment and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (pp. 205–221). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Treatment-Outcome Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Scale (TOP-8)
The TOP- 8 is an eight-item, brief, interview-based assessment of the DSM-IV version of PTSD. It was developed from a larger PTSD instrument (SI-PTSD scale) based on items which were frequently endorsed by those with PTSD and which responded substantially to treatment across time. The eight resultant items were drawn from all three symptom clusters for PTSD (re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing, hyperarousal) and showed an improved ability to detect drug versus placebo differences in comparison with the original instrument.
- Davidson, J.R.T., Colket, J.T. (1997). The eight-item treatment-outcome post-traumatic stress disorder scale: a brief measure to assess treatment outcome in post-traumatic stress disorder. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 12, 41-45.
Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS)
The DTS is a 17-item, Likert-scale, self-report instrument that assesses the 17 DSM-IV symptoms of PTSD. Both a frequency and a severity score can be determined. The DTS can be used to make a preliminary determination about whether the symptoms meet DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. A 4-item scale, the SPAN (Startle, Physiological Arousal, Anxiety, and Numbness) has been derived from the DTS and can be used as a screen for PTSD symptoms.
- Davidson, J. R. T., Book, S. W., Colket, J. T., Tupler, L. A., Roth, S., & David, D., ... Feldman, M. (1997). Assessment of a new self-rating scale for post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological Medicine, 27, 153-160.
- Meltzer-Brody S., Churchill, E, & Davidson, J. R. (1999). Derivation of the SPAN, a brief diagnostic screening test for posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychiatry Research, 88, 63-70.
Impact of Event Scale – Revised (IES-R)
The IES-R is a 22-item self-report instrument that corresponds to DSM-IV symptoms of PTSD. For every item, individuals indicate how much they were distressed or bothered during the past seven days on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely). This instrument is not intended to be used to diagnose PTSD but rather to assess subjective distress and perhaps to identify individuals for a preliminary diagnosis of PTSD.
- Creamer, M., Bell, R., & Failla, S. (2003). Psychometric properties of the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41(12), 1489-1496.
- Weiss, D. S. (2007). The Impact of Event Scale: Revised. In J.P. Wilson & C.S. Tang (Eds.), Cross-cultural assessment of psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 219-238). New York: Springer.
Mississippi Scale for Combat-related PTSD (MISS or M-PTSD)
The M-PTSD is a 35-item, self-report instrument that assesses combat-related PTSD in Veteran populations, A corresponding civilian version was also developed to assess for PTSD resulting from non-military traumatic experiences. The measure was developed based on the DSM-III symptoms of PTSD. A short, ten-item version is available along with a version that can be given to spouses and partners.
- Hyer, L., Davis, H., Boudewyns, P., & Woods, M. G. (1991). A short form of the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 510-518.
- Keane, T. M., Caddell, J. M., & Taylor, K. L. (1988) Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Three studies in reliability and validity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 85-90.
- Norris, F.H. & Perilla, J.L. (1996). The revised civilian Mississippi scale for PTSD: Reliability, validity, and cross-language stability. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9, 285.
- Sloan, P., Arsenault, L., Hilsenroth, M., & Harvill, L. (1995) Use of the Mississippi Scale for Combat- Related PTSD in detecting war-related, non-combat stress symptomatology. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 799-801.
More Information & Obtain the Scale
Modified PTSD Symptom Scale (MPSS-SR)
The MPSS-SR is a 17-item self-report instrument that assesses the 17 DSM-III-R symptoms of PTSD. This scale can be used to make a preliminary determination of the diagnosis of PTSD using either DSM-III-R criteria or frequency, severity, or total score cutoff scores. It can also be scored as a continuous measure of PTSD symptom severity.
- Falsetti, S. A., Resnick, H. S., Resick, P. A., & Kilpatrick, D. (1993). The Modified PTSD Symptom Scale: A brief self-report measure of posttraumatic stress disorder. The Behavioral Therapist, 16, 161- 162.
PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)
This 20-item self-report instrument was developed by staff at the VA National Center for PTSD. It can be used to screen individuals for PTSD and make a provisional diagnosis although additional assessment is desirable to finalize the diagnosis. The PCL-5 can also be used to monitor symptom change during and after treatment.
- Blevins, C. A., Weathers, F. W., Davis, M. T., Witte, T. K., & Domino, J. L. (2015). The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5): Development and initial psychometric evaluation. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 28, 489-498.
- Wortmann, J. H., Jordan, A. H., Weathers, F. W., Resick, P. A., Dondanville, K. A., & Hall-Clark, B., ... Litz, B. T. (2016). Psychometric Analysis of the PTSD Checklist-5 (PCL-5) Among Treatment-Seeking Military Service Members. Psychological Assessment, 28(11), 1392-1403.
The PCL for DSM-IV is the version used in earlier research:
- Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD Checklist (PCL). Behavioral Research & Therapy, 34, 669-673.
More Information & Obtain the Scale
PTSD Symptom Scale Self-Report Version (PSS-SR)
The PSS-SR is a 17-item, Likert-scale, self-report questionnaire designed to assess the symptoms of PTSD according to DSM-IV. Each of the items describe the symptom in terms of severity or frequency, creating the subscales of re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal, and total score. A score of 13 or higher indicates the likelihood of PTSD. It was published simultaneously with the Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I) and contains much of the same wording.
- Foa, E. B., Riggs, D. S., Dancu, C. V., & Rothbaum, B. O. (1993). PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview Version [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS.
- Foa, E., Cashman, L., Jaycox, L., & Perry, K. (1997). The validation of a self-report measure of PTSD: The Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale. Psychological Assessment, 9, 445-451.
Short PTSD Rating Interview (SPRINT)
SPRINT is an eight-item self-report measure that assesses the core symptoms of PTSD (intrusion, avoidance, numbing, arousal), somatic malaise, stress vulnerability, and role and social functional impairment. The SPRINT does not map onto any specific version of DSM but rather is intended to capture the common symptoms that tend to be reported by people with PTSD when first seeking care. SPRINT is responsive to symptom change over time and can serve as a measure of PTSD illness severity and of global improvement. Symptoms are rated on five-point scales from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much) and the authors suggest a cutoff score of 14 for this screen. Those receiving positive scores should be further assessed.
- Connor, K., and Davidson, J. (2001). SPRINT: A brief global assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder. International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 16, 279-284.
Additional Resources Related to PTSD Assessment
Wilson, J.P., & Keane, T.M. (Eds). 2004. Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD: A practitioner’s handbook (2nd ed). New York: Guilford Press.
Orsillo, S. M. (2001). Measures for acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. In M.M. Antony & S.M. Orsillo (Eds.), Practitioner's guide to empirically based measures of anxiety (pp. 255-307). New York: KluwerAcademic/Plenum.
Steel, J. L., Dunlavy, A. C., Stillman, J., & Pape, H. C. (2011). Measuring depression and PTSD after trauma: Common scales and checklists. Injury, 42, 288–300.