The Top 10 Theories and Concepts in the Assessment and Diagnosis Section of the Exam

Assessment and Diagnosis are incredibly important areas of the exam with which to feel comfortable, given that this is one of the most heavily emphasized areas on the exam. When you approach this material, be sure to feel as though you have in-depth knowledge of concepts, theories, and diagnoses. Know what differential diagnosis questions you want to ask yourself as well as prognosis, diagnostic criteria for a particular disorder, and treatment recommendations. Questions on the exam for this area tend to be detailed at times, so one must not neglect to allocate a significant amount of study time to this domain.

To start your review, here are the top 10 theories and concepts with which you want to be sure to be familiar:

1. Classification of Mental Disorders

Be familiar with the DSM-5 and how it changed compared to previous versions of the DSM. For example, you want to know it utilizes a polythetic criteria set which allows for individual differences in symptom presentation. Be familiar with its categorical approach to classifying disorders and how the DSM-5 approaches diagnostic uncertainty. Understand that there is an outline included for cultural formulation that assesses the client’s cultural identity, cultural conceptualization of distress, the psychosocial stressors, and cultural factors that impact the client’s vulnerability. Finally, know that there are cultural factors relevant to the relationship between the client and therapist.

2. Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental Disorders include Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Specific Learning Disorder, and Tourette’s Disorder. Be able to answer questions pertaining to diagnostic criteria used to classify the disorder, prognosis, and treatment. ADHD continues to remain a common disorder featured on the EPPP exam so take time to know specifics regarding course of treatment, medication, onset, and specifiers used for this diagnosis.

3. Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

Disorders in this section include Delusional Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, and Brief Psychotic Disorder. It is common to be tested extensively on Schizophrenia and test-takers will want to be confident knowing diagnostic criteria, prognosis, concordance rates, etiology and the dopamine hypothesis, treatment, and risk factors for families resulting in relapse and rehospitalization for Schizophrenia.

4. Bipolar and Related Disorders and Depressive Disorders

Disorders in this section include Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Persistent Depressive Disorder. Be familiar with Major Depressive Disorder and etiology specifically, understanding behavioral theory, Beck’s Cognitive Triad, and the Learned Helplessness Model.

5. Anxiety Disorders, OCD, and Trauma- And Stressor Related Disorders

Disorders in this section include Separation Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, Acute Stress Disorder, and Adjustment Disorder. Questions related to these disorders tend to be somewhat straightforward so you will want to be familiar with diagnostic criteria and treatment. One tip to remember is most of these disorders list exposure therapy with response prevention as the preferred treatment of choice.

6. Disorders that involve the presence of physical symptoms (feeding, eating, somatic, and sleep disorders)

This section includes Dissociative Amnesia, Conversation Disorder, Factitious Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Enuresis, Insomnia Disorder, Narcolepsy, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Arousal Disorders. Again, these are somewhat straightforward so you will want to be familiar with diagnostic criteria, differential diagnosis, and treatment.

7. Substance related disorders

Substance Use Disorders can include Alcohol-Induced Disorders as well as other substance use disorders. Be familiar with withdrawal symptoms, diagnostic criteria, relapse prevention theory, smoking cessation interventions, Korsakoff Syndrome, and Alcohol-Induced Sleep Disorder. If unfamiliar with substance use disorders, take time on this section as you will notice questions for this area on the test tend to be detailed and specific, particularly regarding questions pertaining to alcohol use.

8. Neurocognitive Disorders

This section includes Delirium, Neurocognitive Disorder Due to Alzheimer’s Disease, or HIV and Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder. Be familiar with differences in symptom presentation for the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease as well as etiology.

9. Personality Disorders

You will want to understand the three “clusters” of personality disorders, differential diagnosis, and age restrictions for meeting a diagnosis. Questions related to personality disorders tend to often be case scenarios and request that you answer the question based on a fictional person presenting with certain personality characteristics.

10. Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide is often assessed and there are generally a few questions addressing suicide risk factors. Be familiar with the ways that age, gender, race/ethnicity, and marital status correlate with suicide as well as early warning signs, links to psychiatric disorders, and personality and biological correlates.

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