The goal of Brief Instruments is to conduct symptom-focused assessment in order to deliver appropriate mental health services. These instruments take less than 10 minutes to complete and a few minutes to score and interpret. Outcome of treatment is also monitored using brief assessments. Some of the most commonly used Brief Instruments are:

  • Symptom Checklist (SCL-90)
  • Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)
  • State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)

Symptom Checklist (SCL-90) and Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)

BSI is the shortened version of SCL-90. They are used to assess the severity of symptoms reported by the client. These can be repeated usually after two weeks. SCL-90 contains 90 and BSI contains 53 items, both measuring 9 symptom dimensions:

  1. SOM – Somatization
  2. O-C – Obsessive-Compulsive
  3. I-S – Interpersonal Sensitivity
  4. DEP – Depression
  5. ANX – Anxiety
  6. HOS – Hostility
  7. PHOB – Phobic Anxiety
  8. PAR – Paranoid Ideation
  9. PSY – Psychoticism

Both assessments can also indicate three Global Indices:

  1. Global Severity Index (GSI): Designed to measure overall psychological distress.
  2. Positive Symptom Distress Index (PSDI): Designed to measure the intensity of symptoms.
  3. Positive Symptom Total (PST): Reports number of self-reported symptoms.

Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)

Beck Depression Inventory is a 21-item, self-report measure that assesses symptoms of depression over last two weeks. It presents with specific symptoms and asks the person to rate how it applied to them. For example, for “Failure,” it presents the following choices: 0) I do not feel like a failure. 1) I feel I have failed more than the average person. 2) As I look back on my life, all I can see is a lot of failures. 3) I feel I am a complete failure as a person.

The scores are interpreted based on the following formula:

  • 0-13: No/Minimal Depression (<4 can also indicate denial or faking good)
  • 14-19: Mild Depression
  • 20-28: Moderate Depression
  • 29-63: Severe Depression

State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)

STAI is a 40-item, self-report measure that assesses symptoms of anxiety in current/transitory STATES as well as chronic/long-term TRAITS. Interpretation is based on high/low scores on both dimensions. Trait anxiety can also be related to underlying personality.