PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition that can emerge after a person witnesses or undergoes a life-threatening incident. Following such an event, it’s common to observe alterations in behavior, thoughts, emotions, and mood. Sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, sadness, and heightened anxiety might manifest. While some experience a resolution of these feelings within a few weeks without significant impacts on their daily life, those facing these symptoms persistently for a month or more might be grappling with PTSD. Keep reading to learn 48 PTSD evaluation questions you can ask your clients in a counseling session.
PTSD can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, including children. While many begin experiencing PTSD symptoms shortly after the traumatic event, for some, it may take weeks or even years to develop symptoms.
As we discuss PTSD, there are three main categories that traumas fall within to be aware of. This includes:
- Combat and War
- Violence and abuse
- Disaster and mass violence
Individuals who are living with PTSD can present differently, including the symptoms they experience and their severity. The four categories of PTSD symptoms that are included in diagnostic criteria include intrusive thoughts, avoidance, negative changes in mood, and changes in emotional and physical reactions.
At this time, some of the most common treatment approaches for PTSD are trauma-focused therapies including cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure (PE), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR). TherapyPatron provides effective worksheets that counselors can use in their clinical setting. Examples of sheets that could be used when working with a client who has PTSD include:
- Coping Skill Worksheet Bundle
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) Worksheet Bundle
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Worksheet Bundle
Psychotropic medications are an additional treatment option for individuals living with PTSD. It may take time for clients to see the effects of medications, which may have some believe they are ineffective.
Many individuals who experience trauma never develop PTSD. However, research has indicated that approximately 6% of the US population will develop PTSD at some point in their life. There are limitations to research, which means that there may be a shift in the actual representation of those affected by PTSD.
We also know that Veterans, especially those who were deployed and those who experienced combat, are at a higher risk of developing PTSD than civilians. Veterans who utilize VA services can experience more trauma and military sexual trauma (MST) screenings than those who use public healthcare providers. Some research has indicated that 7% of Veterans will develop PTSD during their lifetime.
Experiences that are known to be traumatic for children and teens include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse. The rates of PTSD among children vary among research, however, approximately 3% to 15% of girls who have experienced a traumatic event, and 1% to 6% of boys are believed to develop PTSD.
Getting Ready for Your First Counseling Session with a New PTSD Client
When you are preparing for your first session with a new client, it can be helpful to set time aside to review any referral information or other documentation you have received. This can provide you with some insight into your client’s presenting concerns and help you build a framework for your time with them.
Your clinical setting may have a set assessment or procedure that you are expected to complete. Some clinicians find that taking a glance at the paperwork they need to complete helps them familiarize themselves with the process. Over time, this step may not be necessary because you have developed a rhythm for your intake appointments.
We would like to take a moment to mention the importance of taking time to check in with yourself and making sure that your own needs are being met. We can easily get caught up in our work, and lose track of time. Prioritizing your mental health can improve your focus and attentiveness during your sessions.
PTSD Evaluation Question Examples
PTSD evaluation questions can be used to learn about the symptoms that your client has and their severity. This information can be used to help you determine which treatment options would best fit their needs so that you can move forward with developing their personalized treatment plan. Continue reading for examples of PTSD questions that you can use in your evaluations.
- Can you tell me what led to you coming in today?
- How can I help you feel comfortable during our time together?
- What has been helping you when you find yourself struggling?
- Can you think of any strengths of yours that are supporting you during this time?
- How would you say that your trauma affected your day-to-day life?
- Can you tell me what mindfulness means to you? Do you have any experience with mindfulness practices?
- Do you wake feeling rested?
- How would your life look different if you were able to cope with your symptoms?
- Can you think of a time that you were considering killing yourself? What stopped you?
- Can you tell me when the last time you thought about killing yourself was?
- How can I help you?
- Have you found any coping skills that help you when you’re distressed?
- How would you describe your use of drugs and alcohol?
- Do you find that you have used substances to cope with your distress?
- If you woke up tomorrow with little to no mental health concerns, what would your life look like?
- Can you tell me about the important people in your life?
- How do your friends and family support you?
- Whom in your life do you trust?
- Was this your first traumatic experience?
- Did you have any mental health concerns before your traumatic experience?
- Has there been a time in your past that you received mental health treatment?
- Can you elaborate on your previous experience with counseling?
- Can you share your experience with self-harming behaviors?
- Have you engaged in self-harm behaviors recently?
- Are you comfortable telling me about your trauma? We can take it slow if you’d like to.
- Does your mind wander to the trauma on its own?
- Does this come to mind often for you?
- Has your trauma affected your dreams?
- Can you share with me your experience with dreams related to your trauma?
- Can you tell me about your experience with flashbacks?
- Are there any triggers that you have noticed for your flashbacks?
- Do you find yourself more aware of things around you that are related to your traumatic experience?
- When you do experience memories or thoughts of the trauma, what helps you cope?
- Have you found yourself avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of your trauma?
- Can you tell me about your memory? Do you feel it has changed since your trauma?
- After your trauma occurred, did you notice any shifts in your beliefs or perceptions? As an example, maybe you were hopeful before the event, and now find yourself viewing things in a negative light.
- Can you share with me your thoughts about what led to your trauma? Do you feel that the responsibility of the event falls on someone, or something, in particular?
- How would you describe your mood?
- Can you tell me about any shame or guilt that you are carrying related to your trauma?
- Can you tell me about what you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
- Has your ability to engage in your hobbies or special interests changed since your trauma?
- Have you noticed yourself distancing from your loved ones or friends?
- Can you tell me about the last time you felt happiness, love, or joy?
- Can you tell me about any dangerous or reckless behaviors that you’ve engaged in that aren’t typical for you?
- Can you think of a time that you could relate to heightened responses or startle easily after your trauma?
- Can you tell me about your concentration and ability to maintain your focus on the tasks at hand?
- Do you feel that there have been any changes in your concentration since your trauma?
- Can you describe your sleeping patterns?
Final Thoughts on PTSD Evaluation Questions to Ask Clients in Counseling
Thank you for taking a few moments out of your day to read our blog about PTSD questions that you can use during your intake assessments! First sessions can be overwhelming or intimidating for new clients, so we as clinicians must create a safe and welcoming environment where clients feel comfortable.
When clients are honest about their symptoms and experiences, we can provide them with an accurate assessment that can be used to create a personalized addiction treatment plan tailored to their needs.
If you are interested in learning more about PTSD or conducting intake assessments, we encourage you to find training opportunities and continuing education opportunities within your field.
TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.
- “Va.Gov: Veterans Affairs.” How Common is PTSD in Adults?, September 13, 2018. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
- “Va.Gov: Veterans Affairs.” How Common is PTSD in Children and Teens?, September 18, https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_children_teens.asp
- “Va.Gov: Veterans Affairs.” How Common is PTSD in Veterans?, July 24, 2018. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_veterans.asp
- “Va.Gov: Veterans Affairs.” PTSD Basics, August 7, 2018. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/what/ptsd_basics.asp