Could the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview Hold Therapeutic Potential? : Suggestions for Further Exploration and Adaptation Within a Framework of Therapeutic Assessment

The Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI), included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a person-centered instrument for systematically appraising the impact of cultural factors in psychiatric assessment. A number of key areas in the future development of the CFI have been identified in order to ensure further clinical uptake.


In this paper, we suggest that applying a Therapeutic Assessment (TA) approach in using the CFI—i.e., framing the interview in a way that gives primacy to its self-transformative potential by explicitly focusing on those issues that are seen as the most urgent, relevant, and meaningful by the patient—could prove helpful in alleviating patients’ suffering beyond what is achieved by merely collecting relevant cultural information that may inform diagnosis and subsequent treatment interventions. The TA methodology has been designed as a collaborative approach to psychological assessment in which the assessment procedure itself is meant to induce therapeutic change.


This is achieved by explicitly focusing on the particular questions and queries that patients have about themselves with respect to their mental health problems or psychosocial well-being; these questions are then allowed to guide the assessment process and the interpretation of the findings. We suggest a number of potential modifications to the related Outline for Cultural Formulation and to the CFI content that could strengthen a TA-inspired focus. With this paper, we do not claim to offer a definitive integration of the TA approach in using the CFI but hope to further the discussion of a therapeutic potential of the instrument.

Mattias Strand & Sofie Bäärnhielm | 2022
In: Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry ; ISSN: 0165-005X | 46 | december | 846-863
Adaptability, Assessment, Assessment Instruments, Client Centered Psychotherapy, Clinical Trial, Cross Cultural Treatment, Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) (en), Cultural Values, Methodology, Psychotherapeutic Processes, PTSD (DSM-5), Research