A Quantitative and Qualitative Evaluation of Trainee Opinions of Four Methods of Personality Disorder Diagnosis

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Four methods of how to assess and diagnose personality disorders have received much attention within the literature: the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure (Shedler & Westen, 1998), the DSM–5 Section III Personality Disorders section (APA, 2011), the DSM–5 Section III trait model (APA, 2013), and the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (PDM; PDM Task Force, 2006) descriptions of 15 personality disorders. Given that much of the debate has been driven by clinician concerns, it is important to consider clinical utility when evaluating the usefulness of each method. The present study compares the 4 models on ratings of several dimensions of clinical utility provided by 329 graduate student clinicians and psychology interns from across the United States. Findings suggest that participants rated the DSM–5 trait model significantly higher in most clinical utility domains. Additionally, qualitative analyses of the open-ended responses provided by participants indicated that each method had strengths and weaknesses. Most notably, participants commented positively on the PDM’s level of comprehensiveness and appreciated the SWAP-II’s inclusion of a health category, despite the ease of use not being as highly rated for these methods.

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