Street drugs

August 2010


Psychosocial assessment of young people

Refining and evaluating a youth friendly assessment interview

Volume 39, No.8, August 2010 Pages 585-588

Alexandra Parker

Sarah Hetrick

Rosemary Purcell


Given the high prevalence of mental health and/or substance use problems in young people, an assessment interview that assists clinicians to engage with young people and assess their psychosocial needs is essential. Currently, there are few assessment tools for this purpose.


To describe the rationale and process of extending a psychosocial assessment interview to assist clinicians in assessing the full range of mental health disorders common in young people.


The ‘headspace’ assessment interview is designed to assist engagement while assessing psychosocial and mental health problems. It can be used by a range of clinicians in primary care settings for the purposes of developing treatment or referral options. To date, as part of a national clinical service platform, the interview has been used with over 2000 young people. A preliminary process evaluation indicated that the interview is perceived to have utility and acceptability among the clinicians who are using it in their practice to assess young people’s mental health problems and psychosocial functioning.

Youth mental health service provision is a rapidly developing field of practice. This reflects increasing recognition of the high incidence of mental health problems in young people and that the onset of most mental disorders occurs before the age of 25 years.1 In Australia, 19% of people aged 13–17 years and 27% of those aged 18–24 years experience a mental health disorder.2

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