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Screening for psychotraumatic experiences: a review of patient-reported measures for use in routine practice

Ingrid Carlier, Frans G. Zitman


Rationale, aims & objectives: Rates of psychotrauma (re-)exposure among individuals and patients are high and have considerable impact. Therefore, clinicians are advised to conduct trauma history assessments as a standard or routine practice. Self-report or patient-reported measures are a non-invasive and cost-effective methods of screening for significant traumatic events. So far, review articles in this area are focused solely on children/adolescents or childhood trauma in adults, without a lifespan perspective. The present article is focused on self-report measures for lifespan psychotrauma exposure in adults that could be used as a quick and initial screening device in clinical and research settings. The article begins with summarizing research findings on psychotrauma exposure in both general and clinical populations. Then results are described of a literature search on self-report instruments, measuring a diversity of possible psychological trauma across the lifespan. It concludes with some recommendations for clinical practice and future research.

Methods: A computerized search (PubMed, Medline, PsychInfo, Embase Psychiatry) from 1980 to 2011 was carried out.

Results: Nineteen self-report instruments for psychotrauma across the life course satisfied the prescribed inclusion criteria. Most instruments focus on various trauma event types and on both adult and childhood trauma. A few measures focus on both traumatic and life events (LEC, LESHQ, LSC-R, TEC).

Conclusions: A number of suitable self-report measures for lifespan trauma exposure are available. Treatment providers and researchers may benefit from routinely assessing trauma exposure. Such assessments could be implemented as part of a broader Routine Outcome Monitoring (ROM) system.


Patient-reported measures, person-centered medicine, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychometric data, psychotraumatic experiences, review, routine outcome monitoring, routine practice, screening, traumatic stressors

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