Assessment and Treatment of Serious Mental Illness

The proficiency in Assessment and Treatment of Serious Mental Illness is designed to provide professional psychologists with specialized assessment and treatment expertise to help people who have serious mental illnesses (SMI) achieve their full functional capability and live productive, satisfying lives in the community.

Specialized Knowledge

An expanding body of evidence has demonstrated the value of multiple psychosocial interventions that can improve the long-term outcome for people with SMI. When these interventions are combined with an orientation that is person-first and presumes recovery and return to a satisfying life are possible, the growing arsenal of evidence-based treatments has been shown to be highly effective.

A specialized curriculum for psychologists developing proficiency in serving people with SMI should encompass a broad array of knowledge designed to address the challenges faced by those with SMI. The following is a general outline that lists key elements of an SMI proficiency curriculum:

  • Knowledge of the etiology of SMI

  • Prevention and early intervention

  • Understanding of specific societal, cultural, economic, racial, ethnic and gender issues as they apply to assessment and treatment of SMI

  • Psychopharmacology for those with SMI

  • Knowledge and understanding of various systems of care for people with SMI and their applicability to the severe and persistent nature of these disorders, including the profound functional disability often associated with SMI

  • Ethics, legal issues and civil rights

  • Understanding of basic research principles and methods, and their application to assessment and treatment in SMI


Assessment practices and interventions for those who have SMI have changed greatly in the past three decades, with much greater emphasis currently placed on assessing for, and providing interventions to develop, the skills needed to live successfully in the community. The following is a general list of assessment procedures and interventions for this area:

Assessment procedures include those for non-SMI as well as SMI populations:

  • Standard, conventional assessment instruments

  • Assessments of functional capabilities

  • Neuropsychological assessments of specific cognitive deficits and strengths

The most widely researched and used psychosocial interventions for SMI include:

  • Assertive Community Treatment

  • Family psychoeducation

  • Psychotherapy, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

  • Training in social skills and illness management

  • Cognitive remediation

  • Supported employment and supported education

  • Comprehensive Social Learning Programs (including token economies)

  • Integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders

  • Treatment for co-occurring post-traumatic stress