New PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) calculated form

Published on March 4, 2021

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We've added a new calculated form to our template directory – the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5).

The ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more important than ever to monitor clients for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is on the rise during this unprecedented time. That increased need for care, along with the dramatic rise in telehealth sessions (96 percent of psychologists are treating patients remotely), has led practitioners to seek out new tools to make their practice more efficient in caring for their clients. The PCL-5 is a self-administered assessment that can be completed from anywhere and is an inexpensive tool that can help you spot issues early and effectively monitor for changes.

In today’s post, we’re giving you all the information you need to start using this calculated form to screen for PTSD in your clients. 

PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)

Unfortunately, cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been increasing. According to an article in Psychiatric Times, “Different groups have met the qualifying criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to DSM-5 as a result of the pandemic: those who have themselves suffered from serious COVID-19 illness and potential death; individuals who, as family members and health care workers, have witnessed others’ suffering and death; individuals who have learned about the death or risk of death of a family member or friend due to the virus; and individuals who have experienced extreme exposure to aversive details (e.g., journalists, first responders, medical examiners, and hospital personnel).”

We’re pleased to be able to offer our behavioral health practitioners a PCL-5 in our template directory that can be used to help clients who are struggling. Our digital PCL-5 calculates a score upon completion and can be used by qualified professionals to help diagnose, monitor, and measure the severity of PTSD. The assessment can be administered in three parts, each part building on the one before. Using our template, you can adjust the settings so all the parts are viewable or only one or two. 

Let’s take a look at the different ways you can use our digital PCL-5.

PCL-5 without Criterion A assessment

The PCL-5 on its own consists of a list of 20 problems that people sometimes have in response to a very stressful experience. Clients are asked to read each problem carefully and then select one of the options to indicate how much they have been bothered by that problem in the past week or month (this weekly or monthly designation can be changed in the form’s settings). The options include not at all, a little bit, moderately, quite a bit, and extremely.

Using this version of the assessment is a good choice when you want to conduct a brief screening that collects information about problems the client might be experiencing but doesn’t ask for details about the stressful experience.

Examples of the PCL-5 items

PCL-5 with Criterion A assessment

The Criterion A assessment adds five questions about the stressful experience. Examples of what might constitute a stressful experience are: a serious accident; fire; disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake; physical or sexual attack or abuse; war; homicide; or suicide. This assessment will give the practitioner a general idea about the stressful event the client experienced along with problems they’re currently experiencing due to the event.

Criterion A assessment items 

PCL-5 with extended Criterion A assessment and LEC-5

A Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5) can be added in addition to an extended Criterion A assessment. The LEC-5 consists of a list of 17 stressful things that sometimes happen to people. Clients are asked to consider each item and select how it applies to them. The extended Criterion A assessment adds four questions to the original Criterion A assessment. This version of the PCL-5 gives the most comprehensive picture of what the client has experienced and the problems they are currently experiencing.

Examples of the LEC-5 items

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The additional questions in the extended Criterion A assessment

How to change the settings of your PCL-5

You can change between the different versions of the PCL-5 depending on the needs of your clients. You can also change the format to prompt your client to answer the questions by how they’ve felt in either the past week or month

Here are the steps to changing the version and format:

  1. Hover your mouse over the questionnaire
  2. Click to edit
  3. You can adjust the formats under Timeframe and Format

You can change the versions and format of your PCL-5 as often as needed. However, if you want to use multiple versions at the same time, you may need to add additional forms to your account, depending on your plan. As with all of our calculated forms, a score is delivered to the practitioner upon submission of the form.

Try out the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) template

Ready to get started using our calculated forms?

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The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) is the newest addition to our web form template directory. The ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more important than ever to monitor clients for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We’re giving you all the information you need to start using the PCL-5 calculated form to screen for PTSD in your clients.

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