What Is Case Conceptualization?


In psychology, case conceptualization or case formulation describes the process of taking interview data from a patient to create a model describing the patient's symptoms and determine a plan of action for treatment. Multiple forms of case conceptualization exist, each using different models to describe how information from the patient is organized and interpreted.

The Four P's

  • One of the simpler methods of case conceptualization is the "four P's" method, which organizes information from the patient into four categories: predisposing, precipitating, perpetuating and protective factors. The information gained from the interview is placed in these categories to understand the patient's current situation. For example, a patient's low self-confidence might be related to the predisposing factor of an overly critical home life together with the perpetuating factor of continued internal self-criticism, leading him to avoid conflict and opportunities for self-advancement -- a protective factor.

Constructing a Treatment Plan

  • With the information organized, the psychologist can now construct a model of how the patient's symptoms operate and can begin to create direction for treatment. More complex models of case conceptualization use different base categories than the four P's and/or add additional categories to create more specific and detailed models of a patient's thoughts and behavior.


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