Explore the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, a reliable tool for diagnosing and assessing the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder.

By Joshua Napilay on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale?

The is a preeminent psychological assessment tool specifically designed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This instrument was meticulously developed by the National Center for PTSD, with the primary aim of providing a structured interview format to diagnose PTSD and quantify its severity.

CAPS is methodically grounded on the criteria for PTSD outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It evaluates an array of 20 symptoms, each rated by a clinician on a five-point scale. This scale ranges from 0 (never) to 4 (daily or almost every day), reflecting the frequency and intensity of each symptom over the preceding week.

What sets CAPS apart is its comprehensive approach. It goes beyond merely diagnosing PTSD, offering a nuanced understanding of its impact on an individual's day-to-day functioning. This detailed perspective makes it an indispensable tool in clinical practice and research, assisting in tracking treatment progress, measuring treatment outcomes, and driving scientific investigations into PTSD.

It's crucial to remember that CAPS is administered by a clinician who has undergone specific training. This ensures a thorough, holistic, and accurate assessment of the individual's condition. The interview typically lasts 45 to 60 minutes, contingent upon the complexity of the individual's symptoms and trauma history.

For a more comprehensive understanding of how CAPS works, you may find it helpful to watch this explainer video:

How does it work?

The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) is an exhaustive tool trained clinicians use to assess, diagnose, and quantify the severity of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here's an in-depth guide to how it functions:

1. Preparation

The clinician initiates the process by meticulously reviewing the patient's history and any prior evaluations. A thorough understanding of the individual's experiences and symptoms forms a crucial backbone to this assessment.

2. Introduction

The clinician explains the purpose and procedure of the CAPS assessment to the patient, highlighting its importance for treatment. They also assure the patient about the confidentiality of their information.

3. Assessment

The clinician conducts an interview covering 20 PTSD symptoms outlined in the DSM. These symptoms are grouped into four categories: intrusion, avoidance, negative mood changes, and altered arousal/reactivity.

3. Rating

Each symptom is rated on two distinct 5-point scales - one for frequency (0 = never, 4 = daily or almost every day) and another for intensity (0 = none, 4 = extreme). The clinician assigns these ratings using their clinical acumen and considering the patient's input.

4. Severity Score

The clinician aggregates the scores for frequency and intensity to yield a severity score for each symptom. The overall cumulative score then determines the severity of the PTSD.

5. Diagnosis

The clinician can diagnose PTSD based on these scores. Additionally, the CAPS enables the assessment of dissociative symptoms, like depersonalization and derealization.

6. Treatment Planning

The outcomes of the CAPS assessment guide the clinician in devising a personalized treatment plan for the patient. This could encompass various therapeutic approaches and, if necessary, medication.

7. Follow-up

The CAPS can be administered repeatedly to monitor patient progress throughout treatment.

A printable Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale is available for efficiently tracking and documenting patient progress. This user-friendly format can be used even when digital tools aren't accessible, making the assessment process more convenient and effective.

When would you use this Template?

Let's delve into the various situations when this resource becomes particularly useful.

1. Initial Diagnostic Assessment

CAPS comes into play during the initial diagnostic assessment of a patient exposed to one or more traumatic events and exhibiting symptoms suggestive of PTSD. It allows for systematically evaluating each DSM criteria for PTSD, facilitating a confident diagnosis.

2. Ongoing Treatment Monitoring

During ongoing treatment, CAPS proves extremely useful. Its ability to be administered repeatedly over time allows clinicians to monitor changes in a patient's symptoms. This makes it an invaluable tool for assessing the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions and adjusting treatment plans as needed.

3. Use in Various Clinical Settings

Given its versatility, CAPS can be employed in various clinical settings - from mental health clinics and hospitals to private practice. Anywhere there's a need for a thorough and precise assessment of PTSD, CAPS can step in.

4. Research Studies Involving PTSD

Studies investigating PTSD often utilize CAPS for its detailed assessment and high reliability. Whether measuring PTSD symptoms in study participants or evaluating the efficacy of novel treatments, CAPS is the go-to tool.

5. Cross-Cultural Applicability

With translations in different languages, CAPS can be used across various cultures, ensuring its wide applicability.

6. Training and Education

The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale also plays a significant role in training and education. For students and trainees in mental health, learning how to administer the CAPS can provide essential hands-on experience in diagnosing and assessing PTSD. It's an invaluable resource for understanding the complexities of this disorder and how it presents itself in individuals.


Comprehensive Assessment

The CAPS offers a comprehensive assessment of PTSD symptoms, covering all the diagnostic criteria defined by the DSM. This thoroughness ensures no symptom is overlooked, leading to a more accurate diagnosis.

High Reliability and Validity

The CAPS is known for its high reliability and validity. It has been extensively tested and refined, making it a trustworthy tool for diagnosing PTSD.


The CAPS can be used in various settings, from clinical practice to research studies. It's also suitable for patients of different ages and cultural backgrounds, demonstrating its versatility.

Useful for Treatment Planning

The CAPS can guide treatment planning by providing a detailed picture of a patient's symptoms. Clinicians can use the information gathered through the CAPS to tailor treatment strategies to each patient's specific needs.

Monitor Progress Over Time

The CAPS can be administered repeatedly, enabling clinicians to track patient symptom changes. This makes it a valuable tool for monitoring treatment progress and adjusting the treatment plan.


Being a free resource, the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale is easily accessible to all practitioners. This ensures that cost doesn't become a barrier to providing quality care for PTSD.

Research & Evidence

The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) has a rich history and a strong foundation of research and evidence supporting its use. Its development began in the 1980s by the National Center for PTSD, aiming to create a comprehensive diagnostic tool for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The CAPS was designed to address the limitations of other PTSD assessment tools, focusing on providing a thorough, structured interview that covers all PTSD symptoms defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Over time, as new editions of the DSM have been published, updated versions of the CAPS have been released to reflect changes in the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

Research has consistently shown the CAPS to be a reliable and valid measure of PTSD. Numerous studies have demonstrated high internal consistency, test-retest, and interrater reliability, providing consistent results across different time points and raters.

Furthermore, the CAPS has been shown to have excellent validity. That is, it accurately measures what it's intended to measure – PTSD. It has high content validity, as it covers all PTSD symptoms, and high construct validity, as its scores correlate well with scores from other established measures of PTSD.

The CAPS also has proven clinical utility. Clinicians worldwide use it to diagnose PTSD, assess symptom severity, monitor treatment progress, and guide treatment planning. Researchers use it to measure PTSD in research studies, contributing to our understanding of this disorder and developing effective treatments.


  1. Blake, D. D., Weathers, F. W., Nagy, L. M., Kaloupek, D. G., Gusman, F. D., Charney, D. S., & Keane, T. M. (2011). Clinician-Administered PTSD scale [Dataset]. In PsycTESTS Dataset.
  2. ISTSS - Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). (n.d.).
  3. PTSD assessment instruments. (n.d.).
  4. | Veterans Affairs. (n.d.).
  5. Weathers, F. W., Bovin, M. J., Lee, D. J., Sloan, D. M., Schnurr, P. P., Kaloupek, D. G., Keane, T. M., & Marx, B. P. (2018). The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM–5 (CAPS-5): Development and initial psychometric evaluation in military veterans. Psychological Assessment, 30(3), 383–395.
  6. Weathers, F. W., Keane, T. M., & Davidson, J. R. T. (2001). Clinician-administered PTSD scale: A review of the first ten years of research. Depression and Anxiety, 13(3), 132–156.
Who uses the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale?
Who uses the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale?

Commonly asked questions

Who uses the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale?

The CAPS is primarily used by mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors, who diagnose or treat individuals with PTSD.

When do you use the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale?

The CAPS is used during the diagnostic process to assess the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms. It can also be used throughout treatment to monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan.

How is the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale used?

The CAPS is administered through a structured interview with the patient. The clinician asks a series of questions related to PTSD symptoms and rates the intensity and frequency of each symptom based on the patient's responses.

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