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  • Semester 1Campus Attendance
  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Campus Attendance



Unit rationale, description and aim

Mental illness is widespread in Australia and there is a pervasive need for the training and development of specialised professionals who are skilled at delivering safe, effective, and well validated mental health support. In order to provide effective psychological assessment and interventions on placements, provisional psychologists require a solid grounding in fundamental clinical skills that are critical to practicing safely and ethically with clients and developing their skills as clinicians. As such, this unit is designed to help provisional psychologists develop the professional competencies required during their supervised psychological practice.

Students will develop their professional knowledge and competence in foundational clinical skills including clinical interviewing, observing and recording behavioural observations, case formulation, risk assessment, record keeping, communicating with third parties and providing feedback to clients. There is a focus on skill acquisition within the context of diversity and cultural competence.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with the necessary clinical skills to support their client work during professional placements.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe the principles of foundational clinical skills, including clinical interviewing, mental state examination, behavioural observation, case formulation and risk assessmentGC1, GC2, GC3, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11
LO2Explain the relevance of foundational clinical skills and their application in working with diverse populations, in particular with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoplesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO3Implement clinical interviewing, formulation and record keeping skills, and describe the principles of cultural safety and inter-professional learning and practice, in order to develop individualised assessment/intervention plans, write reports and maintain client filesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12


Topics covered include: 

  • Record keeping requirements 
  • Clinical interviewing 
  • Case formulation 
  • Treatment planning 
  • Monitoring client progress 
  • Client motivation and compliance 
  • Report writing 
  • Cultural considerations in clinical practice 
  • Providing feedback to clients 
  • Terminating with clients 
  • Risk assessments 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students enrolled in postgraduate psychology units are provisionally registered psychologists who are required to deliver psychological services to clients as part of their training. This unit prepares students for the client work and includes attendance in simulation activities in the internal psychology training clinic. This unit therefore uses an active learning approach consisting of class discussion, case-based learning, and participation in an intensive simulation program over 12 weeks. The unit is consequently delivered in face-to-face mode consisting of 3 contact hours per week. Knowledge and principles introduced in lectures are applied within the simulation program, which requires students to role-play the full range of foundational clinical skills and to reflect on their learning experiences in weekly discussionsThese strategies allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit, by providing students with appropriate access to the required knowledge of the unit content, and opportunities to practice the acquired skills in a clinical setting. Learning and teaching strategies reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students are expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit allows students to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge, as well as the application of that knowledge. In order to best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and to develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. A range of assessment strategies is used including: submission of a written clinical report to assess students' ability to gather and synthesise pertinent background information from clients; submission of a client file portfolio to assess students' ability to maintain appropriate record keeping practices; and a practical examination in the form of an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) that is used to examine students' ability to respond appropriately in a simulated clinical environment. In this final assessment, students are expected to demonstrate foundational clinical skills in the context of a presented clinical scenario. Students must pass all assessment tasks in order to pass the unit as it is critical that students demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge and skills in foundational clinical skills prior to working with clients: a failure in any of these assessment tasks is likely to translate to an unacceptable level of risk to clients the student will come into contact with on subsequent practicums. However, students will be given the option to re-sit the OSCE on one additional occasion should they fail the OSCE on their first attempt. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Clinical Report

This assignment allows students to demonstrate their  understanding of cultural issues in assessment,  

particularly as they pertain to Aboriginal and Torres Strait  

Islander Peoples, integrate data from professionals from  

various disciplines, and write a clinical case report. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

Client File Portfolio 

This portfolio allows students to demonstrate their capacity to maintain appropriate record keeping practices 



Reflective Practice Task

This hurdle task allows students to demonstrate their ability to reflect on their own clinical practice in an analytical, constructive, and compassionate way. 


LO1, LO2, LO3

Practical Examination in OSCE Format

This practical examination allows students to demonstrate foundational clinical skills 


LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Bor, R., & Watts, M. (2016). The trainee handbook: A guide for counselling and psychotherapy trainees (4th ed.). London: Sage.  

Dudgeon, P. (2000). Working with Indigenous Australians: A handbook for psychologists.   Perth: Gunada Press.  

Geldard, D., & Geldard, K. (2016). Basic Personal Counselling: A training manual for counsellors. (8th ed). Sydney: Pearson  

Hays, P. A. (2016). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy (3rd ed.). Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association. 

Ivey, A. E., & Ivey, M. B. (2016). Intentional interviewing and counselling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society (9th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole - Thomson.  

Page, A. C., & Stritzke, W. G. K. (2014). Clinical psychology for trainees: Foundations of science-informed practice (2nd ed). Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge University Press. 

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