Purdue University Graduate School
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Caroline Balling Master'sThesis: Clinician Perception of the Clinical Utility of the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) System

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posted on 2021-12-03, 14:24 authored by Caroline Elizabeth BallingCaroline Elizabeth Balling

The standard of diagnosing and categorizing mental disorders in the United States has long been the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but the DSM has been criticized through evidence suggesting it lacks appropriate validity, reliability, and clinical utility. The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) has been offered as a solution to these criticisms. But the recommendation to replace the DSM and its categorical diagnostic system has been met with doubt and criticism by others in the field. A common sentiment in these critiques is a lack of evidence that the HiTOP dimensions are clinically useful or that clinicians would be open to applying them to their patients. The goal of the present study was to compare clinician perceptions of the HiTOP and DSM systems for the conceptualization of clinical cases. A sample of actively practicing clinicians (n = 143) rated one of three clinical vignettes using the HiTOP and DSM systems then rated the two approaches on seven indices of clinical utility. HiTOP was favored for overall clinical utility score as well as utility for formulating effective intervention, communicating clinical information to the client, comprehensively describing client psychopathology, describing global functioning, and ease of applying the system to the individual. There was no preference between HiTOP and the DSM for communicating with other mental health providers. The DSM was not favored for any clinical utility outcome. These results suggest interest in HiTOP and dissatisfaction with the DSM among clinicians.


Arthur F. Krueger Scholarship Fund for Purdue University Clinical Psychology students (total award amount: $705).


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Douglas Samuel

Additional Committee Member 2

Susan South

Additional Committee Member 3

Donald Lynam

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