Potential Applications of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) to Clinical Psychiatric Practice: How RDoC Might Be Used in Assessment, Diagnostic Processes, Case Formulation, Treatment Planning, and Clinical Notes

Offering a new framework for understanding and studying basic dimensions of normal and abnormal human functioning and mental disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has initiated the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project in which a series of higher order domains, representing major systems of emotion, cognition, motivation, and social behavior, and their constituent operationally defined constructs serve as organizing templates for further research and inquiry, eg, to discover validated biomarkers and endophenotypes. Cutting across traditional DSM diagnoses, the domains are defined as Negative Valence Systems, Positive Valence Systems, Cognitive Systems, Systems for Social Processes, and Arousal/Regulatory Systems. To inform educators, trainees, and practitioners about RDoC, alert them to potential practical applications, and encourage their broad exploration in clinical settings, this article reviews the RDoC domains and their subsystem constructs with regard to potential current clinical considerations and applications. We describe ways in which the RDoC domains and constructs offer transdiagnostic frameworks for complementing traditional practice; suggest clinical questions to help elucidate salient information; and, translating RDoC domains and constructs headings into clinically friendly language, offer a template for the psychiatric review of systems that can serve in clinical notes.

J Clin Psychiatry 2017;78(4):423–432

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15nr10476