The integration of physical and psychological assessment is frequently problematic. Psychological tests are often cumbersome and difficult to interpret. There would appear to be a need for a simple assessment method that would identify distress and help alert the clinician to the need for a more comprehensive assessment. The Distress and Risk Assessment Method is derived from a simple set of scales validated for use with patients with low-back pain. It offers a simple classification of patients into those showing no psychological distress, those at risk of developing major psychological overlay, and those clearly distressed. Four patient types can be identified on the basis of scores on two short questionnaires. The construction of the Distress and Risk Assessment Method is described and validity data (both clinical and psychological) are presented. The use of the Distress and Risk Assessment Method in the prediction of outcome of treatment is presented, and the paper concludes with general guidelines for its use.