Assignment: Clinical interviewing is an essential skill that takes much practice. Compare and contrast the different types of clinical interviews and identify the settings or circumstances in which you would use each.
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Clinical interviews are conducted as a way of allowing the counsellor to ask individual questions in a bid to gather more information. The therapist attempts to make individuals comfortable so that relevant information is revealed (Maruish, 2014). Clinical interviews can be conducted in person or over the phone, depending on the patient’s comfort. The process aims to gather information or opinions about feelings, symptoms, medical history, mental state and behaviour. Ideally, the clinician asking questions in the initial interview helps build a case profile on the patient’s condition. Additionally, the information gathered helps to develop an accurate assessment and treatment plan.
Types of Clinical Interviews
There are three basic types of clinical interviews. Structured and semi-structured interviews differ in the interview techniques by setting and the therapist’s theoretical orientation.
Structured as initiated by their name, the interview follows a predetermined template. In such an interview, the clients are asked the same questions. This type of interview is performed in a more formal setting, such as in a hospital or a large organization. The application of this technique is based on identifying the issues affecting a client (First, 2014). Normally, structured interviews are used to diagnose or match the client with clinicians experienced with the same issue. As such, the structured interview has no therapeutic value aside from allowing the client to narrate their side of the story. According to Maruish (2014), in some cases, these interviews are transferred to paper and pencil documentation that can be done before an appointment. Additionally, they can be performed over the phone or other digital communication to prepare for an appointment.
Semi-structured interview allows the therapist to ask questions as the interview progresses. Besides the mainstream questions, the interviewer inquires more to gain a deeper insight into the client. As such, semi-structured interviews are the most common mental health interviews. In this case, the clinician presents a standard set of questions that are asked to cover common areas of mental health. For instance, using the DSM-V questions to identify the underlying patient’s condition. In addition to the structured questions, a therapist will often ask follow-up questions based on the client’s response. Similar questions include sleep patterns, eating habits, moods, thinking and communication style. Structured questions are used as starting points to set the conversation. However, the role of therapy interviews is to get the patient comfortable and encouraged to talk more about their feelings. Therefore, a semi-structured interview allows the clinical section to explain a unique situation. Conclusively, semi-structured interviews allow the clinician to collect key data about the client’s challenges or goals.
Comparison and Contrast between Structured and Semi-Structured Interviews
Respective of the interview strategy, the client-clinician engagement aims to allow the clinician to decide the client’s condition. However, differentiating will require the clinician to use different strategies for gaining information. As the clinician uses a set of standardized questions, it helps to gain oversight on whether the client is experiencing a sufficient number of symptoms that meet specific diagnostic criteria. However, since mental complications are related, a clinician can inquire further to determine the accuracy of the condition. To this accord, structured and semi-structured interview processes help the clinician determine a specific diagnosis.
The ability to differentiate common diagnoses helps the clinical process to develop a personalized or targeted treatment plan. Fylan (2015) emphasizes that personalized treatment plans are more successful when compared to a ‘one size fits all’ treatment plan. Given that semi-structured interviews are beneficial in gaining insight into the diagnosis, the interview process is based on the experience and expertise of the therapist. In a structured interview, the therapist uses research-based treatment shown to work for the specific disorder. On the other hand, the therapist supplements research-based treatment with their experience and expertise on the subject. Consequently, structured interviews provide basic information and may not be appropriate for clients with less common problems or diverse cultural backgrounds.
Setting or Circumstance of Application
Clinical interviews are likely to be conducted in the clinical setting according to the trajectory of an individual treatment plan. However, when choosing the most appropriate technique, I would consider the presenting client’s problem. A mental health diagnosis would require a standardized approach to the treatment. At the same time, while the condition might be challenging or share many characteristics, I will use a semi-structured interview process. For instance, on condition the client is unable to complete the interview, I will adopt a semi-structured interview to determine their response while outside the clinical setting. This is important in designing the client’s profile. Finally, the choice of an interview process is also determined by the resources and time available. It is important to use a structured interview process to make a direct observation within a short time.
First, M. B. (2014). Structured clinical interview for the DSM (SCID). The encyclopedia of clinical psychology, 1-6.
Fylan, F. (2015). Semi-structured interviewing. A handbook of research methods for clinical and health psychology, 5(2), 65-78.
Maruish, M. E. (2014). The clinical interview. In Personality assessment (pp. 37-88). Routledge.