What Is Clinical Interviewing?

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Clinical interviewing can help you gain insight into the interviewee.
Clinical interviewing can help you gain insight into the interviewee. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Clinical interviewing can be defined as the process of evaluating a client or potential employee to reveal important information regarding his current condition or personality. It is mainly used in psychiatry and other medical fields to gather details about the individual’s past and current strengths and weaknesses.

Role of Nonverbal Responses in Clinical Interviews

A clinical interview makes use of verbal communication. It is a one-on-one interview session whereby the medical expert attempts to understand the patient’s mind by posing various questions and observing the reactions. The main focus of this type of interview is the nonverbal cue. The respondent’s intonations, speed or rate of speech, facial expressions, gestures and posture all contribute to the accuracy of the interview. This, along with the verbal responses, enables the interviewer to make a connection with the subject to establish a good relationship.

Main Types of Clinical Interviews

There are many types of clinical interviews designed to meet the specific needs of different patients. A mental-status interview evaluates the client’s appearance, mood, speech and thoughts, while a case history interview is best to find out the events leading up to the client’s current state. Other interviews include selection, diagnostic (to reach a clinical diagnosis), intake (to determine the circumstances surrounding the client's seeking treatment from you) and termination interviews. In many cases, a combination of these types of interviews can be used according to the flow of the interview to allow for flexibility.

Basic Clinical Interviewing Styles

The most commonly used technique in clinical interviews is the questioning style, which combines open-ended and closed questions. It is the most direct way of getting responses from the subject, and uses interrogative pronouns such as "what," "when" and "how." Other styles include paraphrasing and clarification to help the client articulate himself better. Silence is another technique used in clinical interviews that allows the client to contemplate the question and provide the most appropriate response.

Important Skills for Conducting Clinical Interviews

The interviewer must possess a number of important skills to conduct successful clinical interviews. You must first have good communication skills, which means that you can ask clear and straightforward questions, avoid jargon and use inoffensive language. You should also have good listening skills to deduce the right information and to inspire confidence in the client. For the same reasons, an interviewer should show that she understands the client’s feelings and expressions.

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