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Psychiatric interview

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

The objectives of a psychiatric interview are to:

  • establish a constructive relationship with the patient which may serve as the basis for any subsequent thera- -peutic relationship.
  • it serves as a standard situation in which to assess the patient's emotions and attitudes.
  • determine if the patient has a mental disorder - if so, which one(s)?
  • what caused it?
  • how can it be treated?


  • psychiatric history - main tool, mental state exam
  • informants

Beforehand - establish the circumstances, get old notes, talk to informant

At the start:

  • identify yourself and your status
  • give reason for interview
  • time available
  • objectives of interview
  • be friendly, and remain in control

The interview:

  • open questions at start become directive when necessary
  • retain control - may need active input
  • clarify, reflect, facilitate, listen
  • be open and ready to ask about suicide, sex, drugs etc

The end:

  • give patient chance to fill in the gaps
  • summarise history back to them
  • outline a management plan
  • consider the diagnostic formulation
  • draw up problem lists

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