John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology

- An Intake Interview -

intake interview

After giving a lecture about the kinds of information obtained during an intake interview, I offer my students the opportunity to conduct one themselves. First, I give them a few bits of information about the patient, named David, who is about to enter the room. Then I break the class down into small groups so they can discuss what they might ask David when he arrives. The patient turns out to be me playing the role of a psychiatric patient. Because I've played the same character many times now, I've developed him to the point where the role play is quite realistic. Role playing any kind of patient would work well for this exercise if the character chosen has fairly clear symptoms of a well-known mental disorder, and if the character can be played with realistic details about his/her life.

During the intake interview, any student at any time can ask David a question. When David leaves, the groups discuss the interview and fill out a diagnostic/assessment form that I handed out before David arrived. The form is based roughly on the DSM diagnostic system. In order to diagnose the patient, the students are encouraged to refer to their textbooks.

After they complete the report, we talk about the results. This exercise never fails to generate a lively discussion.

Below is the text from the handout I give to the class for this exercise. Here is the pdf file that contains the fully formatted handout.

University Hospital Department of Psychology

Intake Diagnostic Assessment Form

A. Patient Summary:

(place here a brief description of the patient you, the teacher, will be playing)

B. Multi-axial Diagnosis (adapted from the DSM):

1. Primary Diagnosis: __________________________________

2. Personality Disorder: _________________________________

3. Physical Disorder: ___________________________________

4. Severity of Psychosocial Stressors (check one):

_____ mild _____ moderate _____ severe

5. Highest level of functioning (check one):

_____ poor _____ fair _____ good

C. Recommendations for Treatment
(select 3) :

____ medications
____ occupational counseling
____ psychoanalysis
____ encounter group therapy
____ supportive therapy
____ hypnosis
____ assertiveness training
____ prefrontal lobotomy

D. Assessment of prognosis
(select 1):

____ good ____ fair ____ poor

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