Learning To Interview

All too often the importance of interviewing is ignored in doctoral training programs. Sometimes it is taken for granted that a student will already know how to approach a person who comes for assessment in order to obtain relevant information. In the old days this was the role of the social worker, who then passed the patient on for assessment. We prefer the system in which the person who does the assessment also does the interview before any tests are given, since the interview is part of the assessment. In this way rapport can be built, so that the actual testing session is less stressful. Just as important, however, is that the assessor will have a great deal of information and impressions that can be used as a reference in the interpretation of the other data. Test responses take on additional important meaning when seen in reference to history data.

There are many ways to teach interviewing skills. In the interviewing class taught by the first author (Handler), students first practice using role playing and psychodrama techniques. Then they conduct videotaped interviews with student volunteers, and their interviews are watched and discussed by the class. Students learn to identify latent emotions produced in the interview, to handle their anxiety in productive ways, to manage the interviewee's anxiety, to go beyond mere chitchat with the interviewee, and to facilitate meaningful conversation. Students also learn to examine relevant life issues of the people they interview; to conceptualize these issues and describe them in a report; to ask open-ended questions rather than closed-ended questions, which can be answered with a brief "yes" or "no"; to reflect the person's feelings; and to encourage more open discussion.

There are many types of clinical interviews one might teach, depending upon one's theoretical orientation, but this course should be designed to focus on interviewing aspects that are probably of universal importance. Students should know that in its application the interview can be changed and modified, depending on its purpose and on the theoretical orientation of the interviewer.

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