Clinical Interview: Meaning and Types

A clinical Interview allows the counsellor to get particular information and investigate behaviour or responses in depth. In many ways, an interview is similar to a test regarding reliability, validity, prediction, and structure. The interview is still one of the most commonly used tools in therapeutic, industrial, counseling, school, and penal contexts. This approach is significant since it is scientific. Interaction between two or more persons is referred to as an interview. The circumstances may differ.

Some interviews involve one-on-one interactions, while others may involve a single individual interviewing several people simultaneously, such as family interviews performed for therapy.

What is a Clinical Interview?

The clinical interview is the most commonly utilized method of evaluation. The client's initial face-to-face encounter with a therapist is typically an interview. The clinician will then generally investigate several facets of the presenting complaint, such as behavioural abnormalities and sensations of discomfort, the circumstances surrounding the problem's genesis, a history of previous episodes, and how the condition impacts the client's everyday functioning. The clinician may investigate possible triggering events, such as changes in life circumstances, social connections, work, or education. The interviewer encourages the client to express the problem in her or his own words so that the interviewer may comprehend it from the client's perspective.

Format of Clinical Interview

Although the format varies, most interviews address the following topics −

  • Identifying Data − This includes information about the client's socio-demographic factors, such as residence and phone number, marital status, age, gender, racial/ethnic information, religion, employment, family composition, and so on.

  • Describe the Presenting Problem − How does the customer see the problem? What have disturbing behaviors, ideas, or feelings been reported? What effect do they have on the client's functioning? When did they start?

  • Psychosocial History − Details on the client's developmental past, such as educational, social, and occupational background, as well as early familial ties.

  • Medical/Psychiatric History − Medical and psychiatric treatment and hospitalizations in the past: Is the current issue a recurrence of a previous issue? How was the problem handled previously? Was the therapy effective? What is your reasoning?

  • Medical Issues/Medicine − A description of current medical issues and treatments, including medication. The physician knows how medical issues may impact the presenting psychological disorder.

Drugs used to treat specific medical disorders, for example, can affect people's emotions and overall arousal levels. The interviewer should pay close attention to the client's nonverbal and verbal behavior, making decisions on the appropriateness of the client's clothes and grooming, apparent mood, and ability to focus attention. Clinicians should also assess clients' thinking and perceptual processes, their orientation or knowledge of themselves and their environment (who they are, where they are, and the current date). These clinical judgments are essential to the first evaluation of the client's mental state.

Types of Clinical Interviews

Clinical interviews are classified into three categories. Interviews were conducted in three formats: unstructured, semi-structured, and structured.

The physician uses his or her style of inquiry in an unstructured interview rather than following a predefined pattern. The unstructured interview's main benefit is its spontaneity and conversational tone. Because the interviewer is not required to ask questions, there is an active give-and-take with the client.

The most significant drawback is the need for more standards. Furthermore, the interview's conversational flow may miss key clinical information needed to develop diagnostic information, such as suicidal inclinations. In a semistructured interview, the clinician follows a broad plan of questions meant to capture crucial information but is allowed to ask the questions in any specific sequence and branch off into other areas to follow up on significant information.

A structured interview follows a predetermined series of questions in a specific order. For example, the mental status test uses a series of questions and observations to systematically assess the client's awareness, time and place orientation, attention span, memory, judgment and insight, thinking content and processes, mood, and appearance. Structured interviews (also known as standardized interviews) give the maximum reliability and consistency in making diagnostic decisions, which is why they are widely utilized in research settings.

Intake Interview

The initial interview is the first encounter in which the interviewer works with the client to acquire information about the problem for which the client has sought counseling. This interview covers the following topics: presenting the problem, general living circumstances, history, and interpersonal functioning.

It is also referred to as a history interview. The primary goal of this conversation is to learn more about the customer and their difficulties. In most circumstances, this information is used to make a tentative diagnosis. This is a one-on-one interview strategy in which the counselor attempts to get as much information as possible to assist the counselor in formulating the problem and understanding the origins of the problem.

The counselor directs the interview throughout, and it should be done such that the counselee can talk most of the time, explaining the problem affecting the individual. If the interview is excessively direct, the client may assume a passive position due to the directness of the counselor's inquiries. The framework of the interview also has an impact on the interview and information collection. For example, excessive structuring may give clients the notion that they do not need to provide any information independently because the counselor would question them about everything.

Another restriction is that client responses are supplied before establishing the therapeutic relationship and may need to be more accurate. Once rapport and trust have been built, the counselor must reevaluate this information. Another part of interviewing is that the questions should be kept from repeating so that the customer does not become tired of repeatedly talking about the same subject and may forget some of the information. As a result, every effort should be made to ensure that the interviews are conducted so that the counselor establishes trust and confidence in the counselee and makes the counselee feel so uninhibited that the latter expresses even the most unpleasant experiences to the counselor.

Limitations of Clinical Interviews

Although interviews frequently yield useful information about people, they have limitations. One issue is that they only sometimes ways have authenticity or accuracy. Individuals may purposefully lie to show themselves favorably or avoid discussing embarrassing things. Alternatively, persons may be unable to provide an accurate report during their interview. Individuals suffering from depression, for example, have a negative opinion of themselves and may characterize themselves as inadequate employees or parents when this is not true.

Clinicians, too, can make errors in judgment that skew the information they collect. They frequently depend too much on initial impressions, for example, and emphasize negative information about a customer. Gender, racial, and age prejudices among interviewers may also impact their perceptions of what a client says. Unstructured interviews, in particular, may need to be more trustworthy.

People respond differently to various interviewers, with a distant interviewer receiving less information than a friendly and helpful one. Similarly, the race, gender, age, and appearance of a physician may impact a client's answers. Some experts feel that interviewing should be abandoned as a clinical evaluation method since different physicians can elicit different replies and reach different conclusions even when they ask identical questions of the same person.


The interview is one of the most traditional and extensively used ways of gathering information about people. The psychologist gathers information from the person being examined during the interview by asking pertinent questions and listening to responses. The interviewer and respondent have a face-to-face conversation with the intention of accomplishing a specified goal. The specific purpose or goal of the issue determines the manner in which an interview is done. An employment interview, for example, tries to examine the job applicant's personality traits.

Updated on: 13-Feb-2023

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