Clinical interviews can be an important first step in the assessment process and essential for collecting a large amount of information about the client. Interviews can gather information about client symptoms and history and can be both structured and unstructured in format.
Structured interviews, which are being used more and more these days due to the fact that they are standardized and reliable between clinicians. Therefore, a structured interview done by two different interviewers is likely to lead to the same diagnosis, which is beneficial in that the appropriate condition can be diagnosed and treated. Structured interviews often involve a series of questions that the interviewer will ask, and then the client's answers will be recorded and scored. Based on the scoring, the clinician can then provide a suitable diagnosis for the individual. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV is one example of a structured interview.
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An unstructured interview is also used and can be valuable in ascertaining more information about the individual's life and history. Structured interviews can sometimes be limiting regarding certain factors, such as family history and events that could impact the individual's mental health. Therefore, in an unstructured clinical interview, the clinician can ask more specific questions to the client as well as follow-up questions. The family members of the client could also be interviewed to gather more information about the client that the client is not providing themselves.
In clinical interviews, while a lot of information can be collected regarding the client's mental health, individuals can skew the assessment by answering in ways that mask their symptoms or illness in order to avoid a particular diagnosis. However, they remain an essential part of the assessment process.