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Am J Psychiatry. 1981 Apr;138(4):421-8.

The initial encounter: what to do first?


The first interview presents dilemmas to the psychiatric practitioner. Is he or she to concentrate in objective-descriptive fashion, observing symptoms and signs, seeking the likely syndrome or disease concept? Is he or she to work associatively, toward unconscious themes as developed by the psychoanalytic schools? Would an existential approach be best, an attempt to understand the patient's life purposes and difficulties empathically? Alternatively, should the therapist grasp the patient's situation in interpersonal terms? The authors suggest that these decisions are less central than the need to establish a working relationship in order to continue the investigation or treatment and to uncover as much as possible of the relevant data, and that the newer schools of existential and interpersonal psychiatry offer the critical keys to achieving this.

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