What Is a Clinical Interview?

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A clinical interview is a type of psychological assessment. It is a way for a mental health professional to ask a client questions, engage in dialogue to learn more about the client and form initial opinions about a client’s psychological state. A clinical interview is otherwise known as an intake interview, an admission interview, a mental status exam or a diagnostic interview.

A clinical interview is sometimes described as a dialogue with a purpose; the purpose being to gather information about the client. Clinical interviews can last from one to two hours. They can be administered by a variety of mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers or psychiatric nurses. These trained professionals assess the information the client is willing to share, the client’s ability to take turns in conversation and how organized the client’s thoughts are.

Clinical interviews can be structured, asking specific questions in order to come up with or rule out a diagnosis, or unstructured, which use open questions. In unstructured clinical interviews, the client may have more leeway to bring up particular subjects or guide the interview process. Some parts of a clinical interview may be done on a computer, but an important aspect of a clinical interview is face-to-face interaction between a client and the mental health professional.