by Rob Poole and Robert Higgo; New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006, 238 pages, $55 softcover
Dr. Trevino is assistant professor of psychiatry at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and assistant chief clinical officer at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare, Dayton, Ohio.
The stated intention of Psychiatric Interviewing and Assessment is to "help mental health professionals to develop the fundamental generic skills in interviewing and assessment… . It is about the process of making a diagnosis, and it is a practical guide to help the reader make the transition from novice to competent clinician." The authors are community psychiatrists in the United Kingdom with extensive clinical and teaching experience.
The book contains five sections that cover a wide range of topics: the nuts and bolts of psychiatric diagnosis, assessment, and history taking; strategies for interviewing difficult patients; clinician factors that affect information gathering and patient care; strategies for interviewing family members and considerations in conducting interviews in a patient's home environment; and issues related to personality and risk assessment, as well as the written communication of assessment results to a variety of interested parties.
This book contains an abundance of practical advice and clinical practice wisdom. The authors indicate early on that they will be providing their opinions as they discuss the various topic areas. These are clearly identified. The tone of the work is conversational, and points are made in a clear manner. Respect and empathy for patients and flexibility of approach are emphasized in the description of various suggested techniques.
The authors acknowledge the vagueness and uncertainty that often exist in the course of mental health treatment. They encourage the clinician to be ever observant, questioning, thoughtful, and open minded in the effort to better understand the uniqueness of each patient's presentation.
Potential readers should be warned that the book consistently provides references to literature and resources more familiar to British audiences than to American readers. Early on, the reader is encouraged to read ICD-10 descriptions of mental disorders, and the "formal values of British medical practice" are presented in the chapter on values and beliefs. Likewise, case materials used to illustrate points have details unique to British practice. I did not find it problematic to reconcile these issues, because the resources and examples provided clear illustration of the associated concepts. American clinicians relatively new to the mental health field will likely need assistance from a more experienced clinician to reference equivalent resources specific to American practice.
I very much enjoyed and benefited from reading this book. I found that the section on self-awareness provided an excellent discussion of the impact of personal values, beliefs, and characteristics on clinical work. Having worked in a variety of mental health settings in clinical and administrative roles, I found myself in agreement with most of the ideas and opinions expressed by the authors. The book is not intended to be the final word on any of the topics it covers. Yet it provides a significant amount of specific information on most all of the topics it does address. More important, through the practical advice and opinions offered, it sends a clear message that relating to patients in a warm, genuine, accepting, and inquisitive fashion provides the setting in which patients are encouraged to collaborate with the psychiatrist, become more self-reliant and autonomous, and progress along the path to recovery from mental illness. I would wholeheartedly recommend the book to any student or clinician of any experience level in a mental health setting.