This assignment will help you begin to think as a psychologist and
note the ways that we think and write about people differently than does
the lay public. Choose a fictional character
from a movie or television show. If there is an interview in the segment
you observe, use it for your report. If there isn't, you may use your
imagination and describe an interview. If you do the latter, make sure
that your "client" stays in character from the segment you
observe to your interview. Include the following in your
- demographic variables. Include
identifications of age, race, sex, marital status, etc. as appropriate.
That is, I don't need you to tell me that your "client" is a
"4-year-old unmarried female."
- referral source and reason. You may need
to use your imagination here. Is your "client" referred by
parents, partner, court or self? Following a suicide attempt? because of
depression? because of significant fighting with partner?
- relevant historical information. You may deem outside information relevant and important to include, especially descriptions of history of the current problem (including onset and course), previous psychiatric history, and substance use and abuse. If you don't observe it, you should say something like the following, "Ms. Smith reports..." or "Mr. Brown denies..."
- brief physical description. Especially
include that which may put the client in some context. For example, your
client may be seductively or slovenly dressed, skeletal or grossly obese,
attractively groomed or with nails that have been bitten so short they are
- cognitive functioning. Include
descriptions of intelligence (and the observations for this inference),
cognitive preoccupations and delusions. Some of your conclusions may be by
client's self-report, others from observations.
- affect and mood. What is your client's
mood like? Happy, sad, calm, joyful, excited, nervous? Include behavioral
observations supporting this conclusion. Describe affective functioning
(broad, restricted, flat, inappropriate) and briefly support your
conclusion if you describe anything other than broad affect.
- behavior. What is your client's behavior
like during your observation? Comment on anything unusual (absence of eye
contact, fidgeting, hair twirling, unusual seating in room). Note,
however, strengths as well as problems. Include observations of the
nature of the relationship you have with the client: cooperative,
uncooperative, good, poor, etc.
- any other relevant information. You may
deem other kinds of information relevant and important to include,
especially descriptions of history of the current problem (including onset
and course), previous psychiatric history, and substance use and abuse.
If you don't observe it, you should say something like the following,
"Client reports..." or "Client denies..."
A good report is: (a) well-written; (b)brief and succinct (approximately
two pages); (c) describes a range of functioning, not just the problem
area; (d) describes potential problems accurately without making
undocumented inferences; (e) recognizes contextual variables that may
influence your observations; (f) empathic and respectful; and (g) includes a brief summary at the end of the paper. This is more difficult to do well the first time than you might think. Do not wait
til the night before this paper is due to begin!!!
These are possibilities of interviews that you may use in your case observation. Remember, you don't need a movie with an interview, although it will often make this paper much easier. Possibilities include Agnes of God, Analyze this, Analyze that, Annie Hall, Awakenings, Beautiful mind, Clockwork orange, Couch therapy, Dead man walking, Deconstructing Harry, Don Juan de Marco, Donnie Darko, Don't say a word, Equus, Final analysis, Girl, interrupted, Good Will Hunting, Kiss the girls, Lovesick, Mad love, Made for each other, Miracle on 34th Street, Mumford, Mr. Jones, Nuts, One flew over the cuckoo's nest, Ordinary people, Patch Adams, Primal fear, Prince of tides, Shakespeare in love, Silence of the lambs, Sixth sense, Sybil, What about Bob, Whose life is it anyways?and Wit. There are also interesting (perhaps not good) examples of interviews on tv shows including Allie McBeal, Ellen, Sopranos and Home improvement.
An example of this project can be found here.
Some things to think about:
- Use past tense to talk about things that have happened; use present tense to talk about things that are happening or that will continue. That is, "He was dressed casually in clothes appropriate for work," but "He is a 28-year-old male."
- Use your clients' names. They are people, not objects. Instead of "The client said..." say "Ms. Jones was..." Refer to adults by a title and last name (e.g., Dr. White or Ms. Brown); this is more respectful and keeps us from forgetting that, although these are people who have run into problems, they are people first and foremost. Refer to children and teens by first name after identifying them by first and last name in your opening paragraph.
- You may draw inferences -- in fact, you should -- but support your conclusions with observations. For example, "She was cooperative during the interview, responding to all questions and expanding on these."
- Your first sentence in most paragraphs should generally be expanded on in later sentences:
Throughout the session, Ms. Jones' mood was depressed and her affect flat. She maintained little eye contact and, while cooperative in answering questions during the session, was largely unresponsive to emotional stimuli. All replies occurred after a long pause and had a hopeless and helpless feel to them. For example, in response to the question, "What would you like to be different," she said, "I don't know. What's the use?"
- Note that the points in this paragraph develop your opening statement and support it. Contradictions and inconsistencies in behavior often make your conclusions richer. For example:
- While Mr. Pink was generally cooperative during the interview, when his family was mentioned he stood up and angrily stalked out of the room saying, "It wasn't like you think!" He calmed down rapidly and returned to the therapy room, but avoided questions about his family, as though he had not heard them.
- Your conclusions and recommendations at the end of your paper should be well-supported by your observations and inferences within your paper. Do not recommend therapy unless you have identified a problem within your paper. We don't do therapy "just because..."
Page by jms
Last modified January 8, 2004.