1. Listening to the Patient

  1. Allan Tasman Professor and Chair1,
  2. Jerald Kay Professor and Chair2 and
  3. Robert J. Ursano Professor and Chair3

Published Online: 20 MAY 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118341001.ch1

The Psychiatric Interview: Evaluation and Diagnosis

The Psychiatric Interview: Evaluation and Diagnosis

How to Cite

Tasman, A., Kay, J. and Ursano, R. J. (2013) Listening to the Patient, in The Psychiatric Interview: Evaluation and Diagnosis, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118341001.ch1

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KN, USA

  2. 2

    Department of Psychiatry, Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University, Dayton, OH, USA

  3. 3

    Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 20 MAY 2013
  2. Published Print: 22 JUL 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781119976233

Online ISBN: 9781118341001



  • depression;
  • listening;
  • patient;
  • psychiatry


This introductory chapter of the book The Psychiatric Interview: Evaluation and Diagnosis discusses the need for the psychiatrist's special kind of listening. The enduring art of psychiatry involves guiding the depressed patient to tell his or her story of loss in addition to having him or her name, describe, and quantify symptoms of depression. The listener, in hearing the story, experiences the world and the patient from the patient's point of view and helps carry the burden of loss, lightening and transforming the load. The listening is healing as well as diagnostic. If done well, the listener becomes a better disease diagnostician. The best listeners hear both the patient and the disease clearly, and regard every encounter as potentially therapeutic. The primary tools for effective listening are words, analogies, metaphors, similes, and symbols. The chapter also mentions blocks to effective listening: patient–psychiatrist dissimilarities, superficial similarities, external forces, and attitudes.