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Interventive Interviewing: Part III. Intending to Ask Lineal, Circular, Strategic, or Reflexive Questions?



    1. Family Therapy Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 4N1.
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  • The support of Alberta Mental Health Services for the Family Therapy Program in which these ideas were elaborated is gratefully acknowledged.


Every question asked by a therapist may be seen to embody some intent and to arise from certain assumptions. Many questions are intended to orient the therapist to the client's situation and experiences; others are asked primarily to provoke therapeutic change. Some questions are based on lineal assumptions about the phenomena being addressed; others are based on circular assumptions. The differences among these questions are not trivial. They tend to have dissimilar effects. This article explores these issues and offers a framework for distinguishing four major groups of questions. The framework may be used by therapists to guide their decision making about what kinds of questions to ask, and by researchers to study different interviewing styles.

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