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Riggs, B.C. (1975). The Clinical Interview: A Systems Approach and Method of Analysis. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 3(1):21-41.

(1975). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 3(1):21-41

The Clinical Interview: A Systems Approach and Method of Analysis

Benjamin C. Riggs

Teaching interview techniques upon psychoanalytic theory (especially exploratory techniques) goes hand-in-hand with research into the interview process, towards which much effort has been expended in the last ten years. The present study developed out of a continuous case seminar for second- and third-year psychiatry residents, during which a clearcut method for coding the process for detailed study became desirable. However, development of method also demanded a clearer concept of the variables and functions involved, leading to use of general systems theory as a basis. The material presented here is an attempt to lay a systems foundation for studying the interview as a total process, with a clinical example of the coding itself.

Theoretical Considerations

Systems concepts, familiar as population systems, cardiovascular systems, neurophysiological systems, and so on, originated largely with the mathematical-biological model of von Bertalanffy (1968). These concepts have become increasingly involved in psychological work at various levels, including psychoanalysis. With regard to mental functioning, two general classes of open (living) systems are applicable for two rather disparate purposes. One is the somatic or organic system; the other an abstract system of organized function, the intrapsychic.

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