Talk About Traits, Not Diagnosis
Most psychiatric assessment occurs through a categorical lens in which a strictly defined diagnosis is applied and guides treatment. Sometimes this approach leads patients to feel attacked or misunderstood and clinicians to develop negative countertransference or stereotype patients. A dimensional approach, wherein clinicians formulate and discuss patients’ behavior and thought processes along a spectrum of normal, avoids some of these roadblocks. Use of this technique, why it works, and pitfalls to avoid are reviewed.