A Key to Problematic Social Histories

Mar 09, 2017

“Without unceasing practice nothing can be done. Practice is art.”

William Blake
Poet, artist, and mystic

A Key to Problematic Social Histories

TISA Description of the Problem: Occasionally we stumble upon questions that are gems for uncovering secretive material. Years ago, I was giving a set of workshops for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and the following tip was provided by an unknown participant at the end of the workshop. It’s a fine tip, I wish I knew who gave it to me!

Tip: I find that the following question uncovers many an important piece of information during the social history. Sometimes the information is of a surprising nature:

“Have the police ever been called to your house?”

TISA Follow-up: When it comes to teaching clinical interviewing, the simplest of questions are sometimes the keys to effectiveness. This simple little question can uncover a variety of interesting and important pieces of information. In response, clients may reveal drinking problems or other substance abuse problems, as well as problems with arrests and domestic violence. The house may be a center for selling drugs or prostitution. It can also reveal stresses between neighbors as in ongoing feuds in which neighbors call the police on each other. On the other hand, it may simply provide a vivid picture of the roughness of the client’s neighborhood, as reflected by the police being called in secondary to a break-in or a shooting in front of the house. In any case, it is a tiny clinical interviewing gem.

Tip provided by:

Tip provided by: anonymous workshop participant