Uncovering Murder and Past Violence

Mar 13, 2017

“It is only charlatans who are certain . . . Doubt is not a very agreeable state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.”

Enlightenment Philosopher

Uncovering Murder and Past Violence

TISA Description of the Problem: It is not only in correctional mental health settings that one has to uncover past violence and even homicide. Unfortunately domestic violence is all too common. In the following insightful clinical interviewing tip, Stephen Durrenberger, M.D. describes a useful phrasing that can be utilized in some very awkward moments in an interview. I think you will find it nice to have it available as an interviewing technique:

Tip: When interviewing a patient who was about to confess murder, I found the following response to be both useful and effective at lightening the tenseness of the moment. The patient was both defensive and angry. At one point she tersely asked, “Do you want me to tell you what I’ve done?” At which point I replied as follows:

“I just want you to tell me what you think I need to know.”

The patient proceeded to confess the murder.

TISA Follow-up: Here is a clinical interviewing tip that can be worth “It?s weight in gold.” It not only uncovered an immensely important bit of information (a homicide), it decathected a very intense interpersonal moment. If you look at the underpinning dynamics of the response, we see that the interviewer has given control over to a client who was feeling controlled (she probably was feeling that she was being pressured to confess). This maneuver changed the interpersonal dynamics very nicely. The result was that the client received an opportunity to relieve herself of a great burden and hopefully begin the healing process. Wonderful interviewing! Stephen will also provide us with an excellent clinical interviewing tip next month, regarding an equally sensitive area, inquiring about the potential for a client to commit murder/suicide. See you then.

Tip provided by:

Stephen Durrenberger, M.D.

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