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Thumbnail of Harry Stack Sullivan (source)
Harry Stack Sullivan
(21 Feb 1892 - 14 Jan 1949)

American psychiatrist who developed a theory of psychiatry based on interpersonal relationships.


Harry Stack Sullivan
“The psychiatric interviewer”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 400 px)

“The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient…”
— Harry Stack Sullivan
From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 48

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In his book, The Psychiatric Interview, Harry Stack Sullivan describes the task of taking meaningful notes while meeting with a patient, but confesses:

…if enough attention is paid to them so they are legible, this is very apt indeed to interfere with things of much greater importance to the patient if not to the psychiatrist.”

Then he puts this in context of the greater goals:

“The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient; and, at the same time, observing the general pattern of the events being communicated. In addition to that, to make notes which will be of more than evocative value, or come anywhere near being a verbatim record of what is said, in my opinion is beyond the capacity of most human beings.”

He continues to explain that the first necessity is to put the patient at ease:

“Even if the interviewer were able to do all this, when he deals with patients who are quite suspicious, even paranoid, in their attitudes, the making of notes will probably guarantee that the interviewer hears an exceedingly studied group of communications, in which all the nuances which he might otherwise catch on to are missing. Nevertheless, there are occasions—for example, when I am getting the gross social data about a person—when I do feel I should have a few notes. On such occasion I tell the patient that I have really a gift for forgetting things that might be handy, and therefore, if he doesn’t mind, I shall make a few notes…”

From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 47-48. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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