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Psychiatric interview: Introduction

Approximately 15 to 50 per cent of patients in primary care settings have emotional problems that are either primary in nature or secondary to physical illness. Many of these patients are seen exclusively in the primary care setting and are not seen at all by mental health care specialists.

Primary care providers are in an ideal position to get at these emotional issues because they have a long-term relationship with their patients, most of whom they see at least once a year. In this ongoing relationship, patients are more likely to develop trust in their care provider and disclose emotional issues.

However, detection rates of mental disorders in primary care remain low, for various reasons: 

  • There is usually very limited time available for each appointment.
  • Patients who have emotional or psychiatric issues often present with a "somatic" complaint, which may be seen as a valid "ticket of admission," instead of their emotional issues.
  • Stigma about psychiatric illness may make patients more reluctant to discuss their issues.

The brief psychiatric interview may help to overcome some of these barriers and allow primary care providers to "get at" emotional and psychiatric issues in a timely manner.

Psychiatric interviewing series 

David Goldbloom and Nancy McNaughton demonstrate clinical interviewing situations


Psychiatry in primary care toolkit

The Psychiatry in Primary Care App has been decommissioned. 

The revised print version of Psychiatry in Primary Care is avaible through the CAMH store. 

We have posted a number of revised chapters from the book in Treating Conditions and Disorders in the new Professionals section of