Psychological interview for children: 7 key ideas on how to do it

Psychological interview for children is a tool which allows you to collect information about the emotional, cognitive or behavioral situation of children. It is one of the most widely used tools for psychological assessments and interventions.

In this regard, it is important to take into account some issues relating to its design and application. We will see below what can be some of them.

    General characteristics of the psychological interview

    Generally speaking, an interview is a method of gathering information. It is a tool that allows you to request data using a series of questions on a particular topic. As such, it is a technique that can be used for a variety of purposes. Depending on these objectives, the interview is structured and applied in one way or another.

    When it comes to a psychological interview, the general objective is to collect information on all the manifestations that make up a person’s psychology. That is to say to know cognitive processes, sensations, perceptions, emotions, attitudes and even behavior.

    From there, one of the specific objectives of the psychological interview can be for example to know the way in which a person processes or withholds information, from there to carry out a certain intervention. The interview may also focus on exploring a particular experience, or in possible causes of driving or discomfort determined.

    In general, the collection of this information aims to provide some type of assessment, to determine the characteristics of a particular situation, or it can be used to establish a specific intervention guide.

    Type of maintenance

    The psychological interview can be designed in a structured or semi-structured or open manner.

    The first case is a series of Questions previously established order and wording do not allow to be changed during its execution.

    In the second case, the interviewer can establish a scenario beforehand, although at the time of the interview supports the ability to enter new questions or omit others. This is a more flexible type of interview.

    Finally, in the open interview, a particular subject is established beforehand, but without it being necessary to ask specific questions, because at the time of the interview, one expects that the same interviewee who more freely approaches specific topics that interest him.

    Psychological interview for children: 7 strategies

    The psychological interview with a child can have different objectives, and it is from these that the scenario, time and application of the interview will be structured. Generally speaking, this type of interview requires attention to the child’s psychological resources, developmental development, interests and hobbies, The sources of family and social support, their perception of the stability of their immediate contexts and their emotional coping strategies, and their ways of adapting to daily life.

    With that said, we will look at some guidelines below that may be important to consider when designing and implementing a psychological interview for children.

    1. Set goals

    The design of the psychological interview is to determine the objectives of the interview and, from there, the scenario and structure. In other words, the questions they may be different depending on the purpose of the interview. For example, it will not be the same scenario when it comes to determining whether there has been an experience of domestic violence, as when it comes to assessing the cognitive abilities of the child.

    2. Consider the developmental cycle of the child and its context.

    In a psychological interview with children, the questions should be adapted to their area of ​​immediate development. Depending on your age, he can hardly be expected to sit down to answer closed questions for a long period. In the same spirit, it is important to avoid complex and lengthy questions: the vocabulary must be accessible and close to the child.

    3. Free techniques

    In connection with the above, it is advisable to design an open or semi-structured interview. In other words, that is to say use free techniques (With questions that are not answered only with “yes” or “no”) and small instructions. The feeling of being in an interrogation can be a major source of stress for the child and hamper the interview process.

    4. Prevent the question from influencing the answer

    Similarly, consider that the way the interviewer formulates a question often guides or influences the respondent’s response, especially in the case of children. To avoid this, it is important to avoid overly specific questions. as well as voice tones or forced approaches.

    5. The climate of trust

    It is important to foster a climate of trust, security and freedom for the child. In this sense, maintenance must be done in a protected environment, which allows an empathic climate, And with it, the expression of emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

    In the same vein, respect silences and pauses while avoiding the pressure to get a response that you probably expect. This means that you have to adapt to the child’s emotional situation and respect their own time.

      6. Take care of non-verbal language

      When applying a psychological interview with children, it is very important to take into account non-verbal language. Indeed, according to the stage of development of the child, his cognitive capacities, his emotional situation and even his socio-economic context, their language resources may be limited.

      Paying attention to non-verbal language, stares, silences, pauses, redness, gestures, repetitive movements, smiles, volume or tone of voice, etc., can make it easier to understand the situations that are the source conflict or satisfaction for the child.

      7. Use the game

      One of the most popular strategies for interviewing children is play. In general, games are more adaptable to children’s life cycles than direct questions. Moreover, it is a close and striking language for them. mostly it is important to use the game at the time of the reportBecause it is the situation which precedes the interview and which opens up the climate of confidence. It is also recommended to use it when closing.

      Again, the games used largely depend on the information we want to collect, and can range from memories to drawings or simulations of everyday life.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Echeburúa, E. and Subijana, IJ (2008). Guide to good psychological practices in the legal treatment of child victims of sexual abuse. International Journal of Clinical Health Psychology, 8 (3) [En línea]. Accessed October 18, 2018.Available at http://www.redalyc.org/html/337/33712016008/
      • Herjanic, B. and Reich, W. (1997). Development of a structured psychiatric interview for children: agreement between child and parents on individual symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25 (1): 21-31.

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