Letters

Mental health assessment

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7116.1161a (Published 01 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1161

Open and closed questions are often confused

  1. Heather Goodare, Counsellor in private practicea
  1. a 1 Heron Way, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 6DF
  2. b United Medical and Dental Schools, St Thomas's Hospital, London SE1 7EH

    Editor—It is a pity that the first article in the ABC of mental health misleads readers on a fundamental matter, which may well be at the root of misunderstanding between workers in mental health, to the detriment of patients' care. One of the first lessons in courses on communication skills is how to distinguish open from closed questions. Open questions usually begin with “how,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “who,” “which,” and “why” (though “why” can sound threatening and should be used sparingly). Closed questions invite yes/no answers or short factual replies (for instance, “What is your date of birth?”). They can seem like an interrogation.

    Teifion Davies wisely advises that open questions …

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