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Psychology and Mental Health

Chicago, USA
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The interpersonal basis of psychiatric symptoms

Author(s): Horowitz LM


This paper concerns the kinds of complaints that are commonly identified and treated when psychiatric patients receive psychotherapy. Most patients in a first interview report both psychiatric symptoms’ (like anxiety, depression, and tension) and interpersonal problems (like problems with assertiveness, independence, and intimacy). Some investigators have emphasized the high frequency of symptoms (e.g., Siegel & St. Clair, 1977), while others have emphasized the high frequency of interpersonal problems (e.g., Horowitz, 1979). These two kinds of complaints, however, have different roles in treatment. Therapists seem to classify disorders and evaluate the severity of disorders in terms of symptoms (APA, 1980),2 but the actual work of treatment usually focuses on interpersonal events, conflicts, and goals (Weissman & Klerman, 1973).

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