Assessing clinician's subjective experience during interaction with patients

Psychopathology. 2014;47(2):111-8. doi: 10.1159/000351589. Epub 2013 Aug 7.


Background: While psychiatric literature has shown renewed interest in fine psychopathological investigation, little study has been devoted to the clinician's subjective experience with the patient, which is highly valued by the phenomenological and psychodynamic traditions. We aimed at developing a valid and reliable instrument to measure such experience.

Sampling and methods: First, 104 self-report items were developed, based on daily clinical practice and references from the literature on clinician's subjective experience. Of these, 46 were retained after pilot testing and exclusion of items with poor psychometric properties. Thirteen psychiatrists and 527 first-contact patients participated in the validation study. Psychiatrists completed the 'Assessment of Clinician's Subjective Experience' (ACSE) instrument and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) after the visit and the Profile of Mood State (POMS) before and after it. The ACSE was completed again for 60 patients with stable BPRS scores over a short retest interval. Principal component analysis with orthogonal rotation was performed. The internal consistency and test-retest stability of ACSE factorially derived scales were calculated. Convergent validity was tested by examining the correlations between ACSE scores and change in POMS scores during the visit.

Results: Five factors (interpreted as tension, difficulty of attunement, engagement, disconfirmation, impotence) accounting for 57% of total variance were extracted. All ACSE scales showed high internal consistency and stability, and correlated with conceptually related POMS scales.

Conclusions: The pattern of subjective experience identified by the ACSE is consistent with classical psychopathological descriptions and previous related studies. Despite limitations such as the relatively small number of psychiatrists studied and the exclusively self-report nature of the instrument, this study supports the validity and reliability of the ACSE and suggests that it may be a valuable tool for training, research and possibly diagnostic purposes.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Psychiatry*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Translations