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Baseline Interview Self-Evaluation Paper

Janelle Barton
Western Washington University

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In this initial baseline interview, I spoke with one of my friends about their feelings of
using alcohol too often. From watching our interview, Ive noticed several aspects about my
interviewing style and the techniques I used that were both positive and problematic. I felt some
positive skills I displayed were using attending behaviors to convey attentiveness and caring,
using open-ended questions, and giving my client adequate time to speak . I did notice some
problematic instances as well, however. Some areas for improvement I noticed are: being more
careful about my word-choice and phrasing, my tendency to use filler words like yeah, um, kind
of, you know, so, and encountering difficulties allowing the conversation to flow naturally.
Therefore, two learning objectives I would like to work on this quarter are: 1) using clear,
unassuming language that is appropriate for my client and their situation and 2) learning new
strategies to help the conversation flow without being overly repetitive or directive.
While I acknowledge there is a lot of room to improve in my interviewing skills, I also
feel that I showed some potential within the positive aspects of the conversation. In watching my
baseline interview several times I noticed that, overall, I seem attentive and like I care about
what my client is telling me. Areas in the interview where I felt like I showed attentiveness and
care were in my attending behaviors (facing my body towards the client, staying relatively still,
making eye contact) and attempting to make sure I understood what my client was saying by
using questions like is that accurate? or can you tell me more about that?. Our textbook talks
about how our goal as interviewers is to make human contact with each client, to establish
rapport, to build a working alliance, to gather information, instill hope and provide clear and
helpful professional interventions when appropriate (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-

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Flanagan, 2014, p. 4). This is is tall task, and I still have a long way to go in order to meet each
of these goals, but I feel my ability to appear attentive and caring is a good starting point.
Another thing that I felt went well during the interview was how my client responded to
my use of questioning techniques. Our textbook talks about the importance of using thoughtfully
constructed questions to gain more information about what, when, where, why and how
surrounding client issues (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2014). In order to learn
more about my clients alcohol use, I asked him a variety of types of questions like, when did
you first notice it was becoming a problem? (open-ended question) , what are your main
concerns surrounding your drinking? (projective question) and Im hearing you mention
nervousness a lot, can you tell me more about that? (swing question). I feel like these questions
were effective because my client responded to each of them at length, telling me more about his
perception of how and why his alcohol use is affecting his life.
Last, I felt like I was able to give my client a good amount of time to speak. Something
we touched on in class is the importance of being mindful about how much were speaking in
relationship to the client. Therefore, I recorded the amount of time my client and I spoke for
during our baseline interview, and out of 10 minutes and 33 seconds total, my client spoke for a
little over 6 minutes, and I spoke for about 4.5. I feel that this was a good distribution of talking
in our conversation, although there were times where I could have shortened what I was saying
by using less filler and repeating words. I also noticed that I refrained from speaking at length
about summarizing ideas, clarifying concerns and setting goals until the last part of our
conversation. I thought this was effective because it allowed my client time to convey to me his
challenges without long interruptions. That being said, my interviewing techniques are still far

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from perfect. While I felt that there were some positive qualities to my interviewing techniques, I
also noticed some problematic areas. It is my goal to use my two learning objectives to address
some of these issues.
As mentioned, my first learning objective for this quarter is to work on using clear,
unassuming language that is appropriate for my client and their situation. Perhaps the most
glaring problem I noticed with my interviewing techniques was some issues with word-choice
and phrasing. An obvious mistake I made was when I referred to my clients drinking challenges
as alcoholism , without my client even using that choice of words for what he was
experiencing. In using the phrase alcoholism, I was associating his behaviors with a
pathological term and perhaps making him feel like I was assuming he was sick. As our text
book mentions, making assumptions in interviewing is dangerous because it can quickly shut
down a conversation by making a client feel judged, unheard or misunderstood (SommersFlanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2014). Another issue I noticed with my phrasing was that I
sometimes used what the book calls tag queries where, in tacking on a was it--? to an
otherwise open-ended question, I inadvertently closed the question and limited my clients
elaboration. I plan to address these problems and work towards my learning objective by
learning more about word choice and phrasing strategies from class material, seeking specific
feedback on this issue and applying what I learn through practice.
My second learning objective, learning new strategies to help the conversation flow
without being overly repetitive or directive, is in response to the difficulties I encountered at
times helping the conversation move forward. One problem I noticed was my tendency to use a
lot of filler words to fill some of the pauses. I tend to be a little uncomfortable with allowing

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breaks of silence while I am talking, so I use words like um, so, you know etc. a lot without
realizing it. Another problem I encountered was resorting to repeating what my client was saying
whenever I had difficulty thinking of what to say. Our textbook talks about times when
paraphrasing can be useful, but if its used in excess the repetition might be frustrating for the
client. Finally, I noticed the conversation felt a little forced at times. I think part of this was my
nervousness and a little bit of my mechanical use of certain strategies I am already comfortable
with. As with my first learning objective, I plan to work towards my second learning objective by
gaining new knowledge about interviewing techniques, asking for feedback regarding comfort
and flow of conversations and applying new strategies I learn about through practicing.
Overall, I feel like I have some potential, but my interviewing skills still have a long way
to go. In examining my baseline interview, I think that Im doing okay in my ability to use
attending behaviors, ask thoughtful questions and give my client adequate time to talk. Some
areas I feel that I need to work on are my word-choice and phrasing, and allowing conversations
to flow naturally. I hope to address these main problems and others by working on my two
learning objectives through being open to new strategies and feedback, and becoming more selfaware. My hope this quarter is that I can improve my interviewing skills while gaining the
confidence in myself I need to continue to grow these abilities in the future.

Sommers-Flanagan, J. & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2014). Clinical interviewing: Fifth addition.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.