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June 2024

Therapists' physiological activation and patient difficulty

Author(s): Naftulin, D. H., Donnelly, F. A., Wolkon, G. H.

Journal/Book: J Nerv Ment Dis. 1976; 163: 73-8.

Abstract: The differential effects of an easy and difficult-to-interview patient on therapist self-reported behavioral arousal and physiological activation were observed. Eighteen experienced white male psychiatrists each interviewed two patient simulators believing they were real patients. Each actress was programed to act the part of a difficult-to- interview patient and an easy-to-interview patient. Each randomly played either part as assigned and the order of patient and role was counterbalanced. Differences in patient roles were validated by the participating therapists and independent raters. Fifteen-minute rest periods with soft music preceded each therapy session such that a complete experimental session consisted of rest 1, therapy 1, rest 2, and therapy 2. Self-reported arousal was assessed during each of the four periods by Thayer's factors from the Nowlis Mood Adjective List. Physiological activation was measured by electromyogram, heart rate, blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), and skin conductance. Therapist self-reported behavioral arousal and measured physiological activation during therapy were significantly greater than during rest. The difficulty of the patient did not appear to affect either behavioral or physiological activation level of the therapists. Several explanations for this are explored.

Keyword(s): Arousal. Human. Interview, Psychological. Male. Professional-Patient Relations. Psychotherapy/methods. Stress, Psychological

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