Gathering family information

The family can be an enormous asset in the care of the patient.(41) Each family has members with a unique collection of talents, strengths, and idiosyncrasies that have developed, in part, in response to prior life stresses and opportunities. Most of these family patterns, as in the case of individual personality styles, are highly adaptive. It is the clinician's job to find out about both the adaptive and maladaptive family traits in order to understand better how to help the patient. Most family physicians and paediatricians, and many internists care for several members of the same family, which provides them with a more complete picture of the family context. Home visits can also provide contextual information, and can be facilitated by the primary care physician. When meeting with the family as a whole, developing rapport ('joining')(42) with all of those present, setting an agenda for the meeting, eliciting each family member's perspective on the problem, and developing a collaborative plan are crucial to a successful visit (see Table5).(41,43,44)

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Table 5 Family interviewing skills

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