As information accumulates and is discussed, several different but related aspects of the patient and the illness have to be kept in mind. Good psychiatric practice is a part of what is sometimes referred to as 'whole-person medicine' in which at different times the contrasting but complementary processes of both analysis and synthesis of the information available will be needed. The patient must be seen both as an individual with a variety of attributes, abilities, problems, and experiences, and as a member of a group that is subject to family, social, and cultural influences; at different stages in the process of assessment each of these aspects will need separate consideration.
Analysis is needed to identify those attributes, experiences, and problems of the patient and the family that might require specific interventions by different members of the team. This must then be followed by several types of synthesis (or bringing together of information) to enable attempts to understand both subjective and objective relationships between the patient and the illness. First, possible interventions must be placed in order of priority for action. Second, the whole programme needs to be reviewed at intervals so as to assess progress and decide about any additional interventions that are required. At these times of review, and particularly towards the end of the whole episode of illness, global statements about 'overall improvement' or changes in 'quality of life' may be additional useful ways of summarizing and evaluating what has been happening from the viewpoint of the patient.
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