Working with victims of crime: A manual applying research to clinical practice (Second Edition)

6.0 Assessment Issues: What should I ask about?

6.1 Key Areas To Cover In An Initial Interview

One of the more important functions of a service-delivery model is the identification of client needs and linking the client to services. Based on the above research and theory, the following issues are highlighted as major areas of inquiry in the first few meetings with a client. However, gathering this information should be balanced with allowing victims a chance to talk about their own issues (Robinson 2000). In other words, workers would be well served by keeping the following issues in mind as they talk to a victim while allowing the victim to tell his or her story in their own words. This list is not a checklist, but a guide for informed clinical judgement.

Victim characteristics: history

  • Previous victimization (childhood physical/sexual/emotional abuse)
  • Previous victimization (other)
  • Personal psychiatric history
  • Family psychiatric history
  • Previous PTSD, including severity
  • Coping skills used in the past

Victim characteristics: current

  • Personality characteristics
  • Demographics
  • Current coping strategies
  • Use of alcohol/drugs
  • Suicidality/ Homicidality/Retaliation assessment
  • Self-harm assessment
  • Current mental status: psychological disorders, coping, strengths, etc.
  • Presence of dissociation
  • Primary location in the Transtheoretical Model
  • Victims’ perception of what they need

Crime-related characteristics

  • Specifics of the criminal event
  • Severity of the crime
  • Use of credible threat
  • Use of weapon
  • Single incident or chronic victimization
  • Victim-perpetrator contact
  • Known perpetrator
  • Reaction of support system
  • Reaction of professionals (secondary victimization)
  • Extreme emotional or dissociative reaction to criminal event

Strengths and resources (Hill 2008)

  • Positive coping skills used in the past
  • Current coping strategies
  • Identification of motivators
  • Insight into challenges ahead
  • Victim’s strengths list
  • Positive self-view
  • Key skill areas
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to manage emotions
  • Ability to experience positive emotions
  • Victim’s support network or situation
  • Communication skills
  • Cognitive ability
  • Rating of self-efficacy and resiliency

A “one-size-fits-all-service” does not work efficiently. Matching clients to a service within a continuum will benefit the most clients. As victims show increased distress and symptoms, they may need more intensive services. Thus, a victim who is not having a severe reaction may not need to join a support group or receive individual therapy. However, he or she might benefit from information sessions or written literature. Understanding how victims access supports and use their strengths is important in matching them to services. Those clients with more severe reactions and fewer resources may need more intensive therapy or even in-patient treatment.

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