Chapter

Assessment of hallucinations

Vaughan Bell, Andrea Raballo and Frank Larøi

in Hallucinations

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199548590
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780199548590.003.0019
Assessment of hallucinations

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Despite their seemingly simple definition, hallucinations constitute a challenging target for clinical assessment. Hallucinatory experiences, usually classified according to their sensory qualities, also entail complex cognitive and emotional aspects that need to be addressed not only for research and diagnostic purposes, but also for and adequate identification of treatment needs that will guide the therapeutic approach. Such assessment needs to be context-dependent and informed by a preliminary recognition of the layers of personal, social, and cultural influences that might affect the patient's modes of experiencing and, hence, communicating his or her own subjective experience.

Notably, besides their phenomenological heterogeneity, hallucinations are dynamic and can change in time. In this respect, assessment instruments offer a valuable support for longitudinal monitoring. Moreover, addressing the very moment of their emergence constitutes a useful entry point for a more person-tailored evaluation and a deeper understanding of their existential and psychological impact. The assessment instruments discussed in this chapter are meant to constitute strategic tools to enrich and supplement the clinical investigation of hallucinations, specifically providing reproducible quantitative frameworks. Their use provides both the patient and the clinician with a shared medium to reframe experiences. Besides the obvious implications in terms of informational gathering and consolidation of the therapeutic alliance, this can be an important part of overcoming stigma and difficulties with the verbalization of the experiences often associated with hallucinations. This is clearly an important step towards tailored treatment and can support both an understanding of the exacerbating or maintaining factors (e.g., intense emotional valences in auditory verbal hallucinations) and the strengthening of basic coping strategies.

Chapter.  9970 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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