Past History

Although the past is viewed as important in influencing current behavior in just about all perspectives, assessment frameworks differ in how much attention is devoted to the past and what is focused on. Past experiences are a major focus in psychodynamic assessment frameworks. Knowledge about past circumstances may be of value when it is difficult to identify current maintaining factors and may be helpful in preventing future problems. Information about a person's past may provide valuable information about unusual social histories related to problems. An understanding of how problems began can be useful in clarifying the origins of what seem to be puzzling reactions. New ways of viewing past events may be helpful to clients. Information about the past can be useful in encouraging clients to alter present behaviors and may help clients understand the source of current reactions. Demographic indicators about a client's past behavior in certain contexts may be better predictors of future behavior than personality tests or clinical judgments.

Information about the past offers a view of current events in a more comprehensive context. Major areas include medical history, educational and work history, significant relationships, family history and developmental history. Helpful coping skills may be discovered by finding out what clients have tried in the past to resolve problems. Research concerning autobiographical memory suggests that memories change over time, making it difficult to know whether reports are accurate. From a psychodynamic perspective, accuracy would not be an issue. Rather, the client's memories of events, whether accurate or not, are the substance of import. It is assumed in fact that memories may be distorted by unconscious motives/conflicts and so on. Excessive attention to past troubles may create pessimism about the future and encourage rational izations and excuses that interfere with change, especially if this is not fruitful in selecting effective plans.

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