I wrote a scene of a psychiatrist talking to a traumatized child, and I read and read it several times but still not convinced and satisfied with it. Are there any book recommendations or extracts that deal with the same “theme”, if so I may say, that could help guide me or at least, give me a general idea on the way psychiatrists talk?


How old the child is will determine the approach the psychologist/psychiatrist will have.

Also, another matter to note is that depending on the trauma no one will be able to simply talk to the kid and gather useful information no matter his education and reputation.

However, if the talk was conducted in the form of therapy and for instance, the kid was about 8 years old, sessions would most likely consist of multiple interactions with toys, drawings, and games to slowly but surely include the subjects of the possible reason for the trauma.

About how he should talk, usually playfully (as to keep the pressure down) and treading very carefully about the subject to avoid losing trust with the child.

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    Also, when talking to a child a therapist can never ask leading questions. It can derail any criminal investigation into the events and it can even implant the idea of abuse where there was none. Some googling also suggest treatments like TF-CBT, further googling might give details on how such therapies work. – Erk Jun 6 at 19:52
  • I should also add, that's a good therapist... this could of course be a crap therapist that leaves the kid scarred for life... thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-30/july-2017/… – Erk Jun 6 at 20:03

A psychiatrist should talk how the author wants them to. That's the most detail any stranger can give you. I'll just try to illustrate what factors they should consider.

If the aim is realism, do your research; if the aim is something else, you'll need to consider the needs of plot and characterization, and the latter's influence depends on, among other things, whether the psychiatrist, patient, both or neither is a main character.

Realism may or may not be your concern, but authors find it convenient to depart from it in certain typical ways. It's common for fictional psychiatrists to talk, in particular, at far greater length to the patient than is typical in real-life sessions today. The stereotypical hour-long discussion of one's childhood and dreams on a couch contrasts with the modern practice of determining in minutes what the symptoms are, and what combination of drugs, CBT etc. would be most effective.

I don't seek to disparage authors for the "old-fashioned" approach. Maybe it's more interesting, or fits their story well; maybe it's what they know, or think their audience do; maybe the story is set in a time and place where it would be more relevant than I make it sound, and that's another consideration.

Frasier is worth discussing in this regard because it features multiple psychiatrists, most prominently the titular Frasier Crane and his brother Niles, and to a lesser extent the former's ex-wife Lilith and late mother Hester. Needless to say, insofar as their on-the-job language is showcased, it differs in ways that make sense in-universe (not to mention being funny). They worked in different times and places, and their careers were very different.

Most of their known speech is off-the-job; they differ there too, in part because their personalities differ. The off-the-job differences naturally filter into the on-the-job aspects. Of course, this example is less relevant to an author who wants a psychiatrist to only appear in an on-the-job setting, either prominently or just in one scene. So clearly, there's no standard answer one can give on how to voice a psychiatrist.

I apologize if I've made it sound like there's a sharp contrast between two choices here, to write accurately and to write something interesting. There... is and there isn't. To return to the example of Frasier, there are different kinds of psychiatrist. Lilith is a researcher (and as best I can tell so was Hester), while Niles has a practice and Frasier offers radio "McSessions", to borrow Niles's disparaging description of them. But the brothers also have different theoretical backgrounds: Frasier is Freudian while Niles is Jungian. The latter fact leads to such hilarious lines as, "so no blaming mother today" when Niles fills in for Frasier. On the one hand, the scriptwriters no doubt proved some of their research in the inclusion of this difference between the brothers.

On the other hand, neither Freud's ideas nor Jung's are anywhere near as well-entertained among psychiatrists or psychologists as there once were. (Again, your chosen setting may make all the difference.) Theory, like practice (both have changed over time due to evidence), informs the way a psychiatrist would talk.

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