Formulation in clinical interviews


  • Mika Simonen University of Helsinki



clinical interview, conversation analysis, evidence-based assessment, formulation, gaze, repair, social functional capacity


Formulation, according to Garfinkel and Sacks (1986 [1969]), refers to speakers’ ways of talking about the current interaction. This article explores how formulations are used in clinical assessment interviews as a way of providing evidence of the respondent’s capacities that are currently assessed. The videotaped data are drawn from the clinical interviews of unemployed adults and older persons. The data are analyzed using conversation analysis (CA). The article shows how formulation is achieved through vocalized and/or embodied actions (e.g. nodding, index finger pointing), in conjunction with the speaker’s gaze directed to the recipient. It argues that these formulations enable access to the shared epistemic domain of the current interaction. This domain is an interactional achievement and, as a resource, it allows the participants to designate viewpoints regarding the respondent’s social competence. In sum, the paper demonstrates how participants can show an explicit orientation to the interactional substrate of interview.

Author Biography

Mika Simonen, University of Helsinki

Mika Simonen is a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki. His dissertation is about assessment of functional capacity in clinical interviews.



How to Cite

Simonen, M. (2013). Formulation in clinical interviews. Communication and Medicine, 9(2), 133–143.