Mental health services are delivered by interdisciplinary teams. To promote optimal treatment outcomes for their patients a common communicative approach of the involved professionals is essential but cannot be taken for granted. The mastery of basic communication skills by mental health providers needs training and prolonged supervised practice. Orienting key concepts help trainees in their learning process and facilitate self and peer evaluation of their communicative performance. These concepts comprise the three function model of a medical encounter, the criteria for a successful patient-provider patient dialogue, the concept of patient agenda to be integrated in the provider agenda as precondition for the therapeutic alliance, the concept of cue as a key feature of patient talk and that of empathic communication. All have implications for training and evaluation which will be discussed in detail.
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