Managing Difficult Patients: Roles of Psychologists in the Age of Interdisciplinary Care

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11 Scopus citations


Various problems can occur during encounters between health providers and patients. In some instances, clinicians attribute these problems to patients being “difficult.” However, clinicians’ perception of difficulties in the clinical encounter are also influenced by: clinicians’ own attitudes, thoughts, and behavior; the specific setting in which patient and clinician interact; and properties of the healthcare organization in which they are embedded. This article explores how psychologists in medical settings can serve as a resource that: improves patient care for difficult patients; supports provider wellness; provides relevant education to clinical providers; and reduces the stress that difficult patients place on the healthcare system. The definition, scope, and impact of difficult patients in healthcare settings are reviewed, including an examination of patient, clinician, and systems factors that contribute to the etiology of difficult clinical encounters. Strategies are discussed that may prevent or limit the adverse impact of difficult patients in healthcare, with special emphasis on the roles of psychologists in interprofessional healthcare teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Difficult clinical encounter
  • Difficult patient
  • Interprofessional practice
  • Team-based care


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