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Use and Misuse of Clichés in Clinical Supervision

Jorge de la Torre, MD; Ann Appelbaum, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1974;31(3):302-306. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1974.01760150024003.
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Beginning psychiatrists use technical jargon as a defense against the anxiety stirred by their new tasks. Jargon is a special case of the cliché, an empty truth replacing genuine understanding with an affectively neutral pseudounderstanding.

At the outset of training, clichés provide a false sense of knowledgeableness, help the resident to feel like a member of the institutional group and of his discipline, and serve as a substitute for clear thinking. As a temporary defense, as well as an early stage of identification with psychiatry, the use of clichés should be respected. They serve as indicators of the resident's progress, being used with increasing sophistication by those who are growing professionally, and remaining as sterile defensive maneuvers in those who are not.

Persistent confrontation helps arouse curiosity about clichés and promotes their transformation into concepts.

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