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Article
May 1968

Target SymptomsA Promising Improvement Criterion in Psychiatric Drug Research

Author Affiliations

Philadelphia; Charleston, WVa
From the Private Practice Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, and the Psychopharmacology Research Unit, Philadelphia General Hospital, Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1968;18(5):595-600. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1968.01740050083014
Abstract

TARGET SYMPTOMS are a statement of the patient's presenting problems or chief complaints. They are traditional to the clinical interview and are the main reasons for seeking medical treatment.1 Yet, as a research tool, their use has been relatively limited.

In psychiatry the uses made of target symptoms have been quite varied. Frank has emphasized the interpretive importance of target symptoms in plotting the course of psychotherapy.2,3 Freyhan recommended target symptoms as outcome criteria and suggested their use be limited to treatment settings oriented toward symptom relief.4 Uhlenhuth et al have used target symptoms operationally defined as all those symptoms initially mentioned to the physician spontaneously,5 and Wheatley had his patients write down up to eight major symptoms and then, posttreatment, rated these independently as to improvement (oral communication, November 1966).

Since one of the major goals of psychiatric

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