A timeline is a pictorial representation of the immediate, recent, and selective events from the past history contributing to the current crisis. A family physician can build a timeline while interviewing the patient. The physician asks the patient to discuss the immediate events and precipitants of the crisis on the day of the office visit or events from the past week. Together, the physician and the patient reconstruct the history by working backward over the previous 6 weeks. Finally, the physician tries to elicit the selective past history that may relate to the current crisis. Use of the timeline is illustrated in Case Study 3 (Fig. 45-2).

Developing a timeline with a patient helps both physician and patient focus on recent events and begins the process of formulating treatment. As illustrated in Figure 45-2, for

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