When I am in the process of beginning treatment with a new patient, I do an in-depth interview with the parents first. I ask a bajillion questions to learn as much as I can about what's happening, the patient's early years and temperamental style, as well as the family's structure, culture and the dynamics that keep everything in (or out of) place.
In that first meeting, almost at the end--after I've asked a bunch of dry (sometimes difficult) questions--there is an exercise I do with the parents, in which I ask them to describe their child's personality to me using only three words.
"Can you give me three words to best describe your child's personality? Don't think too hard, just the first three things that come to mind," is basically what I say.
Having the parents try to compress their impressions of their children into so few words can kind of distill them, concentrating and clarifying them. After having heard the prose descriptions of their child, the Three Word Descriptions sometimes sound like poetry. Often, after getting all the sad or scary stuff out of the way, the parents can focus on the positive. Sometimes, it's hard for the parents to get in touch with the positive because of the sad or scared. Whatever the case may be, the results of this exercise are usually very interesting and enlightening.
So, you want to give it a try? It's really kind of fun.
Here are mine:
The Girl: Intense / Tender / Sparkly
The Boy: Funny / Easy / Loveable