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Essential Assessment Skills for Couple and Family Therapists

Lee Williams, Todd M. Edwards, JoEllen Patterson, and Larry Chamow

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
February 23, 2011
ISBN 9781609180799
Price: $85.00
270 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
January 21, 2014
ISBN 9781462516407
Price: $35.00
270 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
August 22, 2012
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270 Pages
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270 Pages
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Showing how to weave assessment into all phases of therapy, this indispensable text and practitioner guide is reader friendly, straightforward, and practical. Specific strategies are provided for evaluating a wide range of clinical issues and concerns with adults, children and adolescents, families, and couples. The authors demonstrate ways to use interviewing and other techniques to understand both individual and relationship functioning, develop sound treatment plans, and monitor progress. Handy mnemonics help beginning family therapists remember what to include in assessments, and numerous case examples illustrate what the assessment principles look like in action with diverse clients.

See also the authors' Essential Skills in Family Therapy, Third Edition: From the First Interview to Termination, which addresses all aspects of real-world clinical practice, and Clinician's Guide to Research Methods in Family Therapy.

“In this book, authors provide readers with the knowledge and information to develop a beginning set of assessment skills with families and couples….This book is different from many introductory text books on family assessment in that it does not focus specifically on one problem or population; rather it provides a wide range of issues a therapist might encounter in diverse treatment settings….By learning these skills for assessment, a therapist will be ready to engage thoroughly in each part of the intervention and treatment process….This is a well-organized, easy to follow informational guide for new therapists. It provides a solid foundation on which beginning practitioners can rely. Authors provide specific strategies for the evaluation of clinical issues across the lifespan and in a variety of relationships through the use of case studies and interviewing techniques to assist the novice practitioner to begin to understand individual, couple, and family functioning.”

The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families

“In the ever-increasing literature of couple and family therapy, there continues to be a dearth of attention paid to important everyday issues, relevant perspectives, and usable methods of clinical assessment. This book is the best remedy thus far for this state of affairs. Like the authors' related book Essential Skills in Family Therapy, it is highly accessible, readable, and practical. Wisely integrative, it pays well-warranted attention to 'individual' issues without ever losing its systemic-relational core, and will be an especially welcome guide for neophyte family therapists.”

—Alan S. Gurman, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Family Therapy Training, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

“Masterfully conceived and brilliantly presented, this book focuses on the necessary and inevitable interdependence of assessment and intervention. The relevance and range of issues and populations covered is impressive. The authors succeed in offering a practical, straightforward reference tool for all couple and family therapists. Too often, clinical books fail to represent the foundational nature of assessment. This book not only understands this relationship, it also delivers, demonstrating how change strategies and methods flow logically and directly from comprehensive systemic assessment. This is a wonderful 'how-to' volume on a fundamental and timeless topic. It is a great companion to the authors' Essential Skills in Family Therapy.

—Howard A. Liddle, EdD, ABPP, Professor and Director, Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

“As the title indicates, this comprehensive book is essential reading for all marital and family therapists.”

—Daniel Le Grange, PhD, Benioff UCSF Professor in Children's Health, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, The University of Chicago

“Williams et al. provide beginning family therapists with a comprehensive roadmap for assessing key areas that may contribute to couples' and families' difficulties. Unlike other couple and family therapy texts, this book strongly emphasizes that assessment isn't just a prelude to treatment; rather, the two are vitally interconnected. It helps readers hone their observation and listening skills so they are better able to assess clients accurately and treat them effectively. This book will serve as an excellent text for graduate-level courses.”

—Matthew D. Selekman, MSW, LCSW, Founder and Director, Partners for Collaborative Solutions, Skokie, Illinois

“This well-organized text will serve as a fine resource for students and early career professionals working in the field of couple and family therapy.”

—Frank M. Dattilio, PhD, ABPP, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

“I have used this book in teaching beginning therapists and supervisors. The thorough content, logical organization, and readability make it an extremely useful and approachable text. Students have told me they plan to keep this book close at hand throughout their first years of practice.”

—Anne M. Prouty, PhD, LMFT, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Texas Tech University

“Ideally suited for students and therapists invested in learning more about the research process in order to be optimally effective clinicians. This reader-friendly text, written by leaders in the marital and family therapy field, brings research to life in a way that is engaging, comprehensible, and clinically applicable. By mastering effective strategies for integrating state-of-the-art research into practice, clinicians at all stages of development will find their psychotherapeutic endeavors and outcomes enhanced enormously.”

—Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, ABPP, Department of Psychiatry, Emory University; past president, American Psychological Association

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to Assessment

2. Tools for Assessment

3. The Initial Interview

4. Assessing Issues of Safety

5. Assessing Health and Well-Being in Adults

6. Assessing Adults for Psychopathology

7. Assessing Children and Adolescents

8. Assessing for Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents

9. Assessing Family Interaction

10. Assessing the Multigenerational Family through Time

11. Assessing Couples

12. Special Topics in Couple Assessment

13. From Assessment to Treatment (and Beyond)

Appendix. Summary of Assessment Tools, Instruments, and Mnemonics

About the Authors

Lee Williams, PhD, LMFT, is Professor of Marital and Family Therapy at the University of San Diego and does couple therapy with veterans at the VA San Diego Medical Center.

Todd M. Edwards, PhD, LMFT, is Professor and Director of the Marital and Family Therapy Program at the University of San Diego and Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

JoEllen Patterson, PhD, LMFT, is Professor of Marital and Family Therapy at the University of San Diego and Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

Larry Chamow, PhD, LMFT, is Clinical Professor of Marital and Family Therapy at the University of San Diego and is in full-time private practice at the Pacific Family Institute in Carlsbad, California.


Family therapists, social workers, clinical psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and other professionals who work with families and couples; students in these fields.

Course Use

Serves as a text in direct practice and therapy courses within family therapy, social work, clinical psychology, and counseling programs.