Bill O'Hanlon, M.S., Possibilities, 535 Cordova Rd., Suite 715, Santa Fe, NM 87501
505.983.2843; Fax# 505.983.2761;;


Assessment and interviewing are interventions; clients and therapists co-create problem definitions and therapy realities.

What gets focused on in the therapy session and conversation increases in clients' and therapists' awareness and in it prevalence.

Clients have resources and strengths to solve problems.

People are changeable in some areas of their lives; rapid resolution of complaints is possible.

It is not always necessary to know the true cause, history or function of a problem in order to resolve it.

People are accountable for their actions and can change actions at any moment regardless of background, mental status or emotional state.

Clients are resistant and/or uncooperative when we haven't listened to them, have blamed or invalidated them or are not being helpful to them.


Assessment Considerations

Assessment is always an ongoing process, changing as you learn more about the client. You don't have to get "the right diagnosis" before making interventions.


Who is complaining or alarmed? Who thinks there is a problem? What is the person complaining about? This becomes the focus of treatment.


What are the goals? How will we know when we are done?

Get specific about the problem-free future.

What's the smallest noticeable change? [Hint: It may have already happened.]


What is the person motivated for? What does he or she want?


What does the person do well? (Find contexts of competence.)

Skills, hobbies, sports, activities, avocations, life experiences, etc.

Exceptions/previous solutions/times when situation was better

Best coping moments

Past-Problem-related; non problem-related

Present-During interview

Future-Miracle question; video question


What are the patterns of the problem? How is it performed?

Search for regularities of action and interaction, time, place, body behavior, etc. Get specific (so could imagine seeing/hearing the problem on a videotape)


Scan for potentially harmful actions of clients or others in clients' lives (e.g., physical violence, drug/alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, suicidal intentions/attempts, etc.) that may not be obvious or may be minimized during an initial interview.


Acknowledge and validate each client and his/her points of view without closing down the possibilities for change.

This page is designed by Gary Schultheis. Yours could be too.
Revised: St. Paddy's Day, 1998
Copyright © 1998 Bill O'Hanlon