Online Exclusives

Behind the Book: Assessment in Counseling

Heather Rudow March 7, 2013


Danica G. Hays, an associate professor of counseling and department chair at Old Dominion University, is the editor of the fifth edition of Assessment in Counseling, published by the American Counseling Association in November. Hays, a member of ACA, the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, and the National Career Development Association, has fostered an interest in this topic — and in earlier editions of the book — for many years, dating back to her time in grad school.

What inspired you to edit Assessment in Counseling?

I learned about assessment in graduate school from the second edition of the text, and as a counselor educator I taught assessment using the third and fourth editions. I was privileged to supplement the valuable content of previous editions with activities and content I have found useful both as a student and counselor educator. As a counselor working in a variety of settings, I found myself going back to this text for foundational material about assessment as well as titles of and information about specific tools to be used with clients dealing with mental health issues, career concerns, substance abuse, and so on.

So, when I was approached to author the fifth edition, it was an easy yes: I already knew how valuable the information was for me in academia and the clinical world, and I had ideas to expand information to hopefully engage others in the assessment process.

The new revision was needed to update students and practitioners on recent changes in specific assessments and diagnostic procedures (e.g., GRE, WAIS, DSM-5), expand on topics such as the history of assessment, test access issues, high stakes testing, cultural bias in assessment, qualitative assessment and specialty areas of assessment and related standards and assessment of violence such as intimate partner violence and child abuse.

What do you hope counselors take away from the book?

I think for many students and counselors who hear the word “assessment,” they think of images of standardized tests and become quickly disinterested, or think they counsel clients, not conduct assessments. I want to dismantle these stereotypes. My hope is that students and practitioners will take away from this book that counseling is assessment. Assessment is more than administering, scoring and interpreting tests; it is a process that counselors use to evaluate client or student issues and readiness for change, gather and integrate session information for treatment planning or decision-making, measure counseling outcomes, and advocate for individuals and their communities to foster psychosocial, physical, academic and occupational well-being. Thus, counselors can rely upon various qualitative or quantitative tools to work with individuals at every stage of counseling.

I have included several pedagogical strategies such as self-development activities, tip sheets, testimonials from counselors and students, case examples, sample reports, chapter pre-tests, review questions and chapter summaries.

Who do feel is the best audience for the book?

The primary audience for this text is professional counselors in agencies and private practice, school counselors, college counselors, counselor educators and other instructors of assessment courses in counseling and education. Other appropriate groups include psychology instructors, social work instructors, marriage and family therapy instructors, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists.

What are some main issues or topics in the counseling profession that relate to this book?

This text is most appropriate as a graduate-level text, and students gain knowledge about the following in the text:

  • Foundational information about assessment in counseling, including the history, purpose and use of assessment; phases of the assessment process; and ethical, legal and cultural considerations in every phase of the assessment process.
  • Key statistical and measurement concepts to ensure a basic understanding of psychometric properties, scale development, raw score conversion and culturally-sensitive assessment.
  • Common assessment practices typically occurring in the initial phases of counseling, including intake interviews, mental status examinations, screening of psychological symptoms, suicide risk assessment and clinical diagnosis.
  • Specialized evaluation of mental health concerns including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, anger, self-injury, eating disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Information about types of assessment, including assessment of intelligence, ability, career development, personality, and interpersonal relationships.
  • Detailed information about reporting assessment data in cases presentations and reports.

How did you first get involved with the subject?

I have been involved for over 10 years with the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling, so I have grown to really appreciate assessment and effective counselor training in assessment procedures. I also witnessed some really bad ways to assess that led to misdiagnosis and poor treatment options— I know advocacy was important because real people are affected by assessment. I hope this book is just one step toward that.

What surprised you as you were editing Assessment in Counseling?

I was surprised to see how little we know empirically about what assessments counselors use, how they see different components of what they do as assessment procedures, how they use assessments, how inaccessible assessment information is to individuals and what issues aren’t prominently addressed in assessment texts, such as interpersonal violence and other forms of trauma, concrete examples of diversity considerations and crisis assessment.

Why should counselors feel compelled to read this book?

As I mentioned, counselors and counselor trainees tend to be “turned off” by assessment, as they think assessment is only about testing, and that they don’t plan on doing testing. It is my hope that the revised content will illustrate how assessment practices expand beyond quantitative, standardized assessment and are infused in our daily professional lives. Thus, counselors need to be aware of the value of assessment in our profession, as well as the continual pressing issues that threaten culturally-responsive assessment and diagnostic practices.

Click here to order Assessment in Counseling.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at

1 Comment

  1. Cassandra Crockett

    • The function and the process of treatment planning
    • Role of counseling theory
    • How treatment plans are written to demonstrate evidence-based practice
    • The relationship between theoretical orientation and treatment planning
    • Definitions and examples of the primary components of a treatment plan


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