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Working with High-Risk Adolescents: A Collaborative Strengths-Based Approach
Matthew D. Selekman, MSW, LCSW | Foreword by Harlene Anderson
Guilford Press / Softcover / Nov 2018
9781462539215 (ISBN-10: 1462539211)
Infant, Child & Adolescent
price: $46.95 (may be subject to change)
316 pages
Not in Stock, usually ships in 7-10 business days

his innovative book focuses on helping high-risk adolescents and their families rapidly resolve long-standing difficulties. Matthew D. Selekman spells out a range of solution-focused strategies and other techniques, illustrating their implementation with vivid case examples. His approach augments individual and family sessions with collaborative meetings that enlist the strengths of the adolescent's social network and key helping professionals from larger systems. User-friendly features include checklists, sample questions to aid in relationship building and goal setting, and reproducible forms that can be downloaded and printed in a convenient 8½" x 11" size. Blending family therapy science with therapeutic artistry, the book significantly refines and updates the approach originally presented in Selekman's Pathways to Change.


“Selekman’s text will appeal to graduate students and therapists with an array of experience. Even those therapists who have worked with adolescents for years will find the novel presentation of material refreshing and Selekman’s approach thoughtful and scientifically informed....Selekman not only addresses the challenges facing clients in engaging in therapy but also includes diverse ideas for how to enhance effectiveness and creativity in one’s work. In short, Selekman’s text offers practical and insightful guidance for how to implement manualized treatments in real-life settings, making it a welcome addition to a professional library for novice to experienced therapists.”


“The book is equally helpful to students preparing to become therapists and to beginner and skilled therapists who want to learn how to work with this population….This is a very valuable addition to the literature on working with adolescents, especially with those who are high risk, a population that is hard to reach and generally considered ‘difficult.’ The author’s solution and resilience-focused, integrative approach brings hope to practitioners daring to work with young men and women in challenging situations. Uniquely, the author encourages therapists to courageously use innovative techniques and gives suggestions on how to use their own creative inclinations in designing interventions with and for families at risk.”

—Doody's Review Service

“Selekman has done it again. He offers the reader an integrative client-centered therapy approach that is grounded in a long tradition of systemic and solution-focused therapies. We are given a front-row seat to observe a master therapist as he walks us through his own clinical cases to demonstrate his creative process. This book will surely inspire therapists to be more bold and adventurous in co-creating with family members a therapeutic experience that challenges and disrupts stagnant relational patterns and replaces them with new possibilities.”

—Guy S. Diamond, PhD, Director, Center for Family Intervention Science, Drexel University

“It is hard to imagine this book ever being surpassed as a guide to working with adolescents in serious difficulty. Its solid grounding in solution-focused and strengths-based practice is supplemented by a distillation of theoretical and practical wisdom from a host of different therapeutic approaches. As well as dealing specifically with major issues such as violence and self-harm, Selekman offers a pathway through the delicate business of interdisciplinary and interagency collaboration. His suggestions are clear and simple, and he takes time to address every conceivable stumbling point on the way to a successful outcome. Selekman brings to this book not just a lifetime of face-to-face work with adolescents and their families, but also an erudition second to none. This book is a gift to the future of any struggling adolescent lucky enough to meet a professional who has read it.”

—Chris Iveson, therapist and co-founder, BRIEF, London, United Kingdom

“Intervening with high-risk adolescents and their families is probably the most challenging work that we therapists do. Selekman draws on extensive up-to-date research literature in presenting his strengths-based, integrative approach. He systematically selects from existing evidence-based approaches and also explains numerous creative interventions he has developed and used over the years. The book makes a strong case for therapists to flexibly individualize family therapy rather than rigidly adhering to a treatment protocol. Therapists should never find themselves stuck when working with these families again. This is also an excellent text for family therapy courses.”

—Gilbert J. Greene, PhD, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University

“This book offers a real-world compass for working from a strengths-based, solution-oriented perspective with today's high-risk adolescents. It captures the craft of a seasoned practitioner, and benefits from the author's keen perspective on the interconnected family, societal, and individual attributes that can enhance an adolescent's growth and health. Selekman provides practical guidance and a menu of theoretically informed options and strategies that clinicians can start using right away. Graduate students in clinical practice courses would benefit from the riveting case examples, which will fuel lively discussion, as well as the presentation of clinical decision-making processes rarely depicted in such detail.”

—Mariann Suarez, PhD, ABPP, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of South Florida Health, Morsani College of Medicine

“I use this text in an MSW elective, Social Work with Adolescents. Students find the text easy to read and full of practical, ready-to-implement ideas for working with adolescents. As a practitioner, I appreciate the breadth of practice contexts that Selekman covers. ?As an educator, I appreciate that his practice wisdom is grounded in the best research whenever available. Selekman doesn't dress up old ideas in new clothes. He helps us see adolescents and their family, school, and community contexts with fresh eyes.”

—Jonathan B. Singer, PhD, LCSW, School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago

Table of Contents:

Foreword, Harlene Anderson
1. Navigating through Complex High-Risk Adolescent Mazes

2. Family Engagement: Tailor the Relationships of Choice

3. Building Strong Partnerships with Pessimistic Helping Professionals and Members from Families’ Social Networks

4. Collaborative Treatment Team Planning and Goal Setting

5. Co-Developing and Selecting Interventions to Suit Clients’ Strengths, Theories of Change, and Goals

6. Family–Social Network Relapse Prevention Tools and Strategies

7. “The Atomic Bomb Kid”: Working with a Violent Adolescent

8. From “Numbing Out Bad Thoughts and Feelings” to “Welcoming Death”: Working with a High-Risk Suicidal Adolescent

9. Therapeutic Mistakes and Treatment Failures: Wisdom Gained and Valuable Lessons Learned

10. Therapeutic Artistry: Finding Your Creative Edge



About the Author:

Matthew D. Selekman, MSW, LCSW, is a family therapist and addictions counselor in private practice and Director of Partners for Collaborative Solutions, an international family therapy training and consulting firm in Evanston, Illinois. He is an Approved Supervisor with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Mr. Selekman served as the invited Henry Maier Practitioner-in-Residence at the School of Social Work of the University of Washington and is a three-time recipient of the Walter S. Rosenberry Award from Children’s Hospital Colorado for his significant contributions to the fields of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. The author of numerous professional articles and seven books, including Working with High-Risk Adolescents and Collaborative Brief Therapy with Children, Mr. Selekman consults worldwide to schools and treatment programs serving adolescents and their families. Since 1985, he has given workshops extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. His website is

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