“Beautifully written, this book imparts a deep understanding of language’s relationship to psychopathology and its effective use in psychotherapy. The theoretical presentation is exceptionally rich and the many examples of clinical application are particularly informative. Chapters address the fundamental tasks of therapy, from conducting functional assessments to building the client’s sense of self, fostering meaning and motivation, and enriching the therapeutic relationship. A ‘must read’ for psychotherapists and students.”

—Michelle G. Craske, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Mastery of your Anxiety and Worry.

“A fascinating, very accessible account of RFT and its application to psychotherapy practice. The book offers a gorgeous balance of conceptual thinking and practical applications. It is a mind-expanding resource for psychotherapists of all orientations and levels of experience.”

—Jacqueline B. Persons, PhD, Director, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Science Center, Oakland, California, author of The Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 

“Inspiring. Important. This book challenges every psychotherapist to pause and look again at the most basic tool of our trade—language—and the enterprise of meaning making. Its broad scope offers the promise of connection across models and perspectives as well as better ways to lead our clients into transforming moments in therapy.”

—Susan M. Johnson, EdD, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, author of The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy and Hold me Tight.

“In this remarkable book, Villatte, Villatte, and Hayes bring to life the ways in which language and the use of symbols structure our experience. They explore how language shapes the therapeutic relationship and process, as well as clients’ suffering, and how it can be a vehicle for igniting change. A cornerstone of this approach is RFT, beautifully articulated and described here. Clever, illuminating vignettes are sprinkled throughout. This book is a treasure trove of clinical wisdom with regard to the role of questioning, dialoguing, reflecting, and challenging in the therapy context. It is a gift to all psychotherapists.”

—Paul Gilbert, PhD, FBPsS, OBE, Head, Mental Health Research Unit, University of Derby, United Kingdom, author of The Compassionate Mind and Mindful Compassion.

This is a book that shows that psychotherapy can be built on principles of basic science. Interventions can grow from “bottom-up”. This means, among other things, that the book can be helpful to therapists from many different models and traditions. At the same time the book comes out of a specific tradition, the one of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In that tradition it is, in my opinion, one of the most significant clinical contributions since the original ACT book from 1999.

—Niklas Torneke, MD, private practice in Sweden and author of Learning RFT and The ABCs of Human Behavior.

This book is a fantastic clinical resource – not only for ACT therapists, but for any therapist. It takes us step by step through the flexible language processes involved in all types of effective therapy. It will give you a wealth of insight into what really goes on during therapy, and a myriad of tools to expand your repertoire, working from any model. (Added bonus: If you’ve ever wanted to understand RFT – relational frame theory – and how it is clinically relevant, this is definitely the book for you.) I can’t recommend this book enough. Truly inspirational.

—Russ Harris, MD, author of The Happiness Trap and ACT Made Simple

This book is a milestone from which the way we approach psychotherapy can be transformed. Clinicians will look at their main tool – language – with new eyes. Researchers will be stimulated by the foundations of one of the most promising research programs emerging from contextual behavioral science: relational frame theory.
While many psychotherapy manuals limit the description of their theoretical background to a mandatory opening chapter, Villatte, Villatte, and Hayes’ tour de force is to ground each therapeutic move in the concepts of RFT, clearly and vividly described here. Empowered by this truly practical framework, clinicians are offered the possibility of using language to deeply improve their clients’ lives, sometimes in the most unexpected and meaningful ways.

—Jean-Louis Monestes, PhD, University of Grenoble, France, author of Faire la Paix avec son Passe and Changer avec Darwin: La Theorie de Votre Evolution.

I impatiently waited for the release of this book, and it has exceeded all expectations. At last, we have a means to understand and maximize the power of language in the therapy room! This elegantly written text brings language processes to light in a way that is highly accessible, precise, and immediately useful. I found myself implementing the principles covered in the book almost as quickly as I read them, and indeed, felt I was finally learning to use the carving knife of language “like a surgeon, rather than a butcher.” The book itself is a prime example of mastering the clinical conversation – substantive, clear, and powerful. I highly recommend it to any clinician interested in harnessing the incredible, therapeutic potential of words.

—Darrah Westrup, PhD, private practice in Durango, CO, author of Advanced ACT and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma-Related Problems.

Mastering the clinical conversation is a timely book that needed to be written. Language is the clinical instrument of the psychotherapist and so a functional account of how language ‘works’ offers tremendous potential benefit. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is a by now very well empirically supported functional contextual account of language that affords powerful new insights into the underlying behavioral processes involved. At the same time, RFT has often seemed relatively esoteric and inaccessible to practitioners in applied domains. In light of this, the current book is a truly substantial advance. While previous books have sought to explain the nuts and bolts of RFT, the current book does not just do this but also goes beyond this to lay out detailed analyses of client behavior in RFT terms. The authors explain the theory itself using simple, clear examples. More importantly, however, they also present in useful and inspirational detail how the theory can be used to understand key aspects of adult clinical behavior, and in particular how language can be effectively used in session to move clients in meaningful directions. This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand how RFT can enhance clinical practice and more generally any therapist wanting to master their practice and delivery.

—Louise McHugh, PhD, School of Psychology, University College of Dublin, Ireland, author of The Self and Perspective Taking and Self as Context in Practice.

I’m CFT therapist, and this book has helped me develop my understanding in ways that enhance my ability to do CFT – for example, by adding depth and new dimensions to my understanding of the nature of threat processing and giving me a greater facility around using language to help facilitate experiences of safeness and compassionate shifts in my clients. In all honesty, I can’t imagine the therapist who wouldn’t benefit from this book.

—Russell Kolts, PhD, Eastern Washington University, author of CFT Made Simple and The Compassionate Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger.

Mastering the Clinical Conversation is a milestone work in contextual behavioural science and clinical behaviour analysis. It stands alongside the original guide to Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, in providing a behaviour analytic understanding of psychotherapy. (…) Time will tell about the impact of this book. My hope is that it becomes one of the foundational texts that new and training clinicians read, as it provides such a pragmatic framework for understanding clinical interactions. I would put this book in the same company as texts like “Motivational Interviewing”, in providing therapists with a solid footing in their sessions. Similarly I would recommend this book to experienced therapists: there’s a wealth of ideas to explore and wrestle with here. This book may just transform your approach to clinical conversations. Read the whole review.

—Eric Morris, PhD, La Trobe University, co-editor of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness for Psychosis and co-author of ACTivate Your Life.

A work of breathtaking scope and ambition… It is well written, the language used flows well, and the therapy dialogues are convincing, authentic, and warm—and resonate with my experience of therapy… At every turn I found myself immersed in the topic, trying to unpick many of the clinical interventions and training practices that I have come to know through tested experience and to rebuild them from a bottom-up understanding of why they are effective in influencing the listener… Some highlights of the book are its richness, depth, complexity, and inclusivity….Mastering the Clinical Conversation represents both a waypoint on a scientific and clinical journey and a compass heading for future progress.

—David Gillanders, DClinPsychol, University of Edinburgh (in PsycCRITIQUES).