History taking is a pivotal part of any therapy or counselling process. The more complete a history one can get the better as the possible paths the client may go in the future can be anticipated and treatment can be designed to deal with those.
One obvious problem with history taking is you can not take a history if the client does not have one. That is, a client who is 17 years old has much less history then a 37 year old. This can be a significant disadvantage when working with the younger client. In my book Working with Suicidal Individuals, I discuss depression including what to look for when assessing the history of a client who reports experiencing depression.
To assist with this I constructed a graph depicting the key components in taking a history of the depressed person. This graph is presented below:
One also needs to assess the quality of the depressive episodes by making an assessment of the 'Y' component. Here one assesses how depressed the person becomes, how the person has felt in past episodes. As mentioned before the system being presented here distinguishes between normal mood, dysthymia or neurotic depression, major depression and psychotic depression.
If one can get reasonable quality information on these four aspects of the depressive cycle then one has a good understanding of the depressive history of the client.