Janet B. W. Williams (born November 15, 1947) is an American social worker who focuses on the diagnosis and assessment of mental disorders. She is Professor Emerita of Clinical Psychiatric Social Work (in Psychiatry & Neurology) at Columbia University. She was a major force in writing the PHQ-9, a 9-question instrument given to patients in a primary care setting to screen for the presence and severity of depression.
Williams received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Tufts University and then went on to get a master’s degree in Marine Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Shortly afterwards, she got her Masters and Doctorate of Social Work in Social Welfare from Columbia University.
Williams is well known for her work in psychiatric classifications and the instruments she developed to measure psychopathology. Most notably, she was the text editor of DSM-III and DSM-III-R as well as a member of the Task Force on DSM-IV. She is co-author of PRIME MD and its derivative, the PHQ.
Williams has written frequently on diagnosis and assessment. She is an author of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), as well as the Structured Interview Guide for the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (SIGMA) and the Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Scale (SIGH-D). Williams has been recognized as an ISI Highly Cited Researcher, authoring over 230 scholarly publications throughout her career.
Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR)
Now with over 1300 members, the Society for Social Work and Research] (SSWR) was founded in 1994 by Williams. At its inception, she served as its president for two years.
In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association started work on the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), and appointed Robert Spitzer (Williams’ husband) to lead the effort. Williams worked closely with Spitzer, and was the text editor of DSM-III and DSM-III-R. She was the chairperson of the DSM-IV multiaxial work group and was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an Honorary Fellow for her role in the manuals.
PHQ & PRIME MD
In the mid 1990s, Williams (along with Robert Spitzer and Kurt Kroenke) developed the PHQ (Patient Health Questionnaire) and the PRIME MD (Primary care Evaluation of Medical Disorders), both of which were designed to help primary care physicians screen for the presence of mental disorders and the severity of depression.