5 Compelling Reasons for Using Measures in Therapy

We invited psychotherapist, coach and consultant, Barry McInnes, to write a series of guest blogs exploring the benefits of recording and analysing outcome measures as part of therapy. This is the second of those posts. Click here to read the first blog in this series

Before we start talking about the questions of which outcome measures to use and how to incorporate measures into your practice, there are some attitudinal and ideological questions to discuss. Until these are addressed, the “how to…” is going to be largely irrelevant.

I wonder, of the three descriptions that follow, which best describes your current attitude to the merits of using measures in your practice?

  1. I’m fully on board

  2. I’ve no strong feelings either way

  3. I believe measures have no place in the therapy process

If you fall into the first category then the chances are that what follows will be familiar to you. If you fall into the second, perhaps something here may convince you of the benefits of using measures. If you’re in the last category, and have got this far, please at least read the next paragraph before you abandon this blog!

As therapists, we pride ourselves on being open-minded, curious and willing to do what we know works for clients, right? This is true, except, it seems, when it comes to using measures. An Australian study of mental health service clinicians’ attitudes to using measures found that 67% would refuse the use of self-report measures even if they acknowledged that it would lead to better patient outcomes.

I’m probably very much like you in terms of changing my practice. Show me a compelling reason for doing something differently and, all other things being equal, I’ll at least consider it. Otherwise, forget it. In that spirit, below follow some arguments that I find compelling why we should consider using measures if we aren’t already doing so…

  1. You may learn something about your client’s experience that you really, really need to know
  2. Measures might well save your (therapy) relationship
  3. A measure may be the only way you discover the true risk your client is at
  4. Clients will likely sense if you’re going ‘through the motions’ so learn to use measures well
  5. Therapist self-appraisal is not a reliable measure of effectiveness

Please note that these aren’t simply my opinion – for most there’s a decent body of evidence to back them up. I’ll be delving into each of these arguments in detail in upcoming blogs over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I’d welcome your thoughts and your feedback – drop me a line by emailing barrymcinnes@virginmedia.com. You can also read more about what works in therapy from a research perspective on my website.

If you are a practising therapist in private practice and would like to contribute to the bacpac blog yourself, please get in touch.