A User’s Perspective

When I first started in private practice, I used protected word files and folders and locked filing cabinets to store my client notes, but was never completely comfortable with my ability to keep them secure.

I worked for IAPT for 5 years using Mayden’s iaptus patient management system,  and when I trialled bacpac it felt very familiar and easy to use. Most obviously I use bacpac to store my client details and notes, but there are loads more added extras.

To my surprise the calendar and auto-email reminder have been extremely valuable. I first had to get past the usual counsellor doubts about chasing clients or allowing clients to take responsibility for their therapy and appointments. I say surprise because I have never had a client refuse the service. My clients tell me they value the reminders particularly if they have busy or chaotic lives.  A word of caution though: when it comes to booking an appointment, bacpac shows a default time of 9am, so the therapist needs to input the actual appointment time. I’ll leave you to imagine the rest… My excuse is it helps the clients to see me as human and fallible. [Thanks Martyn! We’ve taken this feedback onboard and will be looking to improve the usability around this function.—Dawn, Product Manager]

The calendar also records the fee with the date, and cash flow is summarised in a graph on the home page. There is a facility to set a turnover target and it’s such a good feeling to see the graph tip through the target – it means I can eat!

Further accounting facilities are promised. This seems a logical extension to the service and I look forward to that upgrade.

It is important to me that in the event of my sudden death or serious incapacitation, my wife has minimal hassle from my practice. There is comfort in the knowledge that she only needs to make one call to my supervisor. My supervisor will then lo

g on, access my clients names and addresses and arrange ongoing work if they should so choose it. This is all easily set up within the bacpac system.  I have a contract for this with my clients and with my supervisors. I never want to have to use this service (sorry Mayden!) but it’s important that my obligations to my clients continue in the event of my death or incapacitation.

The fee is reasonable as long as you are getting a reasonable flow of clients. I’m not seeing bacpac being taken up by supervisees starting out in private practice, and wonder whether there could be a reduced fee for a limited service, say up to 4 clients?

Martyn Blair is a counsellor practising and supervising in private practice in Coventry. Martyn has been using bacpac for almost a year. Find out more on his website: www.martynblair.co.uk


Barry McInnes on Outcome Measures

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 first of those posts.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be addressing some of the issues and questions I see as key to assessing the quality and impact of therapy provision. These will range from the philosophical to the very practical, and include such areas as:

  • For whose benefit, exactly, is measurement?
  • What can measurement bring to my practice that I don’t already know from my clinical experience?
  • Can outcome measures be used in a way that doesn’t compromise my practice?
  • What outcome measures might I practically use, and can I use them in a collaborative way with clients?
  • How can I make sense of the numbers?
  • What else, besides outcome measures, will help to give me a sense of how clients experience the service that I provide?
  • How am I really doing?

Before we get started, however, it would be rude of me not to tell you a little about myself. In this case, context feels important. You should know that I’m not someone naturally drawn to numbers. But for an appointment to Head of Counselling for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in 1996, I’d most likely not yet have used an outcome measure in anger, nor any other reason.

The short version of the story is that a key part of my service’s remit was to promote the evidence base for staff counselling in the NHS. The reasoning was simple. With nine out of 10 of our clients presenting with work related issues, the RCN was plugging gaps in provision left by NHS employers.

We needed to persuade NHS employers of the value of providing their own services. All we needed was a robust evidence base. As I was to discover, at that time there wasn’t much of an evidence base of any kind, robust or otherwise. There began my journey.

That was nearly 20 years ago. In the intervening period evaluation, evidence, measuring, monitoring and research have touched every professional role I’ve occupied – as practitioner, service manager, advocate, writer, trainer, coach and consultant. I’ve learned much from all those roles, and probably forgotten more than I remember.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is the value of humility in our work, and not making claims for anything that we can’t evidence. I recall attending a seminar in the UK around 12 or so years ago offered by Professor Mike Lambert, one of our profession’s most eminent researchers of outcome. Mike recounted a study his team had carried out at the University of Utah, which – as I recall – asked the therapist team in the large university counselling service to say which quartile of effectiveness (effectively 25% slices) they thought they belonged to. Apparently 90% of the therapists placed themselves in the top 25% of effectiveness. So about 65% were going to be disappointed. But which 65%?

Whatever you may feel about measurement of quality and outcomes, I ask just one thing of you – an open mind. I’ve seen enough data, from research and from the data from hundreds of services and thousands of practitioners, to know that we are not all the same.

I’d be very interested to hear from you on the subject, and this is your chance to tell me: what do you want to know about quality and outcome evaluation in therapy?

You can contact me at barrymcinnes@virginmedia.com. You can also visit www.barrymcinnes.co.uk

If you are a practising therapist in private practice and would like to contribute to the bacpac blog yourself, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the contact form.


Secure Ways to Keep Client Therapy Notes

We’ve all been there – left our wallet in a shop, left a folder on the bus or forgotten to pick up our keys in a cafe. It happens to the best of us.

When it comes to client confidentiality though, there is no room for human error. It’s absolutely critical, both to our patients and to our careers, that patient notes are kept securely.

With a little foresight, there are secure ways to keep therapy client notes, beginning with the way that you store them.

By far the most secure option is to forego paper notes and to use a digital patient management system instead. If you’re not ready to go that far, taking notes using pen and paper, transferring them to an online system and then destroying the paper notes is another viable option.

We have created an ebook that details all of this and more to help you identify the client management system that will enable you to run your practice more securely and more efficiently. Click the button to begin your download.

Download our ebook: 10 Things to Look for in an online client management system for counsellors

Safe Ways to Manage Counselling Client Records

For some counsellors, keeping the administrative side of their work organised is a breeze. Others struggle daily to manage a growing stack of paper notes, Word documents, spreadsheets and personal and professional calendars.

And that’s not to mention dealing with security and managing the ever present risk of losing a highly confidential client file.

Online client management systems offer secure ways to keep therapy client notes, and reduce the time you spend on admin, condensing – even eliminating – paperwork, and helping you to manage your caseload efficiently.

These systems provide safe ways to organise counselling client paperwork. Notes and records are locked behind passwords or encryptions, so even if the device that the notes are stored on gets into the wrong hands, no one but the therapist can access them. Some client management systems keep records as securely as an NHS system.

Some systems also offer patient outcome questionnaires and reporting, allowing you to track a client’s progress throughout a course of their therapy.

Ultimately, choosing an online client management system it comes down to how each individual therapist prefers to manage their records. We’ve created a new ebook to help you to identify what you need from a client management system in order to run your practice more effectively and more efficiently.

10 Things to Look for in an online client management system for counsellors