The Polaris-MH is a NIH funded web tool that addresses the needs of the outcome-based paradigmatic shift in psychotherapeutic goals. The Polaris-MH is a questionnaire that measures three domains: Subjective Well-Being, Symptoms and Functional Disability. Functional Disability is comprised of three subscales: social, vocation and personal. Symptoms measures seven areas: depression, anxiety, somatization, phobias, PTSD, OCD and panic disorder. Aside from scores for each domain and their subscales, a composite score, the Behavioural Health Status, is also provided. Other areas of assessment such as alcohol and drug use, resilience and health problems are available as well.
MyOutcomes’ Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and Session Rating Scale (SRS) are also tools that address the changing needs in psychotherapy. The ORS is comprised of four sliding scales that measure overall subjective well-being, social functioning, vocational functioning and personal functioning since the last session. Because it takes no longer than two minutes, the client is asked to complete the ORS at the beginning of each session so that the results can be immediately integrated into the current meeting and any adjustments to the therapeutic strategy can be made in order to optimize achieving the client’s goals. On the other hand, because the Polaris-MH can take more than 14 minutes to complete, clients are asked to complete it sometime prior to meeting with their therapist or sometime after so that it doesn’t cut into the session time. This makes it difficult to immediately integrate the results into the current session, though it does provide a good picture of any progress being made. Furthermore, the client needs a computer and internet access in order to complete the Polaris-MH. If the client is unable to afford a computer or internet, then the therapist will need to have the resources to set up a kiosk for the clients. Although the ORS is also web-based, because of the ease of its completion, any computer in the therapist’s office can be used briefly without any disruption.
The SRS is a sliding scale that measures the client’s perception of the progress of therapy and their relationship with their therapist. It is completed at the end of each session. Because it takes less than two minutes, the results can be immediately addressed by the therapist with the client if there is potentially some trouble in the therapist-client relationship. The Polaris-MH can also measure the therapeutic bond, but because of the amount of time it requires to complete, the information cannot be immediately addressed by the therapist. Furthermore, if the Polaris-MH is completed sometime before the therapeutic session, the clients are then being asked to evaluate a session that may have occurred as much as a week prior. As is commonly known in psychology, our memories of our experiences are not entirely accurate and the more distant the event, the more our recollection is influenced by other intervening experiences. Therefore, the accuracy of the Polaris-MH report of these measures becomes questionable.
The Polaris-MH appears to be a good tool for measuring multiple areas of the client’s psyche, behaviour and life. However, its very breadth would seem to hinder its ability to take an instant snapshot of the client’s experiential state and integrate that into the current session, unlike the ORS and the SRS which have this capacity. Furthermore, use of the Polaris-MH is limited to adults, 18 and older. The MyOutcomes' tools, on the other hand, are readily adaptable for use with adolescences and young children.