What is PCOMS and how does outcome measurement ensure success in therapy?
An article titled â€œMisjudged counselling and therapy can be harmfulâ€ published recently in The Guardian stated the results of a government funded study conducted by AdEPT (Adverse Effects of Psychological Therapies). According to the analysis of outcomes of psychotherapies the study found that although a majority of therapies are beneficial, there are a small percentage of clients who report being negatively affected by these very same therapies. Now this is worrying for any therapist as the last thing they would want is for clients to deteriorate as a result of their treatment.
Everyone in the field of talk therapy want to help people and make a positive difference in their lives, but how can they make sure that the help and counselling they are providing is having the intended impact? The study title itself gives some clues when it mentions both the client and the therapist should be aware of the potential for adverse effects. If only there had been some way of warning when therapy is not having the intended effect. A way for the therapist and the client to gauge early on which direction therapy is taking.
It is common knowledge that if we can catch the problem early on, then it is easier to find a solution for it by taking corrective measures. Detecting early change is the best way forward as neither the therapist nor the client will have to wait too long to understand the direction in which therapy is going. In one of our earlier blogs titled One Small Step for MyOutcomes, One Giant Leap for Therapists, we have gone so far in saying that detecting early change in therapy can be a predictor of success or a lack of early positive change means that something is off track and needs to be fixed!
So the question now is how do we know if change is taking place early on in therapy? The answer to this is an instrument that can measure change as it is only by measuring that one can become aware of it.
This is where PCOMS or Partners for Change Outcome Management System comes into play. But what is PCOMS? I am sure most of you in the field of psychotherapy already know about it but for those who don't, PCOMS is an evidence based practice that can be integrated into the therapy process by the practitioner in order to continuously monitor the progress of therapy. The main purpose is to take client feedback from time to time in order to improve the quality and outcome of behavioural health services.
MyOutcomes is a SAMHSA approved, web-based application of PCOMS that comprises two ultra brief rating scales, namely the ORS and the SRS, which measure the client's psychological distress and the degree of therapeutic alliance, respectively. Both these measures are strong predictors of change in therapy because if we know that if psychological distress is reduced, then the client has recovered sufficiently to reclaim their life. Couple this with the degree of alliance between the client and the therapist and the therapist will get a clear picture of where the therapy is going.
We can therefore confidently claim that MyOutcomes is a SAMHSA approved outcomes measurement tool that is a clinician's best friend.