Why therapists shouldn't fear Outcome Measures

| August 30, 2012

measureBusiness professionals are always staring at the bottom line. As benchmarks go, it's as stark and simple as it gets: earn or exceed your target numbers, and you're a success.

Therapy, needless to say, is a very different breed of beast from profit-driven business. A therapist's job is to help people, which is a qualitative, not quantitative process.

What this means is that measuring outcomes in therapy requires its own unique set of benchmarks. It doesn't mean — as some therapists like to argue — that the success of therapy can't or shouldn't be measured at all.

It's a bit akin to deciding winners in speed-based sports such as sprinting versus judged sports such as gymnastics. Usain Bolt gets his gold medal because the clock shows he ran the fastest, whereas Gabby Douglas gets her gold medal because a panel of judges deem her performance to be the best. Each form of sport uses its own means of measuring outcomes yet both share a crucial commonality: clear winners and runners-up who emerge through a standardized set of numbers that gauges how well they did.

As a therapist, you are competing with other therapists and being judged on your performance, regardless of whether or not you have empirical outcome measures in place. The ultimate outcome measure, after all, is if people keep coming to see you because they can tell your work with them is making a positive difference in their lives.

However, if you have MyOutcomes or a similar system in your practice, you're well ahead of the game. You now have hard evidence of how good you are at what you do — the kind of solid proof of a benchmark attained all true professionals deserve.

There's no reason to fear the growing push for measuring outcomes in therapy so long as you're good at what you do and/or you want to be better. For, as Tony Rousmaniere points out in an excellent blog post, “Research consistently shows that most therapy is very successful.” What's more, research also shows that therapists who measure outcomes are even more successful because they're able to spot and fix potential problems with clients before they become deal-breakers.

Rousmaniere, quoting David Barlow, describes the trend toward measuring outcomes in therapy as “inexorable.” But that's not why you should be doing it. If your bottom line is helping as many people as effectively as possible — and, hopefully, earning a good living while you're at it — measuring outcomes is the only way to go.

 

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Category: MyOutcomes, Session Rating Scale, Therapy Outcome Measures

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