The Devil’s in the Quantifiable Data

| November 20, 2013
myoutcomes evidence based therapy, web-based application of PCOMS

How MyOutcomes web-based application of PCOMS enables the use of quantitative data in order to make qualitative judgements about success in therapy

What students in clinical/counselling training programs and medical schools  have most in common is that they are all eager to get “out there” and start helping people. Many med students would be happy to skip the histology, biochemistry and pharmacology courses. Graduate students, on the other hand, would be thrilled to skip over the research and statistics courses. After all, they plan to go out there and help people resolve their psychological conflicts, not conduct research. Psychotherapy, they believe, is a qualitative, not a quantitative, process and, therefore, unmeasurable. So, what value can research and statistics courses have in their future?

The problem with such an approach is that it ignores our humanity, let alone reality. Human beings like to know “how much”, “when,” “what,” and “where.” Most importantly, we like to know what the goal is and when we have attained that goal. We use quantitative concepts such as these to make qualitative judgements. When we say that someone is an angry person, a decidedly qualitative notion, we do so based upon observing the frequency of their displaying angry behaviours whenever we see them, a decidedly quantitative notion. Gathering quantitative information is necessary for our survival. And all quantities begin with the data and its collection.

Hopefully, the data we collect is good data. Otherwise, we’ll be prone to making erroneous decisions and mistakes. In other words, if the quantitative data we gather is faulty, our qualitative judgements will be faulty. Such outcomes are not beneficial to survival.

In the 21st century, the importance of good data to successful psychotherapy is becoming increasingly clear. As a psychotherapist, you know that outcomes are predictable and therefore, measurable. You are also aware that early change and the therapeutic alliance, both measurable, are the two best predictors of successful outcomes. What you may not be aware of is that a few decades ago, tools measuring outcomes began to be developed. Unfortunately, tools like the Partners for Change Management System (PCOMS), which measures both change and the therapeutic alliance, began as paper and pencil instruments.  I say “unfortunately,” because such instruments are dependent upon human perception, judgement and action, all of which are subject to error and, therefore, increase error. Paper and pencil instruments rely upon the practitioner’s perceptions when measuring their client’s responses, calculating scores from their client’s responses, and recording those scores. Any mistakes made by the practitioner during this process can compromise the reliability of the measurement tool and render the client’s responses useless. Unfortunately, many practitioners continue to use the paper and pencil versions.

Fortunately, the 21st century has made possible the merging of advanced technology with advanced psycho therapeutic techniques. MyOutcomes is the web-based application of PCOMS. Because it automates the objective measurement, calculation and record-keeping of clients’ subjective states, errors are less likely to occur. True, bad data can creep in due to user mistakes. However, MyOutcomes has an excellent training program which can help eliminate such errors. When training reduces potential errors, the partnership between MyOutcomes and its users can only be strengthened.

What providers get when using MyOutcomes is the confidence that their clients’ change scores are accurate and that their performance projections, based on over a half million administrations of MyOutcomes, are reliable. Not only can the client and the therapist see what the goal is, they can see when they have achieved that goal. What agency administrators and supervisors gain from using MyOutcomes is the confidence that the success of their providers and the records the agency uses to report that success are reliably reflecting true outcomes.

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Category: PCOMS

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