All family therapists have been in sessions where sparks fly among family members. At times it may feel like the family dynamic is a giant Gordian knot full of confusion, condemnations, and drama. Family therapy, however, is made to order in these situations and helps families use their strengths to navigate to better places.
Research shows that systematic client feedback can significantly help this process. A 2009 Norwegian Couple Study enrolled 205 Euro-Scandinavian couples ranging in ages from 20 to 71 in an outpatient office in Norway. Couples were assigned to therapy utilizing the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS) or treatment as usual.
Couples using PCOMS saw nearly 4 times the rate of clinically significant change. In terms of “real world” results, couples using feedback were 46% less likely to be separated or divorced 6 months after treatment compared with the treatment as usual group. This study was replicated with U.S. couples showing nearly the same results. This research makes a strong case for the use of client feedback with couples. In addition to its use in couples, PCOMS has also been successfully used with children in family therapy settings.
A Major Advantage
One of the major advantages in using PCOMS is its capacity to begin conversations about different views in an objective, non-blaming way. Here are a few tips for using PCOMS with families:
- All members in the family should score the Outcome Rating Scale or Child Outcome Rating Scale at the beginning of each session and their view of the alliance of the Session Rating Scale or Child Session Rating Scale at the end.
- The fact that scores may not coincide opens the door for a discussion of both divergent and congruent viewpoints.
- Different scores provide an entry into conversations exploring the meaning of the differences encountered.
- Therapists can then ask each family member what domain would need to improve for them to feel that therapy was successful.
- Based on these interactions, therapists and family members can develop group goals and a means to measure success.
This approach offers continuous responsiveness to each of the client’s unique views using standardized outcome measures and valid, objective data. The transparency of the process establishes a space where all views are respected, fosters dialogue, and offers a safety net for avoiding treatment failure.
Combined Family Graphs
To support the analysis of family scores, we have developed version 3.0 of Better Outcomes Now (BON), which includes combined family graphs that align with ORS administration dates and tell the change story of the family dynamic.
BON’s new software release is innovative, intuitive, and flexible. It enhances the experience of practitioners and clients by deploying the measures on any smart device. Learn more about the new BON release here.