As mental health and substance abuse professionals, we concentrate intensely on client outcomes. Are they deriving benefit from the therapeutic relationship? Are they progressing towards goals? As we do, it is equally essential that we turn the focus inward. Are we doing our utmost to empower our clients? Are we progressing towards our professional goals?
Improving as a therapist is necessary for improved client results, as well as for our own growth.
Maintain an Evidence-Based Practice
Effective therapy is both an art and a science. As a deeply personal, intentional human interaction, it is vital to remain open to the unique process of individuals.
However, it is essential to build a foundation based on research, data, and sound best practices in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for clients. An evidence-based practice can offer useful pathways to client progress, but any method is only as good as the current client’s response to service. That’s where the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS) and Better Outcomes Now come in, as a system and a tool for obtaining therapy outcome measures.
Model Timely, Honest, and Accurate Feedback
When a strong alliance is forged, trust becomes the central component of therapy. It’s safe. Creating that space where clients can embark on a journey towards greater understanding and healing is largely dependent on feedback.
Integrating measurement and feedback tools, such as the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and Session Rating Scale (SRS), create a true partnership. By reviewing clients' therapy outcome measures collected using the ORS and SRS, you can identify clients who are not benefiting or are not engaged and take action to prevent dropouts or negative outcomes -- ultimately increasing the number of clients who benefit.
For those in this field, caring for self is often much more challenging than caring for others. It always takes a back burner. It should not -- not when you seek to improve as a therapist.
You know the analogy: put your own oxygen mask on first, and then you can help those around you. The same is true here. Know when to step back, enjoy time away from work, exercise, and eat mindfully. It is not only acceptable to “unplug” from work; it helps you be present when clients need you the most. Self-care also includes keeping your finger on the pulse of your professional development.
Are we doing enough to empower ourselves as professionals? This is a key question to examine.