The Orlinsky and Rønnestad study contains important information about who we are and what we have to do to remain a vital force in our clients’ lives. It shows that our professional growth is a necessary part of our identity, as is our need to harvest the experiences that replenish us. It’s not enough to be soft-hearted and empathetic. Therapists need to have a keen sense of reality-testing to keep their heads above water in this field and make sure their work continues to be fulfilling.
Attaining healing involvement requires two things: your investment in yourself and a recognition of your own growth and development. This, in turn, necessitates a commitment to tracking your outcomes.
Tracking outcomes enables a big-picture view of your cumulative career development and a microscopic view of your currently experienced growth. Both perspectives allow you to continually assess your development, challenge your assumptions, adjust to client preferences, and master new tools. Monitoring outcomes can help you survive—indeed thrive—in a profession under siege, yet still compelling; a profession that offers a lifetime training ground for human connection and growth, and frequently yields small victories that matter in the lives of those we see.
Barry Duncan, Psy.D., is director of the Heart and Soul of Change Project and author or coauthor of 15 books, including The Heart and Soul of Change, 2nd edition, The Heroic Client, and On Becoming a Better Therapist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Anker, Morten, Barry Duncan, and Jacqueline Sparks. “Using Client Feedback to Improve Couples Therapy Outcomes: A Randomized Clinical Trial in a Naturalistic Setting.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 77, no. 4 (2009): 693-704.
Duncan, Barry. On Becoming a Better Therapist. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2010. Details about tracking your development with outcome data and enhancing your clinical effectiveness.
Duncan, Barry, Scott Miller, Bruce Wampold, and Mark Hubble. The Heart and Soul of Change: Delivering What Works in Therapy, 2nd Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2010. Find out how to improve your outcomes from leading researchers.
Hannan, Corinne, Michael J. Lambert, Cory Harmon, et al. “A Lab Test and Algorithms for Identifying Clients at Risk for Treatment Failure.” Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session 61, no. 2 (2005): 155-63.
Lambert, Michael J. “Yes, It Is Time for Clinicians to Routinely Monitor Treatment Outcome.” In The Heart and Soul of Change: Delivering What Works. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2010. Find systems for tracking outcomes here.
Orlinsky, David E., and Michael H. Rønnestad. How Psychotherapists Develop: A Study of Therapeutic Work and Professional Growth. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2005. Learn about the groundbreaking study and see how you compare to the therapists involved.
Sapyta, Jeffrey, Manuel Riemer, and Leonard Bickman. “Feedback to Clinicians: Theory, Research, and Practice.” Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session 61, no. 2 (2005):145–53.