Continuous Feedback System
client is progressing as expected. If not, the ther- has no effect on clients with predicted positive
apist is to intervene by changing the course of outcome. In addition, the collective results from
treatment and/or assessing the reason(s) for the four large-scale studies suggest that measuring,
lack of progress. A meta-analysis (Lambert, monitoring, and predicting treatment failure en-
Whipple, & Hawkins, 2003) that summarized hances treatment outcome for clients who do not
three of Lambert and colleagues’ previous studies have high likelihood of positive outcomes but
found a medium effect size of .39 across the yield little impact for other clients (Lambert, Har-
studies when comparing the treatment gains of mon, Slade, Whipple, & Hawkins, 2005). More
clients identiﬁed as deteriorating (had declined, recently, however, Harmon et al. (2007) found
on average, half of a standard deviation) who that using continuous assessment was helpful to
were in the feedback group (therapists were pro- all clients, although those not expected to make
vided feedback) versus the no-feedback group. progress from receiving treatment beneﬁted
Using continuous assessment to identify clients more. Taken as a whole, there appears to be solid
that are not beneﬁting from therapy has consis- evidence that regularly monitoring client
tently been found to increase the likelihood of progress increases the likelihood of a client stay-
“turning things around” in therapy. ing with treatment and having a positive treat-
Research on continuous assessment has been ment outcome.
extended to investigate how to maximize the use Building on the extant psychotherapy outcome
of outcome data. Examples include assessing literature, Miller and Duncan (2004) developed a
whether sharing outcome assessment results with feedback system called the Partners for Change
therapists and clients is more effective than shar- Outcome Management System (PCOMS) that
ing the results with only therapists (Harmon et uses two brief measures to track outcome and the
al., 2007; Hawkins, Lambert, Vermeersch, Slade, counseling relationship in every session. The sys-
& Tuttle, 2004), incorporating measures of the tem can be used in individual, couples, family, or
therapeutic alliance, stages of change, and social group therapy formats. Much of the system’s
support to increase effectiveness (Whipple et al., appeal is that the scales used to measure outcome
2003), and assessing if using continuous outcome and the counseling relationship are much shorter
data is beneﬁcial for all clients instead of only than traditional outcome and therapeutic alliance
clients identiﬁed as “not-on-track” (Lambert et measures. The Outcome Rating Scale (ORS;
al., 2003). Miller & Duncan, 2000) and the Session Rating
Two studies (Harmon et al., 2007; Hawkins et Scale (SRS; Miller, Duncan, & Johnson, 2000)
al., 2004) have examined whether providing data are both four-item measures developed to track
on treatment progress to both therapist and client outcome and the therapeutic alliance, respec-
inﬂuences effectiveness. Hawkins et al. (2004) tively. The proposed advantage is that the mea-
found that providing feedback data on treatment sures’ brevity makes implementation by clini-
progress to both clients and therapists was asso- cians more likely. Although other factors (e.g.,
ciated with statistically signiﬁcant gains in treat- training and treatment allegiance) impact compli-
ment outcome. However, Harmon et al. (2007) ance with using outcome measures, there is some
failed to replicate these results, ﬁnding no incre- evidence that suggests that the amount of time
mental effectiveness by allowing the client to see required to complete measures does matter.
the feedback results. Studies by Whipple et al. Miller, Duncan, Brown, Sparks, and Claud
(2003) and Harmon et al. found that adding mea- (2003) reported that compliance rates for the
sures of the therapeutic alliance, motivation to ORS and SRS at one site was 86% compared to
change, and perceived social support for clients 25% at another site using the OQ45.
identiﬁed as not-on-track via continuous assess- The development of PCOMS was based on
ment demonstrated incremental effectiveness Lambert Whipple, et al. (2001) continuous as-
over just using continuous feedback alone. Dete- sessment system using the OQ45. In addition to
rioration rates were reduced from 21% to 8%. the discrepancy in length of the measures, other
Successful outcome rates increased from 21% substantial and potentially important differences
to 50%. exist. First, PCOMS is viewed as part of the
Percevic, Lambert, and Kordy (2004) found therapy process. During sessions the therapist and
that most continuous assessment studies indi- client examine the feedback data together. Al-
cated providing continuous feedback to therapists though there is research on clients seeing their
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
OQ45 outcome data (e.g., Hawkins et al., 2004) a Method
comprehensive literature review did not reveal
any studies that examined the process of therapist Participants
and client going over feedback data collabora- Clients. Study 1 was composed of clients
tively. Second, PCOMS assesses the therapeutic (N 74) that received individual therapy at a
relationship every session, with every client. Re- university counseling center (UCC) on the cam-
search on using the OQ45 (e.g., Whipple et al., pus of a small-to-medium, private southwestern
2003) has investigated the impact of assessing the university during the course of an academic year.
therapeutic relationship, but only when there is a The UCC serves enrolled university students. Ini-
lack of progress in treatment. Duncan et al. tially the study included 131 participants, but 57
(2003) argued that one advantage of assessing the were excluded because they either did not return
relationship every session, particularly early in for a second session (N 24; pretreatment ORS,
treatment, is that it allows for immediate response M 19.24, SD 8.90) or did not comply with
within the session. the treatment protocol (N 33; pretreatment
Initial results from research by Duncan and ORS, M 21.83, SD 10.05). Noncompliance
Miller on PCOMS have been positive; ﬁnding occurred in two ways: participants in the feed-
that its use has resulted in fewer premature ter- back condition not completing the ORS and SRS
minations and increased effectiveness. For exam- in at least 50% of the sessions (N 5; pretreat-
ple, in a study that had 6,424 clients who received ment ORS, M 21.65; SD 8.68) or the par-
services through a telephone-based employee as- ticipants in the no-feedback condition failing to
sistance program, Miller, Duncan, Brown, Sor- complete the posttest measures (N 28; pretreat-
rell, and Chalk (2006) found that effect sizes ment ORS, M 21.86, SD 10.30). Such a
increased from .37 to .79 when their system was compliance/completion rate is consistent with
implemented. All measures were administered other continuous assessment studies that are ther-
over the telephone. Miller and Duncan also re- apist dependent (Whipple et al., 2003). An anal-
ported that their measures generate reliable and ysis of variance (ANOVA) did not ﬁnd pretreat-
valid scores (Duncan et al., 2003; Miller et al., ment functioning differences between those
2003). Although the number of clinicians using included in the study (ORS, M 19.93; SD
this feedback system has been increasing, little 8.50) and the two excluded groups, F(2, 128)
research has been conducted to replicate their 0.23, p .05.
ﬁndings. In addition, much of their evidence cited The ﬁnal client sample consisted of 53 women
is based on samples that received services via the and 18 men; three participants did not indicate
telephone. their sex. The majority of the sample was White
We sought to replicate their research by con- (78.4%), 4.1% was African American, 2.7%
ducting two studies that utilized PCOMS with Asian American, 6.8% Hispanic/Latino, and
clients in a university counseling center (Study 1) 5.4% were international students. There were two
and a community-based graduate training clinic participants who did not indicate ethnic/racial
(Study 2). Speciﬁcally, we had three hypotheses. origin. The mean age was 20.17 years (SD
First, we hypothesized that clients in a feedback 1.90), with ages ranging from 18 to 27.
condition (used PCOMS) would exhibit greater Although roughly half of the participants were
pre/postresidual treatment gains on ORS scores originally randomly assigned to the feedback
compared to clients in a no-feedback condition (N 60) and no-feedback conditions (N 53),
that did not use PCOMS. Second, we hypothe- 50 participants were in the ﬁnal feedback group
sized that more clients in a feedback condition and 24 were in the no-feedback group. This dis-
would experience reliable change than clients in a parity is due to the ease of having posttest data
no-feedback condition as measured by the ORS. from the feedback group because data were col-
Third, we posited that clients in the feedback lected every session coupled with the difﬁculty of
condition would demonstrate reliable change getting therapists in the no-feedback group to
more quickly (i.e., have a steeper dose- remind participants to complete the posttest mea-
response curve) than those assigned to a no- sure. The pretest measures of those in the no-
feedback condition. feedback group who completed posttest data
Continuous Feedback System
were not statistically signiﬁcantly different from members provided 391 (72.41%) of the 540 ses-
those who failed to do so, t(48) .30, p .05. sions. For Study 2, all of the 446 sessions at the
Study 2 was composed of clients (N 74) that MFC were provided by 17 second-year practicum
received individual therapy over the course of an students enrolled in a master’s marriage and fam-
academic year at a graduate training clinic for a ily therapy program. Practicum students at both
marriage and family therapy master’s program sites received weekly individual supervision.
(MFC). The MFC is located on the same campus Theoretical orientations of the therapists in both
of the UCC. Practicum students provide individ- studies consisted of cognitive– behavioral, family
ual, couples, and family therapy services based systems, solution-focused, or an integrated/
on a sliding-scale fee for clients from the sur- eclectic approach.
rounding community. Only clients that received
individual therapy were included in the study. Measures
Initially the study had 96 clients (52 feedback
condition, 44 no-feedback condition), but 22 ORS. The ORS (Miller & Duncan, 2000)
were excluded because they did not return for a consists of four items that are measured using a
second session (N 8; pretreatment ORS, M visual analog scale. The items were adapted from
14.53, SD 5.68), complete the ORS and SRS the three areas of the OQ45 (Lambert et al.,
measures consistently in the feedback condition 1996). Speciﬁcally, clients respond to how they
(N 4; pretreatment ORS, M 16.48, SD are doing Socially (work, school, friendships),
3.93) or complete a measure at posttreatment in Interpersonally (family, close relationships), and
the no-feedback condition (N 10; pretreatment Individually (personal well-being). An Overall
ORS, M 18.71, SD 8.20). Pretreatment (general sense of well-being) score is also ob-
functioning mean comparisons of those included tained. Clients make a hash mark on each of the
in the study compared to the two groups of par- four analog scales that are 10 cm in length, with
ticipants excluded (i.e., attended only one session scores on the left side of the scale indicating
or did not complete the measures as directed) lower functioning and scores on the right indicat-
were not statistically signiﬁcant, F(2, 93) 1.04, ing higher functioning. Using a ruler to measure
p .05. the distance from the left end of the scale to the
The ﬁnal client sample consisted of 51 client’s hash mark, the score is recorded for each
women and 21 men; two clients did not indi- item. The scores are then totaled, ranging from 0
cate sex. The majority of the sample was White to 40.
(79.6%), 3.7% was African American, 14.6% Using a sample of 34,790 participants, a clin-
was Hispanic/Latino, and 2.1% did not indicate ical cut-off score of 25 was determined (77th
ethnicity/race. The mean age for clients was percentile for a nontreatment sample), meaning
32.96 (SD 12.32) with ages ranging from 18 that clients who score below 25 are more typi-
to 69. The ORS was administered every session cally found to beneﬁt from therapy, whereas
for Study 2 to facilitate the collection of post- those scoring above 25 are more consistent with
treatment data for the no-feedback condition. a nonclinical population and less likely to im-
This change appeared to have been marginally prove in psychotherapy (Miller & Duncan, 2004).
helpful, with 45 clients in the feedback condi- Miller et al. (2003) also found that the ORS
tion and 29 in the no-feedback condition. The discriminates well among clients and nonclients.
mean pretreatment ORS score for those that did Initial research has indicated that the ORS gen-
not complete the ORS at posttreatment (19.78) erates reliable scores among individuals who re-
in the no-feedback condition was nearly iden- ceive therapy in a community mental health cen-
tical to those that did (19.64). ter. Miller et al. (2003) conducted a psychometric
Therapists. The therapists in Study 1 were study and reported an internal consistency coef-
comprised of both professional staff and practi- ﬁcient of .93. Test–retest reliability from the ﬁrst
cum students at the UCC. There were ﬁve pro- to second session was .60. The internal consis-
fessional staff members, all master’s level prac- tency for the ORS for the two current samples
titioners with a mean of 8 years of experience, was .88 and .84, respectively. The test–retest
and ﬁve second year practicum students (second reliability from the ﬁrst to second session was .51
or third practicum) enrolled either in a master’s in Study 1 and .72 for Study 2. However, Ver-
counseling or clinical psychology program. Staff meersch, Whipple, and Lambert (2004) reported
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
that it is likely that test–retest coefﬁcients will be statistically signiﬁcantly associated with better
attenuated for outcome measures that are de- outcome. When compared to clients who did not
signed to be sensitive to change, particularly from use the SRS, clients who used the SRS were three
the ﬁrst repeat administration. more times likely to attend their next session and
Evidence for construct validity (also from the experienced more change during treatment. The
Miller et al. study) found a correlation coefﬁcient cut-off score of 36 was derived from a sample of
of .59 between the ORS and OQ45. Miller et al. 15,000 clients of whom only 24% scored below
(2003) also provided further evidence for con- 36 and were “at a statistically greater risk for
struct validity because client gains across therapy dropping out of or experiencing a negative or null
were demonstrated. Lambert et al. (1996) stated outcome from treatment” (Miller and Duncan,
that evidence for construct validity can be estab- p. 14).
lished by showing that scores differ from those
obtained at the beginning of treatment.
SRS. The SRS (Miller et al., 2000) consists PCOMS
of four items that are measured via a visual ana-
log scale. Based on Bordin’s (1979) pantheoreti- This study followed the protocol as outlined in
cal deﬁnition of the therapeutic alliance and an the scoring and administration manual for
inclusion of the client’s theory of change, the PCOMS (Miller & Duncan, 2004). A client is
scale assesses the therapeutic relationship (“I felt administered the ORS at the beginning of every
heard, understood, and respected”), goals and session with the therapist present. After complet-
topics covered in therapy (“We worked on or ing the ORS (approximately one minute), the
talked about what I wanted to work on or talk therapist scores the items with a ruler (or com-
about”), the approach used in therapy (“The ther- puter software is now available for administration
apist’s approach is a good ﬁt for me”), and the and scoring) and totals up the items. The items
overall rating of the session (“Overall, today’s are then charted on an ORS graph that indicates a
session was right for me”). Clients make a hash client’s progress, or lack thereof, across the
mark on each of the four analog scales that are 10 course of treatment. A composite score below 25
cm in length, with scores to the left of the scale indicates that a client has a level of distress con-
indicating less satisfaction and scores on the right sistent with people typically found in therapy.
indicating higher satisfaction for each item. Once The scores can be used to frame content or to
again, a ruler is used to measure the distance from give a therapist an area to focus on in session.
the left end of the scale to the hash mark. The
Discretion is given to the therapist to decide how
individual items are then recorded and totaled,
to best integrate the scores within a given session.
ranging from 0 to 40. A clinical cut-score of 36,
However, general guidelines are provided for
or if any one item is below a 9, is used to denote
when there is/are problem(s) with the therapeutic how to proceed clients that do not improve (less
alliance. Initial research has indicated the SRS than a gain of 5 points), “deteriorate” during
generates reliable and valid scores. Duncan et al. therapy (scores go down at least 5 points), have
(2003) found that with a sample of 337 commu- “reliable change” (a gain of 5 or more points) or
nity mental agency clients, the SRS had a coef- demonstrate “clinically signiﬁcant improvement”
ﬁcient alpha of .88 and possessed a correlation (i.e., demonstrating at least a 5 point gain and
coefﬁcient of .48 with the Helping Alliance traversing the ORS cut-score of 25 during treat-
Questionnaire–II (HAQ–II; Luborsky et al., ment). We have included a brief description of
1996). Test–retest reliabilities averaged .74 how to proceed with clients in each category
across the ﬁrst six sessions with the SRS com- (see Miller & Duncan, 2004, for a complete
pared to .69 for the HAQ–II. Internal consistently description).
estimates for the current samples were .88 (Study No change. For a client that has not shown
1) and .90 (Study 2). The SRS test–retest coefﬁ- reliable change (a gain of 5 points) after three
cient from Session 1 to Session 2 was .66 (Study sessions, therapists are directed to address the
1) and .54 (Study 2), which is comparable to therapeutic alliance and the course of treatment.
Miller et al.’s (2003) ﬁnding of .60. If the client has not demonstrated reliable im-
Miller and Duncan (2004) found that increases provement after six sessions, the manual suggests
on the SRS during the course of treatment were consultation, supervision, or stafﬁng.
Continuous Feedback System
Deteriorating last ORS score was used as the posttreatment
measure for the feedback condition and those in
Clients in this category are considered to be the no-feedback condition completed a post-ORS
at-risk for terminating prematurely or having a measure.
poor outcome. Therapists are directed to discuss Study 2. This study took place the next aca-
possible reasons for the drop in score, review the demic year after Study 1. Clients at the MFC also
SRS items with the client to assess the therapeu- used PCOMS but had two deviations from the
tic alliance or consider changing the treatment Study 1 protocol. First, clients in the no-feedback
approach, frequency, mode, or even therapist if condition completed the ORS at the beginning of
no improvement is noted after three sessions. each session, rather than just at the beginning and
Reliable change. Treatment is going accord- end of treatment, to help increase compliance
ingly. Therapists are advised to reinforce changes with collecting posttreatment data. Doing this
and to continue treatment until progress begins to also allowed for comparison of outcome with
plateau, then a therapist should consider reducing clients not progressing in treatment, a proposed
the frequency of sessions. advantage of continually monitoring client out-
Clinically signiﬁcant change. The client is come, and to compare dose response curves of
likely no longer struggling with issues that led both the feedback and no-feedback groups. The
to seeking therapy. Therapists are advised to ORS results were not seen or scored by the ther-
consolidate changes, anticipate potential set- apist or shared with clients in the no-feedback
backs, and to consider reducing the frequency condition. Second, therapists, rather than clients,
of sessions. were randomly assigned to the feedback and no-
Toward the end of every session, the SRS is feedback conditions because the graduate faculty
administered to the client and again scored by the over the MFC felt that it would be too cumber-
therapist (approximately one minute). If the total some and confusing for beginning practicum stu-
score is below 36 or one of the items is below 9, dents to deviate from their normal treatment par-
the therapist intervenes and inquires about the adigm by alternating between the two conditions.
reason for the lower scores. The total score is Therapists for both studies were trained to ad-
then charted on a graph for the corresponding minister, score, and provide feedback to clients
session. via the training manual provided for the ORS and
SRS (Miller & Duncan, 2004). The ﬁrst author of
Procedure the current study conducted a 1-hr training ses-
sion for the therapists and practicum supervisors.
Study 1. Clients for an academic year at the A summary handout was also provided to each
UCC were assigned by the director to either the therapist as a reminder of how to follow the
feedback group or no-feedback condition via a protocol if needed. Two case studies were pro-
randomized block design to help control for vided in the training to facilitate application of
therapist effects. All of the clients were new PCOMS. In the feedback condition, progress was
clients at the UCC, not having received services tracked, charted, and discussed with the client
there previously. Approximately half of the new every session. The no-feedback condition re-
clients assigned to therapists were in the feedback ceived treatment as usual and did not utilize
group and the other half were in the no-feedback PCOMS. For both studies, copies of ORS/SRS
group. Clients in the feedback condition com- measures were made by therapists and placed in
pleted the ORS at the beginning of each session a collection box for the measures to be rescored
and the SRS at the end of each session. Partici- before being entered into a database to ensure
pants in the no-feedback condition completed the scoring accuracy. Any scoring errors were re-
ORS at the beginning and end of treatment. The layed to the therapist to correct the original cop-
SRS was not administered to the no-feedback ies kept in the client’s ﬁle.
condition. There was a concern that exposing the
clients to the items might unduly inﬂuence their Results
perceptions/expectations of treatment, leading to
a possible deviation from a “treatment as usual” Pre- and posttest ORS mean total scores and
paradigm. If a client had not completed treatment standard deviations for each of the treatment con-
by the end of the academic year, the participant’s ditions in both studies can be observed in Table 1.
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
TABLE 1. Means and Standard Deviations of the ORS for tistically signiﬁcant more change than those in
the Feedback and No-Feedback Conditions the no-feedback group, F(1, 72) 7.51, p .01,
Feedback No feedback .10. The therapist covariate was not statis-
tically signiﬁcant, F(1, 72) 1.10, p .05, 2
ORS total M SD M SD .01. Using a Cohen’s d to compute an effect size
Study 1 as is typically found in psychotherapy outcome
Pre 18.59 7.60 22.71 9.70 studies that compare treatments, medium to large
Post 31.28 6.63 29.53 7.26 effect sizes were found for both Study 1 (d .54)
Pre 18.68 10.39 19.64 6.46
and Study 2 (d .49).
Post 29.51 9.58 24.33 7.51 Although clients in the feedback condition
demonstrated larger treatment gains, they did not
Note. ORS Outcome Rating Scale. attend statistically signiﬁcantly more sessions on
average than the no-feedback condition in Study
To assess if pretreatment ORS mean scores were 1 (6.27 vs. 5.66), t(72) 0.51, p .05, or Study
different for the feedback and no-feedback con- 2 (8.02 vs. 5.79), t(72) 1.74, p .05. We
ditions, independent samples t tests were com- found it interesting that in Study 1 professional
puted and found that the pretreatment mean dif- staff and practicum students had equivocal pre-
ferences were not statistically signiﬁcant for post ORS treatment outcomes for clients that
either Study 1, t(72) 1.99, p .05, or Study 2, were seen in the feedback group, F(1, 48) .00,
t(72) 0.49, p .05. This indicates that the p .05, 2 .00, and for all clients irrespective
initial random assignment appears to have been of treatment condition, F(1, 72) .03, p .05,
effective in creating equivalent groups for both .00.
samples. The mean SRS total scores for the feed- Another common way to assess psychotherapy
back condition were both at the upper end of the outcome is to view the number of clients who
continuum and had little variability (Study 1: incur clinically signiﬁcant change (Lambert,
M 35.94, SD 4.22, range 20.90; Study 2: Hansen, & Bauer, 2008). Posited by Jacobson
M 37.09, SD 3.79, range 14.00). Partic- and Truax (1991), there are two criteria for es-
ipants in the feedback condition generally felt tablishing clinically signiﬁcant, or meaningful,
favorable about the alliance with their therapist. change in psychotherapy. The ﬁrst criterion, “re-
Individuals in each study’s client feedback liable change,” is the increase or decrease of a
condition reported more treatment gains on the client’s score on an outcome measure that ex-
ORS compared to the no-feedback condition. The ceeds the measurement error for the instrument.
client feedback groups reported mean treatment The second criterion, “clinical signiﬁcance,” re-
gains of 12.69 (Study 1) and 10.84 (Study 2) quires reliable change and that the client started
points whereas the no-feedback groups reported treatment in the clinical range and concluded
mean treatment gains of 6.82 and 5.04, respec- treatment in the nonclinical range based on an
tively. For Study 1, a repeated-measures established cut-score. Jacobson and Truax’s for-
ANOVA indicated that therapy gains were statis- mulas were used to establish a reliable change
tically signiﬁcant across both groups, F(1, 72) index (RCI) of 5 points and a cut-score of 25 for
60.32, p .00, 2 .46, but the interaction the ORS that was based on two studies (Miller et
between the treatment condition and time (pre- al., 2003; Miller, Mee-Lee, & Plum, 2005) that
post) on the ORS total score indicated that those used samples from a community mental health
in the feedback condition had statistically signif- and a residential alcohol and drug treatment cen-
icant more change than the no-feedback condi- ter, respectively. Speciﬁcally, reliable change is
tion, F(1, 72) 5.46, p .05, 2 .07. For denoted by a 5-point increase indicating “im-
Study 2, a repeated-measures ANOVA with ther- provement,” whereas a 5-point decrease is con-
apist added as a covariate (because therapists sidered to indicate “deterioration.”
were assigned to either the feedback or no- The less stringent criterion of reliable change
feedback condition) indicated that therapy gains was used in this study, because 28.4% of the
were statistically signiﬁcant for all clients, F(1, university counseling center sample began treat-
72) 22.76, p .00, 2 .24. The interaction ment in the nonclinical range, and other research-
between treatment condition and time also found ers have suggested that using reliable change was
that those in the feedback group experienced sta- appropriate for university counseling centers
Continuous Feedback System
given the likelihood that the population would .05, 2 .07. However, please note that the
generally report less distress (Snell, Mallinck- effect size of .07 is comparable to the effect
rodt, Hill, & Lambert, 2001). In Study 1 (see size of .10 for the entire sample; the lack of
Table 2), the continuous feedback condition in- statistical signiﬁcance is likely a function of a
curred reliable change on the ORS more fre- small sample size. The NP clients in both the
quently when compared to the no-feedback con- feedback and no-feedback conditions attended
dition (80% vs. 54.2%). A chi-square analysis nearly the same number of sessions, 6.9 and 5.9
found a statistically signiﬁcant difference be- sessions, respectively.
tween the feedback and no-feedback groups, One way of analyzing the dose-response curve
(1, N 74) 5.32, p .05. Very few clients is to assess when clients achieve reliable change
in both groups reported deteriorating during treat- as deﬁned earlier. To do so, a survival analysis
ment. In Study 2, a higher percentage of feedback was computed, a nonparametric statistic com-
condition participants (66.67%) also incurred re- monly used with longitudinal data that provides
liable change compared to clients in the no- an estimate of the percentage of clients that will
feedback condition (41.40%). A chi-square anal- demonstrate reliable change from session-to-
ysis also found a statistically signiﬁcant session. The possibility exists that a client could
difference, 2(1, N 74) 4.60, p .05. As in incur a 5-point improvement and then regress in
Study 1, few clients demonstrated deterioration latter sessions. For this analysis, reliable change
across treatment. was only noted when there was no subsequent
We compared clients in both the feedback con- regression before treatment ended. First, an anal-
dition (n 16) and no-feedback condition (n ysis using Cox regression was computed with
11) that were identiﬁed as not progressing (NP) therapist (professional staff vs. practicum stu-
to evaluate if feedback was helpful for clients at dents) selected as a covariate to see if multiple-
risk for poor outcome. This comparison could survival curves needed to be computed. The over-
only be made in Study 2, because clients in the all goodness of ﬁt chi-square value was
no-feedback condition completed the ORS every statistically signiﬁcant for the regression model,
session. Consistent with the administration and (2, N 354), 6.49, p .05. Therapist was
scoring manual, a NP client was identiﬁed as statistically signiﬁcant ( .434, Wald 6.18,
having improved less than 5 points on the ORS df 3, p .05), indicating that clients assigned
after three sessions as (Miller & Duncan, 2004). to professional staff demonstrated improvement
The NP clients in the feedback condition showed more quickly than clients paired with a practicum
larger treatment gains (6.06 vs. 2.48 points) at the student. A Kaplan–Meier survival analysis was
end of treatment than the no-feedback condition. then conducted to create separate survival curves
However, a repeated-measures ANOVA did not for professional staff and practicum students to
ﬁnd statistically signiﬁcant pre/posttreatment estimate the median number of sessions needed
scores between the groups, F(1, 25) 1.59, p to acquire reliable change (see Figure 1). Data for
clients that had not achieved reliable change were
censored. The survival analysis found that 51%
TABLE 2. Percentage of Clients in Feedback and No- of the clients in the feedback condition were
Feedback Conditions Who Achieved Reliable Change at estimated to achieve reliable change after a me-
End of Treatment
dian of nine sessions. For clients of professional
Feedback No feedback staff, 50% of the clients were estimated to
achieve reliable change after a median of seven
Classiﬁcation n % n %
sessions and clients of practicum students were
Study 1 estimated to take a median of 12 sessions.
Deteriorated 2 4.00 3 12.50 A survival analysis was also conducted for
No change 8 16.00 8 33.30 Study 2 to assess the median number of sessions
Reliable change 40 80.00 13 54.20
Study 2 estimated for clients to obtain reliable change.
Deteriorated 2 4.44 1 3.44 Reliable change was used as the criterion to
No change 13 28.89 16 55.16 maintain consistency with Study 1 for compari-
Reliable change 30 66.67 12 41.40 son purposes. Four clients were removed from
4.60, p .05 (Study 1), 2
16.67, p .01 the analysis (two from each condition) because
(Study 2). their initial ORS scores were above 35 and made
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
Percentage of Clients Improved
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
FIGURE 1. Study 1 survival plots of reliable change rates for clients of professional staff and practicum students in the feedback
condition by session.
it impossible to achieve reliable change. A Cox Discussion
regression model was computed to assess if
there were differences in the recovery rates for Two studies were conducted to evaluate an
the feedback and no-feedback conditions. The increasingly used continuous assessment system,
overall goodness of ﬁt chi-square value was PCOMS (Miller & Duncan, 2004), the ﬁrst using
statistically signiﬁcant, 2(1, N 296), a sample of psychotherapy clients in a university
5.59, p .05, indicating that those in the both counseling center and the second a sample of
conditions achieved reliable change at different psychotherapy clients in a community-based
rates. A Kaplan–Meier survival analysis was graduate training clinic. In general, both studies
conducted to view the survival curves for the replicated the positive ﬁndings that Miller and
feedback and no-feedback groups separately Duncan reported in other studies (Miller et al.,
(see Figure 2). The survival analysis found that 2003; Miller, Duncan, Sorrell, & Brown, 2005).
56% of the clients in the feedback condition The results indicated that clients in the feedback
were estimated to achieve reliable change after condition (i.e., clients that completed an outcome
a median of 7 sessions whereas 52% of the and alliance measure every session and reviewed
clients in the no-feedback condition were esti- these results in session), reported more change
mated to achieve reliable change after a median than those in the no-feedback condition (i.e., re-
of 10 sessions. ceived therapy in a treatment as usual format).
Continuous Feedback System
Percentage of Clients Improved
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
FIGURE 2. Study 2 survival plots of client reliable change rates for the feedback and no-feedback conditions by session.
The majority of clients in the feedback group of those who completed a treatment program for
evidenced reliable change by the end of treat- alcohol and substance use.
ment. Last, a survival analysis in Study 2 dem- Medium to large effect sizes were found in
onstrated that clients in the feedback condition both studies (d .54 and .49). Wampold et al.
were estimated to achieve reliable change in (1997) found in a meta-analytic study that effect
fewer sessions than those in the no-feedback con- sizes for compared psychotherapy treatments did
dition. not exceed .21. However, Whipple et al. (2003)
found a larger effect size (d .70) when com-
Improved Outcome paring a continuous assessment system to a con-
Individuals in both the feedback and no-feedback trol group using the OQ45 for clients identiﬁed as
conditions showed statistically signiﬁcant improve- at-risk for terminating prematurely or having a
ment on pre/postmeasures of the ORS total score. In poor treatment outcome. When examining out-
both studies the feedback group showed roughly come from a reliable change perspective, the
twice as much improvement as the no-feedback results are just as impressive. There were many
group (12.69 points vs. 6.82 points in Study 1; more clients in the feedback condition that re-
10.83 vs. 4.69 points in Study 2). This amount of ported reliable change at the end of treatment
improvement is similar to the 10.8 point gain that compared to the no-feedback condition (80% vs.
Miller, Duncan, et al. (2005) reported from a study 54.2% in Study 1; 66.67% vs. 41.4% in Study 2).
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
One of the biggest advantages proposed for participants in the feedback condition estimated
using continuous assessment is that therapists can to demonstrate reliable change after a median of
more readily identify clients not progressing in seven sessions compared to 50% of the partici-
treatment. If identiﬁed early, a therapist can in- pants in the no-feedback condition estimated to
tervene and assess why the client is not improv- require a median of 10 sessions.
ing before the client terminates prematurely or The dose-response curve for both studies ap-
has a negative outcome in therapy. In Study 2, the pears to be consistent with other outcome re-
results indicated that clients in the feedback search utilizing survival analysis. For example,
group who were not progressing by the third Wolgast, Lambert, and Puschner (2003) found
session demonstrated greater treatment gains than that it took an estimated 10 sessions for 51% of a
those in the no-feedback group. However, the sample of 788 university counseling clients to
difference between the mean number of sessions evidence and maintain reliable change as mea-
attended was nearly identical (ﬁve or six ses- sured by the OQ45. In another example, Ander-
sions). This may be due to the pretreatment son and Lambert (2001) found 50% of clients in
means for the feedback group being much higher a university-training clinic were estimated to ev-
(25.06 vs. 20.06); therefore, perhaps requiring idence reliable change on the OQ45 after nine
fewer sessions. sessions.
These ﬁndings seem consistent with previous
research; using continuous outcome assessment Limitations of the Study
appears to lead to better treatment outcomes for
those that are not-on-track early in treatment. There are several limitations in both studies.
However, when comparing feedback and no- The largest concern is the number of clients ex-
feedback pre/post-ORS treatment gains the effect cluded. Of the original 237 possible participants
size for clients not progressing was similar to the across both studies, 89 participants could not be
effect size for the entire sample. Previous re- included. The biggest problem was the number of
search has been mixed on this (Harmon et al., participants in the no-feedback condition that did
2007; Lambert et al., 2005) but has generally not complete the posttreatment ORS (n 34). An
found that clients not progressing early in therapy attempt was made to correct the difﬁculty with
beneﬁt more from tracking outcome. This study collecting posttreatment measures by having partic-
provides evidence that all clients, not just those ipants in Study 2 complete the ORS every session.
projected to do poorly, beneﬁt from using a con- Although this led to some improvement, it was still
tinuous assessment system. PCOMS, however, is problematic. Frequent reminders were sent on a
implemented differently than other continuous monthly basis, but appeared to have little impact
assessment systems. These differences are dis- with the no-feedback group. Once again, the pre-
cussed further in this section. treatment difference between those in the no-
Dose-response curve. In Study 1, half of the feedback condition that did or did not complete
feedback group was estimated to have met the the posttreatment measure was not statistically
criterion for reliable change after a median of signiﬁcant.
nine sessions. We found it interesting that clients It is important to note that half of those ex-
assigned to professional staff were more likely to cluded in both studies did not return for a second
evidence reliable change sooner (Session 7) com- session (n 45). The possibility exists that some
pared to clients assigned to a practicum student did not return because using PCOMS was not
(Session 12). However, practicum students were appealing. Because of the concern that eliminat-
just as effective as professional staff when ob- ing data of these clients might bias or skew the
serving pre/post-ORS treatment gains in the feed- data favorably, analyses were rerun with those
back condition and across treatment conditions. who attended one session using the pretreatment
The results seem to indicate that ultimate out- score as the posttreatment score. None of the
come is equivalent but clients paired with profes- analyses revealed differences that would have
sional staff improved more quickly. This ﬁnding inﬂuenced the ﬁndings and conclusions of the
did not appear to be replicated in Study 2. The study.
dose-response ﬁnding with the MFC sample was Another limitation is the large number of cli-
similar to the survival curve for clients seen by ents that had missing session data. A decision
professional staff at the UCC, with 54% of the was made to exclude participants that had not
Continuous Feedback System
completed the ORS and SRS for at least half of verse cultural and ethnic/racial backgrounds. For
their sessions for both studies (n 10). The example, PCOMS assumes a collaborative,
decision was made to limit the possibility of client-directed process but this approach may be
underestimating the intervention effect; however, less preferred with clients from cultures that em-
28 participants in the feedback condition (29.47% phasize deference to professionals.
across both studies) still had at least one session Second, future research should focus on why
with missing data (i.e., the ORS and SRS was not PCOMS has been found effective for all clients
given). The impact of not using PCOMS every not just those identiﬁed at risk for terminating
session is unknown; it is plausible that inclusion prematurely. Research on monitoring outcome
of data with sessions skipped led to underestimat- throughout treatment (Lambert et al., 2005) has
ing the treatment effects. However, the differ- generally indicated that outcome is only en-
ences in treatment outcome gains were not dif- hanced for those who are projected to do poorly
ferent for this group compared to participants in treatment. However, it is not understood why
with no missing data. Future research could com- clients progressing as expected would beneﬁt.
pare tracking outcome every second or third ses- Therapists, in this case, would not appear to have
sion to every session, particularly given that some a need to change or alter anything. A possible
clinics and university counseling centers already study would be to compare PCOMS to other
use continuous assessment systems in such a continuous assessment systems. PCOMS assesses
manner. the therapeutic relationship with all clients, but
A related limitation was not monitoring treat- Lambert and colleagues’ signal system uses a
ment integrity. No manipulation checks were measure of the therapeutic relationship only after
done to assess how well PCOMS was imple- a client is identiﬁed as deteriorating or not pro-
mented. Completing the measures is only part of gressing as expected (e.g., Whipple et al., 2003).
the system; it was unknown if the measures were Both acknowledge the importance of the thera-
discussed and implemented within session appro-
peutic relationship in relation to outcome (Hor-
priately. In addition, participant and therapist dy-
vath & Bedi, 2002), but does the ability to discuss
ads who complied with the study protocol may
problems with the therapeutic alliance immedi-
have been different from dyads that did not com-
ately with clients, rather than retrospectively,
ply. Therapists complied with some clients but
not other clients. Reasons cited by therapists matter?
were: “I forgot” or “I was too busy” or “The Third, future study should also consider the
client could not wait.” It seems reasonable that potential inﬂuence of demand characteristics or
client characteristics inﬂuenced therapist compli- social desirability inﬂating the scores due to com-
ance, as well as general therapist attitudes toward pleting the measures in the therapist’s presence
using the system. Resistance to using the system and then discussing the scores with the therapist.
was not perceived to be a general problem, but it This appears more likely to be a problem for the
certainly did occur at some level. Conversely, SRS than the ORS. Many clients do hide things
some of the therapists expressed frustration at from their therapist, but they are more likely to
having a useful tool at their disposal but not being withhold an immediate negative reaction to the
able to use it with certain clients in the no- therapist or session than to hide or misrepresent
feedback condition, particularly clients they felt their level of distress (Farber, 2003). An addi-
were not progressing. It may be that some ther- tional possibility is that seeing the measures con-
apists were applying the system verbally with sistently may create an expectancy effect that
these clients. improvement should occur. Conversely, having
access to weekly feedback regarding the relation-
ship may serve to heighten attention and focus on
the therapeutic alliance and promote active col-
Given the positive results, continued replica- laboration. Yet another possibility is that having a
tion and extension of research using PCOMS is visual prompt may also make a difference. It is
warranted. Four suggestions are provided for well-established that receiving feedback on per-
consideration. First, a current limitation of formance can promote positive behavior change
PCOMS is that little research exists that ad- (e.g., Alvero, Bucklin, & Austin, 2001). An ex-
dresses effectiveness with individuals from di- ample perhaps analogous to therapy is that fre-
Reese, Norsworthy, and Rowlands
quent weighing has been found to promote utility. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
weight loss for dieters (Wing & Hill, 2001). 69, 197–204.
BORDIN, E. S. (1979). The generalizability of the psycho-
Last, it has been suggested that utilizing client analytic concept of working alliance. Psychotherapy:
outcome data may be beneﬁcial to clinical train- Theory, Research and Practice, 16, 252–260.
ing and supervision (Worthen & Lambert, 2007). BROWN, G. S., & JONES, E. R. (2005). Implementation of
Speciﬁcally, this would involve taking the out- a feedback system in a managed care environment:
come data provided by clients and utilizing that What are patients teaching us? Journal of Clinical Psy-
chology, 61, 187–198.
information within clinical supervision. Worthen DUNCAN, B. L., MILLER, S. D., SPARKS, J. A., CLAUD,
and Lambert (2007) proposed that using client D. A., REYNOLDS, L. R., BROWN, J. B., et al. (2003). The
outcome data would facilitate the supervisor’s Session Rating Scale: Preliminary psychometric prop-
ability to provide speciﬁc and critical feedback to erties of a “working alliance” measure. Journal of Brief
Therapy, 3, 3–12.
trainees. Hoffman, Hill, Holmes, and Freitas FARBER, B. A. (2003). Patient self-disclosure: A review of
(2005) noted that almost all supervisors withhold the research. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59, 589 –
feedback regarding performance, although spe- 600.
ciﬁc feedback is considered a good marker of H ARMON , S. C., L AMBERT , M. J., S MART , D. M.,
supervision (Lehrman-Waterman & Ladany, HAWKINS, E., NIELSEN, S., SLADE, K., et al. (2007).
Enhancing outcome for potential treatment failures:
2001). Research could assess whether using Therapist-client feedback and clinical support tools.
PCOMS in supervision helps supervisees provide Psychotherapy Research, 17, 379 –392.
more speciﬁc and critical feedback. HAWKINS, E. J., LAMBERT, M. J., VERMEERSCH, D. A.,
With the increased need to demonstrate psy- SLADE, K. L., & TUTTLE, K. C. (2004). The therapeutic
chotherapy’s utility due to such forces as man- effects of providing patient progress information to
therapists and patients. Psychotherapy Research, 14,
aged care and third-party reimbursement, mea- 308 –327.
suring the progress of treatment as it occurs has HOFFMAN, M. A., HILL, C. E., HOLMES, S. E., & FREITAS,
become an emerging area of study with exciting G. F. (2005). Supervisor perspective on the process and
results. Ongoing feedback has been found to pre- outcome of giving easy, difﬁcult, or no feedback to
supervisees. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52,
vent premature termination and to help meet the 3–13.
needs of clients in a more effective, efﬁcient HORVATH, A. O., & BEDI, R. P. (2002). The alliance. In
manner. Overall, the results of this study indi- J. C. Norcross (Ed.), Psychotherapy relationships that
cated that the PCOMS approach of providing work: Therapist contributions and responsiveness to pa-
outcome feedback on a client’s progress and the tients (pp. 37–70). New York, NY: Oxford University
counseling relationship is a useful approach and JACOBSON, N. S., & TRUAX, P. (1991). Clinical signiﬁ-
is consistent with ﬁndings by the developers. cance: A statistical approach to deﬁning meaningful
Although more research certainly needs to be change in psychotherapy research. Journal of Consult-
conducted, this system appears to hold promise ing and Clinical Psychology, 59, 12–19.
given its ease of use and encouraging results. LAMBERT, M. J., BURLINGAME, G. M., UMPHRESS, V.,
HANSEN, N. B., VERMEERSCH, D. A., CLOUSE, G. C., &
YANCHAR, S. C. (1996). The reliability and validity of
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