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Why it's Important To Measure Patient Progress

Research has shown that consistent use of objective measures in therapy improves overall treatment outcomes. One study found that when patient progress was measured in treatment, twice as many patients improved, and at-risk patients stayed in therapy longer and were less likely to deteriorate (Lambert et al. 2001).

Studies have identified the following four items as some of the major benefits derived from measuring patient progress.

More Change
higher likelihood that a client experiences reliable change
higher overall improvement in clinical symptoms
Less dropout
lower dropout or cancellation rates and 25% lower no-show rate
Research Changed

Four main benefits of measuring patient progress

Increased patient engagement

Displaying a patient’s progress results helps to create transparency and a sense of control for a patient over their treatment process. This has been shown to reinforce patients’ motivation and engagement in the therapy process. One study showed that administering an outcome measure reduces patient cancellations and no-show rates throughout treatment (Bohanske & Franczak, 2010).

Earlier detection of health changes

Regular symptom tracking can allow therapists to detect changes in health status and intervene early if necessary. Studies have shown that assessment results in the first three sessions of therapy are highly predictive of a positive or negative treatment outcome. It is important for therapists to be able to identify patients who are at risk of deterioration with a particular treatment plan. For these patients, measurement provides the greatest benefit (Lambert, 2007).

Reduced provider biases

Real-time measurement and monitoring will allow therapists to obtain a more accurate picture of their patients’ well-being and reduce the impact of recall bias on therapy. Measurement does not replace a therapist’s method for decision-making, but instead, supplements and supports the traditional process with additional objective information.

Improved communication

Research has demonstrated that measurement has a positive effect on communication (Carlier et al. 2012), which may improve clarity and alignment on treatment goals between the patient and therapist. Since patients are in the best position to assess how they are doing, measurement and display of progress may help patients identify and discuss information that is relevant to their treatment, which they otherwise may not have shared.


Goodman, J.D., McKay, J.R., Dephilippis, D., (2013). Progress Monitoring in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment: A Means of Improving Care. Philadelphia: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2013, Vol. 44, No. 4, 231–246.

Carlier, I. V. E., Meuldijk, D., Van Vliet, I. M., Van Fenema, E., Van der Wee, N. J. A., & Zitman, F. G. (2012) Routine outcome monitoring and feedback on physical or mental health status: evidence and theory. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Reese, R. J., Toland, M. D., Slone, N. C., & Norsworthy, L. A. (2010) Effect of client feedback on couple psychotherapy outcomes. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training.

Reese, R. J., Norsworthy, L. A., & Rowlands, S. R. (2009) Does a continuous feedback system improve psychotherapy outcome? Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training.

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Lambert, M.J., (2007). Progress Feedback and the OQ-System: The Past and the Future. Brigham Young University: APA Psychotherapy: 2015, Vol. 52, No. 4, 381–390.

Harmon, C., Lambert, M. J., Slade, K. L., & Smart, D. W. (2007). Enhancing outcome for potential treatment failures: Therapist/client feedback and clinical support tools. Psychotherapy Research, 17, 379– 392.

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Lambert, M. J., Harmon, C., Slade, K., Whipple, J. L., & Hawkins, E. J. (2005). Providing Feedback to Psychotherapists on Their Patient’ Progress: Clinical Results and Practice Suggestions. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 165‐174.

Whipple, J. L, Lambert, M. J., Vermeersch, D.A., Smart, D. W., Nielsen, S. L., Hawkins, E. J. (2003). Improving the Effects of Psychotherapy: The Use of Early Identification of Treatment Failure and Problem‐ Solving Strategies in Routine Practice. Journal of Counseling Psycholtogy, 50, 1, 59‐68.

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Lambert, M. J., Whipple, J. L., Bishop, M. J., Vermeersch, D. A., Gray, G. V., & Finch, A. E. (2002). Comparison of empirically derived and rationally derived methods for identifying clients at risk for treatment failure. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 9, 149–164.

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