Measuring mental health treatment across Canada - Is it time for a coordinated framework?

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Measuring progress has been shown to improve patient health outcomes, so it should come as no surprise that when therapists integrate progress measurement in therapy, client outcomes improve (Lambert et al. 2001). When done in a coordinated way, consistent progress measurement also allows for performance evaluation of broad mental health systems, providing insight into their impact and to inform further system change. Despite this opportunity, Canadian Mental Health and Addictions policies do not mandate a pan-Canadian progress measurement framework.

This gap is articulated in a recently published journal article titled, “Mental health and addictions policy priorities and performance measurement frameworks”, which demonstrates both the need to develop a Canada-wide progress measurement framework and the benefits of doing so. The article summarizes the current state of progress measurement strategies used in provincial healthcare systems and presents several key conclusions that should be considered when implementing a cross country framework.

One conclusion is the finding that progress measurement tools not only benefit the therapist – client relationship, by improving individual outcomes, but when progress indicators related back to policy priorities, progress measurement also promotes system objectives on a macro level (Sirotich et al, 2019). This means that a well thought out progress measurement framework will positively impact individuals and contribute to meeting strategic objectives.

With that being said, the article notes that most provinces and territories do not currently have progress measurement frameworks in place, and of those that do, the domains and indicators being measured are inconsistent between regions. While there is some overlap in the measurement of indicators such as accessibility, efficiency, and service use (Sirotich et al, 2019) it is clear that there is a need for a consistent measurement framework.

With this in mind, the authors note that the development of shared definitions, core concepts, and shared language related to mental health systems and service models will be essential to the development of an effective progress measurement framework across all Canadian provinces and territories (Sirotich et al, 2019). A national approach would make it possible to compare  mental health and addictions outcomes across the country and to learn from the  data to inform continued improvement in the Canadian mental healthcare system.

To read more, you can check out the original article here.


  • Lambert, M. J., Whipple, J. L., Smart, D. W., Vermeersch, D.A., Nielsen, S. L. (2001). The effects of providing therapists with feedback on patient progress during psychotherapy: Are outcomes enhanced? Psychotherapy Research, 11, 1, 49‐68.
  • Sirotich, F., Adair, C.E., Durbin, J., Lin, E., Canning, C. (2019). Mental health and addictions policy priorities and performance measurement frameworks. Healthcare Management Forum. DOI: 10.1177/0840470418810273