The person of tomorrow takes an expansive view […] recognizing that expanding our range of epistemologies and methods of inquiry can only be useful in addressing the overwhelming complexity we face […] We come to recognize that all knowledge is local, coloured and framed by culture and context.”
– Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester (2019, pp.119-120).
My intention when designing consultancy projects is to invite participants to join me in a “community of practice” (Lave & Wenger, 1991) in which empowered learning and change occurs through participation and openness to our shared knowledge, skills and experiences so that together we can explore, develop, and integrate new perspectives.
My consultancy activities have evolved from my PhD research (Stephen, 2020) and have two main purposes: (1) recognising, valuing, and facilitating congruent functioning, not only as an outcome of person-centred therapy but also as a fundamental 21st century competence (O’Hara & Leicester, 2019); and (2) developing an informed approach to outcome measurement in counselling.
The main experience on which I draw in this part of my work is my five years as Coordinator of the Strathclyde Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Clinic, working collaboratively with Professor Robert Elliott and several cohorts of trainee counsellors and research associates at the University of Strathclyde. This was a community counselling service offering free counselling to clients willing to take part in research about their experience. I learned about the joys and challenges of designing and supporting a diverse range of research activities (both quantitative and qualitative) alongside the counselling process, as well as analysing data and disseminating the results.
In addition, I developed effective skills in project management, the heart of a successful consultancy service, during my previous working lives in human resources management and corporate governance, as well as in my recent experiences of higher education teaching and research.
Finally, I have experience of designing and delivering workshops (e.g. in one day, or as a short series of weekly sessions) and facilitating longer-term courses (over 1 – 2 years). I have formalised my understanding of the teaching, learning and assessment process through gaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice from the University of Strathclyde in 2018, and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
I am interested in working with counselling services who wish to use outcome measurement in an informed and effective way. Research shows that successfully implementing outcome measurement in routine practice is not possible when counsellors are not motivated by its purpose, disengaged in the process, and feel overwhelmed by additional demands (Farr et al., 2019). Therefore my approach involves a collaborative process in which we reflect with you and your colleagues on your service’s purposes in using outcome measurement, review the effectiveness of existing methods, and if necessary redesign them together in order to better fit the ethics, values, goals, and resources of your service.
My core workshop is designed to support counsellors to develop an informed approach to outcome measurement, illustrated by data collected using the Strathclyde Inventory (Freire, 2007), a brief self-report instrument designed to measure congruent functioning, a theoretically-coherent measure of outcome in person-centred therapy.
The workshop will appeal to anyone who carries out outcome measurement in their counselling practice (or is curious about it), especially if they are interested in research that investigates person-centred theory in practice. It can be organised as a one day event (in person only) or as a series of four sessions, each of 1.5 hours duration (in person or online), and can be adapted according to the specific context of your counselling service.
• We begin with an introductory session in which we can share our experiences of the influence, challenges, myths, and creative opportunities associated with outcome measurement in counselling. The purpose of this session is to identify and consider how we use (and misuse) outcome measurement in practice.
• The second session introduces the Strathclyde Inventory: both the development of the instrument and what I discovered about how it works when analysing data collected from 385 clients who accessed counselling at the Strathclyde Counselling & Psychotherapy Research Clinic. We have the opportunity to develop our understanding of the type of ‘standards’ used to assess the ‘validity’ of outcome measures and also to consider the degree to which we feel that the Strathclyde Inventory reflects our understanding of congruent functioning in theory and our experiences in practice.
• The third session looks at patterns of change in clients’ scores across therapy, illustrated by my Strathclyde Inventory data, and consider if these patterns fit with our experience and theoretical understanding of change during therapy. It will also demonstrate that different ways of analysing change can present different pictures of the same dataset! This offers us the chance to explore again the possibilities and limitations in the ways that we use outcome measurement within our counselling practice.
• The final session focuses on the similarities and differences in therapy for eight individual clients: four whose scores on the Strathclyde Inventory suggested ‘improvement’ in their congruent functioning by the end of therapy, and four whose post-therapy scores suggested ‘deterioration’. This is an opportunity to consider the relationship between abstract representations of outcome (in the form of scores) and the wider context of the client’s experience in therapy, as well as explore what we might learn from these clients’ experiences that we can take back into our own practices.
In addition, I can provide a data analysis service in which I carry out key analyses on the quantitative and/or qualitative data that your service has collected. This allows you to focus on delivering your service while I prepare results that you can share with stakeholders and to support reflective learning about, and development of, your service.
If you are interested in finding out more about what I can offer your counselling service, please contact me.
Farr, J., Di Malta, G., & Cooper, M. (2019). Pilot randomised controlled trial of counselling in a community mental health setting: Pitfalls and learnings. Counselling & Psychotherapy Review. DOI: 10.1002/capr.12262.
Freire, E. S. (2007). The Strathclyde Inventory: A psychotherapy outcome measure based on the person-centred theory of change. Unpublished MSc dissertation, University of Strathclyde.
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.
O’Hara, M. & Leicester, G. (2019). Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century. Triarchy Press.
Stephen, S. (2020). The Strathclyde Inventory as a Measure of Outcome in Person-Centred Therapy. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Strathclyde. .