Why tracking client progress is critical

By: Dr. Cheri Shapiro

One important consideration in delivering interventions, especially for evidence-based interventions, is tracking of client outcomes. Tracking client progress is critical. We need to know where youth and families are at the start of an intervention so we can determine if progress is being made toward family goals. This can help us stay on course, or to make corrections if problems do not change or become worse. Gathering data at the end of an intervention can help us verify that we have met our goals.

So, if measuring client functioning is necessary and helpful, why is this activity often overlooked in practice? Common barriers to collecting data or assessment can occur at the level of families, providers, and organizations. Let’s consider each of these in turn.

For families, literacy or patience to complete assessment measures may be barriers. Families may also not understand how this can be helpful for them. For providers, training in use of assessment tools or access to assessment instruments themselves can be barriers. For agencies and organizations, some assessment measures come with a cost.

To overcome these barriers, providers need to give families a clear rationale for why collecting information is important, and to choose methods of gathering information that are feasible, reasonable, and doable for the family. For example, there are free apps for tracking behavior, or simple tracking systems can be devised that do not rely on paper/pencil measures.

The process of gathering information also can serve to enhance the collaboration between families and providers. Families are experts on themselves and their children; collecting information (science!) is a collaborative activity! For providers and organizations, it is important to know that there are many types of measurement instruments that are free, easy to administer, brief, and readily available on the internet. There are apps for tracking mood or behavior, and there are also a wide variety of assessment measures that are available for purchase.

If you are a provider, and you are considering enhancing your ability to collect information on outcomes, but have questions or challenges, we are here to help! Please contact the Center of Excellence via email and we will be happy to help answer questions or to point you in the right direction.

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