Why assessment is critical at every stage of treatment

By: Dr. Cheri Shapiro, Director

In an earlier post, I spoke about the role of assessment in treatment.  In delivering evidence-based interventions for social, emotional, or behavioral challenges in youth, most intervention manuals, guidelines, or protocols call for some type of assessment of presenting concerns, usually at the beginning and end of treatment.  One rationale is to have a better understanding of exactly what the challenges are when you begin, and to know if you were successful at the end.

However, there is a lot that happens between the “beginning” and the “ending” of treatment, and there are many ways to find out how treatment is progressing.  One approach is to use a measurement tool at each session, or, every few sessions, in order to understand what gains have been made or what challenges remain, and to track for new problems that could arise.  For example, short instruments designed to assess symptoms of anxiety, stress, or substance use can be given frequently during treatment (such as the Beck Depression Inventory).  Other measures may ask about more generally how a client is feeling (such as the Outcome Rating Scale).  Yet other measures are designed to track the therapist-client relationship (such as the Session Rating Scale).

Importantly, we cannot always rely on our professional opinion to know when or if a client is improving.  Keeping an open mind and inquiring along the way – by collecting data from and with our clients – can help us be more effective in treatment planning and delivery.  The families we serve are our most important collaborators in the process, and their progress is the ultimate driver of our work.

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