One of the best ways psychology students can enhance their clinical skills is to ask their clients at every session about how they think their therapy is progressing, finds a study in the August issue of Training and Education in Professional Psychology (Vol. 3, No. 3).
The researchers studied two groups: 11 marriage and family and clinical-counseling psychology students whose clients gave them continuous feedback and a control group whose members received no feedback.
At the start of each session, students in the feedback group asked their clients to answer four questions on how they felt they might be progressing in terms of their relationships with family and friends, productivity at work or school, and overall well-being. Then at the end of the session, clients evaluated the quality of their relationship with the therapist, the goals and topics discussed, and the therapist's approach, says study author Jeff Reese, PhD, a counseling psychology professor at the University of Kentucky.
"Evidence shows the therapeutic alliance is a strong predictor of treatment outcomes," Reese says.
The researchers found that trainees in the feedback group were twice as effective as those who received no client feedback. The study also showed that students in the feedback group had more accurate perceptions of their performance in terms of actual patient outcomes, while the therapists who received no feedback tended to think they helped more than they actually did.
Tracking clients' progress and their perspective of the therapy relationship can also give supervisors valuable insights into their students' skills, Reese says. Given these findings, students preparing for practica or internships may want to ask whether they will have a chance to gather client feedback, and, if not, talk to their supervisors about getting trained to implement a simple survey like the one used in this study, which is available for free online.
"There's really solid evidence demonstrating that these measures are helpful to the therapy process," Reese says.