Whatever the exact field a counselling practitioner works in, their orientation or the type of clients they work with, one goal should always remain the same: aiding and bolstering the client in the process of changing their behaviour, attitude, mental or emotional processes and/or other personal characteristics from an undesired into a desired state. The counsellor may gauge the client’s progress themselves, but that tactic is invariably biased if used only by itself. Hence, the need for neutral raters, otherwise not involved in the sessions, and client-reported progress and outcome reports. There are two typical ways of receiving information from clients about the progress and outcome results of therapy; research studies and rapport with the client.
Psychotherapeutic research generally has two goals to achieve, which often overlap in individual studies. One is validating the results and efficacy of counselling; these are customarily called outcome studies. The other goal is understanding the process of change within a client, and it’s causes; studies that are primarily focused on these results are called progress studies.
Outcome studies have been validating the use of different types of counselling as an effective solution to helping clients with various psychological issues for decades. The more complex question of how and why counselling and psychotherapy are effective is a matter that needs to be researched further. The data from various studies point to the therapeutic relationship (often differently termed across varying schools of thought) as being the most influential factor on the client’s road to improved well-being. Other factors shown to be prominent are the client’s attitude and the therapist’s competence, both of which are interwoven with the therapeutic relationship. These studies are targeted towards the counselling community at large, as they reveal and point to the information that is vital in improving counselling methods.
Therapists might ask for an outcome report directly from the client. Pertinent areas of inquiry include desired vs. achieved outcome, progress and breakthroughs in therapy, or the client’s impression of the therapist and the approach used. This information can be used generally, in the same context as the ones gathered from research studies, but their greater value lies in appraising them individually.
Perhaps the most significant value of receiving input directly from the client is the opportunity for the counselling practitioner to improve their own approach and methods. For example, practitioners may sometimes be oblivious to something they do that makes the client close off, or open up, which they only learn about after being told directly. They can find out how they are perceived by the client and what aspects of their approach work best for individual clients.
Both methods, direct and through studies, of receiving input from counselling clients have their place and purpose in the advancement of therapy and therapists. Gathering information through studies gives us a better understanding of the therapeutic value of counselling. This information serves to synthesise the efforts of various therapists and give basis for creating even more effective methods. It also validates and explains the counselling process to the general public. Input directly received from the client serves the therapist primarily, and in effect any future clients. Thus, both methods have their worth in understanding and further advancing counselling and its benefits.