Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) work with individuals, families, and couples of all types. We assess, diagnose and treat the full range of mental and emotional disorders. So, the title “marriage and family therapist” doesn’t provide the whole picture of what we do.
Tyra and I both hear a lot of horror stories. It goes with the territory. Therapy is hard work, and community mental health work is especially challenging. Clients may have severe mental health problems, other major health concerns, substance use struggles, inconsistent employment or housing, and a wide variety of other social and environmental problems — all overlapping. The therapists doing their best to help clients in these settings are themselves often overworked and underpaid. Many are in the early stages of their careers, making it more difficult to know what’s normal in that kind of work setting. How can you tell when a work environment in community mental health is need of fixing? How can you tell when it’s better to just leave?
It’s fairly common knowledge that the gender balance of a profession and the pay in that profession are correlated. Jobs populated primarily by women pay less, on average, than those populated primarily by men. But it’s rare to get a clear sense of why that’s the case. The therapy world offers a rare exception. It used to be that most therapists were men. Today, the overwhelming majority are women — and pay is meaningfully lower. But we actually know which change came first.
Therapists and counselors are increasingly required to formally gather outcome data on their work. This is good: The more data that we have on our work, the more intentional and effective our clinical decisions can become. Regularly collecting and attending to outcome data, therefore, suggests constant movement towards improvement.
Many therapists struggle, however, with questions about what data to gather, and how to best gather it. Even among those who philosophically agree that regularly collecting outcome data helps to more meaningfully direct therapy, they often don’t do it.
Thankfully, there are a number of easy ways for therapists to collect outcome data. Many come at no cost. The following are just three of the many different tools/assessments therapists can use to collect and interpret outcome data.
Language fascinates me. As therapists, we use language to reframe situations, craft metaphors, and ultimately instill feelings of hope. We recognize how powerful this tool is, so we carefully select our words when in sessions with clients. If only we did the same outside of sessions.
I love speaking with associates, trainees, and students at various events and settings. I’ve heard about the highs and lows of the journey to licensure, the successes and struggles, the hopeful and (seemingly) hopeless situations. One of the statements that always gets to me is “I’m just a(n) ___” (student, trainee, associate).
“Just.” As in “simply,” “only,” “no more than.” Imagine how quickly you would point out the use of this word to a client, drawing their attention to the potential consequences of viewing themselves in a negative light. Unfortunately, we’re not always good at catching ourselves when we do this.