What’s the issue?
We have worked with a number of counselling organisations over the years (in both the public and charity sectors), and one thing keeps coming up: The options for digitising client outcome monitoring are – to say the least – limited.
What’s being used right now?
The majority of organisations – if they have even moved on from paper forms at all – are using spreadsheets of one type or another. These are usually cobbled together with the best of intentions, but they are really not fit for purpose. Different methodologies are required for each of the instruments (CORE, IES-R, PHQ-7, GAD-9, etc.) in order to glean useful data from them, their functionality is very restricted, and the risk of having an organisation’s client data in a spreadsheet simply cannot be overstated.
What’s actually needed?
We’ve had a number of discussions with counsellors and counselling organisations about this. What the counselling community needs is a way of measuring outcomes which:
- offers a range of monitoring tools
- is easy for both counsellors and clients to use, both in session and remotely
- works consistently across every type of internet-enabled device, from desktop computers to tablets and mobile phones
- saves data automatically, as it is entered
- uses best-in-class security and separates private (identifiable) client data from outcome monitoring
- has easy to understand graphing and reporting for individual clients, client groups, supervision groups, etc.
- has different ‘dashboards’ and user roles for counsellors, supervisors and data officers, based on what data they need to see
- has robust searching and filtering options
- is fully DPA and GDPR compliant, including the ability to export and/or delete an individual client’s data per a subject Data Access Request
- has easily exportable, anonymised aggregated outcome reports to send to funders and boards (especially for IAPT funders)
- is extendable, so that organisations can add their own data fields (not every organisation works the same way!)
There are a handful of online solutions available, but – in our discussions with counsellors – they all fail to meet at least some of these requirements. There simply isn’t a tool that satisfies all of these needs – chiefly because what is available was developed years ago, before the modern web and application tooling that we work with every day was available.
What’s the solution?
Well, we’ve discussed this internally, and – in the absence of a suitable tool – we’ve decided to build one!
We know how to work with large datasets. We know how to present that data efficiently. We know how to build secure, accessible, performant web applications which work across all browsers, and also how to supply them as installable apps for mobiles and tablets. We are a technology company which works with and understands the counselling sector. We believe that we can build something truly transformative.
The above list is our starting point. We have plenty of ideas for things we could potentially add to the app, to remove or streamline various common administrative and logistical hurdles for counsellors and counselling organisations. Here are a few of them:
- Client appointment calendars (these could sync with Google Calendar, etc.)
- Built-in, secure chat for ad-hoc client support (which could even work with messaging apps that clients already have, like WhatsApp or Messenger)
- Automated client session reminder emails and/or messages (again, perhaps via SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.)
- A client area, where they can view their appointments, outcomes, stated goals, etc.
- Built-in, secure videoconferencing for remote sessions (we could perhaps even provide audio transcription – on a dual-opt-in basis, of course)
- Data input templates and workflows, to ensure that an organisation’s staff are all entering the right data, in the right way
- Automated follow-up forms for client feedback
- Your idea here!
Would you like to be involved?
We have a few organisations involved, but this project is at a very early stage – and we would like to solicit opinions and feedback from a wide variety of potential users (fully funded organisations, counselling charities, individual counsellors, counselling collectives, etc.), to help inform our initial product roadmap.
To thank those who help us to steer this project in the right direction, we plan to provide free or reduced-cost access to the product (based on the level of involvement, from sending us ideas to being part of the software testing phase).
Please get in touch if you’d like to participate, telling us:
- what type of organisation you are (charity, collective, individual, etc.)
- how you currently record your clients’ outcome measures
- what your current difficulties are with this process
- what would be transformative for you in a product like this
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