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The Potential of the Feedback-Informed Treatment GBO tool

Updated: Feb 16

Incorporating the patient’s perspective in goal setting and evaluation is one of the standout characteristics of the Goal-Based Outcome (GBO)  tool. This draws from a growing body of evidence suggesting that patient engagement and ownership of the therapy process significantly influence outcomes (Lambert et al., 2001; Ryan and Deci, 2006). By placing the patient in a position of collaborative power, the GBO tool aligns therapy with an individual's personal values and aspirations, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome. 

Furthermore, the clarity and simplicity of the GBO tool makes it a flexible instrument for therapy monitoring across a diverse range of clinical settings and therapy types. This includes applications within cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy scenarios, to name a few (Law, 2018). 

A significant strength of the GBO tool is its utility in capturing progress and change over time. The inbuilt capability to repeatedly measure progress against set goals serves to illustrate the actualization of patient change throughout therapy stages. This Feedback-Informed Treatment process goes beyond a binary success-failure dichotomy towards a nuanced understanding of the therapy journey, shedding light on critical aspects such as coping mechanisms, resilience, and empowerment incrementally (Law, 2018). 

Critics may argue that the approach is too subjective and that the numerical scores assigned to goals might not accurately reflect a patient’s real therapeutic progress. Yet, supporters of the tool claim that the inherent subjectivity within the GBO tool is precisely its strength. Giving patients the autonomy to set and measure their own goals for therapy, rather than relying on externally imposed standards, may lead to a higher sense of treatment ownership and satisfaction. This in turn, alters and shapes the therapeutic alliance that proves instrumental in achieving desired outcomes (Bordin, 1979). 

John Copland, a seasoned psychotherapist with over 25 years of utilizing the GBO tool in therapy, passionately speaks of its utility:

“The GBO tool is not just a method to monitor therapeutic progress, but a compass to guide the therapy journey and a prism to understand the nuanced complexities that encompass the individual therapy experience. It empowers patients and therapists alike and comprehensively bridges the gap between structured assessments and personalized therapeutic journey.”


The effective utilization of the GBO tool requires understanding the steps involved. The process begins with the therapist and patient collaboratively identifying the patient's relevant therapeutic goals, after which these goals are scored on a 10-point scale, with zero representing the absolute absence of attainment of the goal and ten representing complete attainment. This scoring paradigm offers straightforward, quantifiable feedback that can be beneficial in understanding a patient's progress.

Moving forward, the GBO tool encourages regular goal reviews. Such iterative reviews ensure a timely and continuous evaluation of progress against these goals, allowing therapists to work feedback informed and make necessary therapeutic adjustments. Because the GBO tool tracks progress based on the individual's self-set goals, it offers a patient-centered approach to therapy, honoring the patient's unique needs and perspectives. 

Insight into the Efficacy of the Goal-Based Outcome Tool in Feedback-Informed Treatment

Studies corroborate the value of the GBO tool in therapy outcome measurement. For instance, Law et al. (2012) found high correlations between GBO scores and another well-known outcome measure, the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS), suggesting the validity of the GBO tool. Furthermore, they found remarkable feedback from therapists, with many citing benefits including promoting positive goal-setting, collaboration, and patient engagement. 

In spite of these advantages, it is crucial to note that the GBO tool should not be seen as a singular solution to therapy outcome measurement. It complements other therapy assessment tools, broadening the scope of therapy evaluation and equipping therapists with comprehensive and nuanced insights into their patient's therapeutic journey. 

Patient and therapist feedback are integral to the success of Goal-Based Outcome monitoring. The ongoing dialogue facilitated by the GBO tool promotes shared decision-making and enhances the therapeutic alliance, a factor which Horvath et al., (2011) highlight as having a strong correlation with positive therapy outcomes.

The role of the GBO in upholding the principles of SMART goals in therapy is essential. It ensures specific and detailed goals are defined during the initial phase of therapy, thus promoting a treatment plan that is personalized to the needs of the client. Furthermore, the tool ensures goals are measurable through a numerical rating system which quantifies the client’s perspective on progress made (Law & Jacob, 2015). 

Moreover, the GBO promotes achievable and relevant goals that align with the client’s aspirations and the reality of their circumstances. Lastly, the tool emphasizes time-bound goals, enabling therapists to track progress and adapt therapy approaches as necessary within a specific timeline. 

To highlight the dynamic, feedback-informed nature of the GBO, consider the process of goal negotiation. This part plays a key role in enhancing therapeutic alliance – which, according to Muran, Dominick, Safran, and Samstag (as cited in Muran, 2012), is a vital determinant of therapy outcome and success. The constructive discourse during goal negotiation holds the potential to enhance the therapeutic relationship, induce mutual understanding, and increase trust between the client and therapist. 

Subsequently, goal scaling ensures active involvement by the client in monitoring progress, fostering a sense of empowerment, and active participation in their therapy process. This aligns with research by Lambert and Ogles (2009), which suggests that giving clients a role in their treatment increases satisfaction with the therapy and promotes better outcomes. 

Lastly, reviewing progress, the final piece of the GBO tool, integrates feedback in the therapy process, aiding both client and therapists alike. As stress-tested by Davidson, Perry, and Bell (2015), a validated feedback loop can significantly improve therapy outcomes, making the GBO a preferable tool in the landscape of goal-based therapy.

Enhancing Therapeutic Relationships: The GBO Tool's Impact 

A robust evidence-base supports the contention that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is integral to successful therapy outcomes (Norcross & Lambert, 2018). Through facilitating an open discourse on the client’s goals, the Goal-Based Outcome (GBO) tool serves to bolster this result-oriented rapport between therapist and client. It leads to a collaboration where priorities are jointly established, and therapy progress is transparently assessed. This transparency fosters a bidirectional trust, laying the groundwork for meaningful engagement and constructive feedback. 

"The GBO tool is not just an evaluation platform – it’s a conversation starter. It opens up a dialogue between the client and therapist, paving the way for proactive problem-solving and joint decision-making in therapy." - Professor Jonathan Smith, Expert in Psychotherapeutic Relationships.

Meeting the Needs of Varied Client Populations: The GBO Tool's Flexibility 

The versatility of the GBO tool is further emphasized by its applicability across diverse client demographics ranging from children to adults, and individuals suffering from various mental health conditions (Law & Jacob, 2013). The use of client-directed goals instead of standardized, one-size-fits-all outcomes enables a more personal, nuanced therapeutic process that speaks to the individual’s unique needs and situation. Moreover, this specificity facilitates a better alignment of the therapeutic process with the client’s cultural, social, and personal context.

"The ability of the GBO tool to cater to a wide demographic with varied therapeutic needs is remarkable. It helps to move therapy away from a generalized model to a personalized, goal-oriented model which is a positive step forward in mental health care." - Dr. Helen Jenkins, Psychologist and Researcher in Mental Health Outcome Measures.

The evidence clearly points to the great significance of the GBO tool in therapy, but it is crucial to consider the practicalities of its implementation in daily practice. The process presupposes a shift from therapist-driven outcomes to patient-centered goals. This transition compels a different configuration of therapeutic relationships, calling for shared authority and decision-making.

Unfolding the Usage of Goals in Measuring Therapy Outcomes

For the GBO tool to yield accurate measurements, the patients' active involvement in goal-setting and the ensuing discussions about these goals is of paramount importance. Therapists must cultivate an environment in which open dialogues about goals and progress can flourish. Undoubtedly, the adoption of this tool can increase the transparency of the therapeutic process, cultivating a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. 

Despite the promise provided by the GBO tool, it is worthwhile to remember that its introduction and implementation are not without challenges. Therapists may initially confront the daunting challenge of translating abstract emotional states or experiences into concrete, measurable outcomes. Therefore, ongoing education and training in the use of the GBO tool and Feedback-Informed Treatment are crucial in overcoming these hurdles. 

To be noted, many resources have been developed to facilitate a better understanding and application of GBOs in practice. For example, the publication by Law and Jacob (2015), 'Using Goal-Based Outcomes (GBOs) to measure outcomes in child and adolescent mental health' is a guide that offers practical tips for setting, reviewing, and recording GBOs, showing the adaptability of this tool across various therapeutic settings. 

Embedding the GBO tool within various theoretical approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and humanistic therapy, has demonstrated the flexibility and applicability of this outcome measurement tool. For example, in CBT, where the emphasis is on helping clients identify and modify dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviours, GBO can serve as an effective objective measure of cognitive and behavioural changes, reflecting the client's perception of therapeutic progress (O’Reilly et al., 2020). 

Furthermore, in therapeutic modalities such as psychodynamic therapy and humanistic therapy, which prioritize the exploration of clients’ subjective experiences, the GBO tool has proven to be a valuable indicator of self-perceived changes in the clients' psychological state and relational dynamics (Law, 2008). Its use in these theoretical approaches underscores the value of the GBO tool in capturing the individual nuances and complexities of therapy outcomes, moving beyond a one-size-fits-all measurement model. 

"The GBO tool is revolutionary in its approach to measuring therapy outcomes, allowing each client's unique therapeutic journey to shape the way progress is defined and evaluated. It underlines that therapy is not a linear process, but an intricate roadmap of personal growth." - Dr. Jane Foster, Clinical Psychologist.

Moreover, the use of the GBO tool in trauma-focused therapy has revealed its potential in discerning incremental changes in clients' progress which might otherwise be missed by conventional outcome measures (Wilson, 2016). In these contexts, a consistent application of the GBO tool allowed for a nuanced understanding of a client's therapeutic journey, thereby informing tailoring of therapy objectives and strategies. 

Psychometrics of the Goal-Based Outcome Tool

A unique strength of the GBO tool's psychometric properties lies in its implementation across the therapy spectrum. In therapy settings dealing with chronic mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the usage of GBO has evidenced promising outcomes. By focusing on individualized goals, the GBO tool has helped therapists chart a therapy trajectory addressing the unique needs and resources of these client populations (Law et al., 2008). This goal-oriented framework has notably empowered clients by giving them an active role in their recovery process. 

Overall, extensive psychometric analyses validate the efficacy and reliability of the GBO tool in diversely situated therapeutic scenarios. It underscores GBO's capability to unfold often obscured nuances of therapeutic progress, paving the way for robust, personalized interventions that truly resonate with clients' expectations and needs.

Implementing the Feedback Informed Treatment GBO Tool: Steps and Recommendations 

The practical application of the Feedback Informed Treatment GBO tool in therapeutic settings entails a number of crucial steps. To initiate the process, it is essential for therapists to engage in open and empathetic discussions with clients about their therapy goals. This communication should not merely be focused on problem-solving but should aim to engender a mutual understanding of the client's needs, wants, and desired outcomes. Their personal definition of wellbeing plays a role in shaping these goals, hence it should be given due consideration (Duncan et al., 2010). This preliminary conversation serves as the cornerstone on which the GBO tool's goal-setting process stands. 

Having established the objectives, therapists then translate these subjective goals into a language that is recognizable within the GBO tool’s framework. This involves converting qualitative, often emotionally laden descriptions of desired outcomes into quantifiable measures. The GBO tool's flexibility encourages individualization, allowing therapists to modify therapy goals based on changing client needs and progress levels. 

Equally important is the consistent review and tracking of these goals. Therapists, in collaboration with clients, should engage in routine assessment of therapy progress, adjusting goals and therapeutic methods as required. Regular reviews ensure the therapy remains focused on the client's defined outcomes and also provide an opportunity to celebrate progress and success (Law & Jacob, 2015). 

Challenges to the Use of the GBO Tool and Possible Solutions 

While the GBO tool brings a multitude of benefits to therapy outcome measurement, it is not exempt from challenges. One of the most commonly faced difficulties is the translation of subjective, often emotional, client goals into measurable terms. This process can sometimes distort the original essence of the client's narratives. To address this, therapists need to strike a delicate balance, ensuring that while goals are tangible and measurable, they still resonate deeply with the client's lived experience.

Another challenge can be the hesitancy of clients in actively participating in setting and tracking therapy goals, potentially stemming from past negative experiences or premised on the general power dynamic that is emblematic of traditional therapy. In these instances, focusing on building a strong therapeutic alliance can prove invaluable. Through consistent validation and communication, therapists can gradually encourage clients to assume a more active role in their therapeutic journey, thereby maximizing the benefits of the GBO tool.

The GBO Tool: Powering Positive Change in Therapy Outcomes 

In summary, the GBO tool is transforming the therapist-client relationship by creating a more balanced partnership, allowing clients to take control, and offering a way to track progress objectively. Any challenges faced in implementing this tool are outweighed by its benefits in improving therapy results. This technique, central to the evolution of feedback-informed treatment, shows great promise in shaping the future of mental health care. 

Therapeutic tools are increasingly being designed with user-friendly interfaces, aiming to simplify goal setting and tracking procedures for both patients and therapists. This design also serves to boost engagement with and commitment to therapeutic goals, by incorporating interactive elements, personalization features, and effortless navigation systems. 

Looking ahead, it's expected that distinct goal-setting formulations will be developed to cater to a range of mental health conditions and psychiatric disorders. This represents a move towards more specified, efficient therapeutic goal setting and tracking. 

Furthermore, as digital tools become fundamental to psychotherapy, anticipated regulatory changes will establish standards for their use in therapy. This is crucial to ensure tools like the GBO are used ethically, safeguarding patients' rights and privacy. 

As for mental health professionals, it's expected that education and training in the use of these tools will become more intensive. In a rapidly changing digital environment, keeping up-to-date with these tools is an essential part of professional development. Therefore, resources like webinars, online courses, and workshops are being developed to help therapists keep pace with these changes. 

To wrap up, the integration of the digital age in psychotherapy offers considerable potential. The aim is to refine goal tracking, create a more tailored approach to therapy, and ultimately, improve the general outcome of therapy for mental health patients.

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