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Independent Outcome Research — with Mike Petree

Mike Petree, thanks for doing this interview with All Kinds of Therapy.  I had the opportunity to see you present to potential members of the new Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA) about research – to a room full of consultants and they were excited.  Outcome Research is not a topic that that generally gets people riled up, but you managed to do it.  You have a passion for this that is oozing out of you.   I knew when hands were flying up with questions, I needed to pin you down for an interview to get this information out there.  In short, THANK YOU in advance.


Would you tell me about how long independent outcomes based research has been going on going on for Private Pay Behavioral Health & Wilderness Therapy Programs?

The NATSAP and OBHC outcomes initiatives have been running for about 7 years. The Young Adult Transition Association, the Therapeutic Consultants Association and the Network of Independent Interventionists are all seeding new research initiatives now.  

I think it’s important to mention some of the research leaders that have been doing this work for years:  Aspen Education Group, Inner Change, RedCliff Ascent, Anasazi, Aspiro, Second Nature and The Pine River Institute are freshest on my mind. I feel some hesitance in mentioning names because I’m confident that this short list is not comprehensive.  I’d like to follow up with you and provide links to reports from as many programs as I can find in a future blog.


How many programs are there total that you are going after to get on board?  

Without being glib… every program is in our sights.  The power of this kind of aggregate outcomes research is a function of the sample size and the diversity of treatment options represented. Our team is working with 3 other organizations outside of the NATSAP and OBHC groups to create separate but merging aggregate outcomes projects.  This means that, in time, we will have hundreds of contributing programs.  


Would you mind sharing the other groups names — so the readers can see the big picture?

The Young Adult Transition Association, the Therapeutic Consulting Association and the Network of Independent Interventionists.


How many programs are doing research now vs. 5 years ago?

There are nearly 80 NATSAP programs participating in/signed up for the study with approximately 25 just five years ago.  Somewhere around 20 programs have signed up within the last 12 months.


Are there consultants or interventionists doing outcomes research — to show that their work is valid?

Yes, the process of data collection for consultants and interventionists is a bit daunting.  A handful of early adopters in both camps have signed on and we are beta- testing a couple of different data collection models.  Both the interventionists and the consultants who are in the beta process are exploring how to bring the data collection to their colleagues at an association level.


What do you attribute the change to?

Up to this point, programs have been able to run their businesses without demonstrating effectiveness but the market is changing. When nobody was collecting data, the field, in general, dealt with questions about outcomes with anecdotes of success or by deflecting the discussion through questioning what real “success” is. It appears that early adopters have had success in demonstrating effectiveness and thereby changing the culture around reporting success rates.  Also, NATSAP and OBHC, as associations, have invested more in promoting and requiring outcomes measurement. The Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA) included ongoing research as a requirement for membership.


What is your relationship with the research being done?

Metaphorically, if the individual client data is a grain of wheat, we are the combines and the researchers are the bakers. Back when I started working with outcomes at the Ascent Companies, the missing link was the logistical coordination of data collection for us and almost everybody else who was working at it.


How many independent research studies are there?

Off the top of my head I’m aware of around a dozen among those in the NATSAP/OBHC arenas. I’m confident that there are more.


What should a parent know when a program is telling them they do outcomes-based research, besides that it is being done by an independent third (3rd) party?

A parent should find out if the instruments used are normed and valid, whether the outcomes are published and available, whether the program is participating in a larger research initiative, the size and make-up of the sample and how far after discharge the data is collected.


Can you give me a link to your website, where families can read more about what is going on?


Mike Petree, MA,  has been a wilderness therapist, a consultant for a New York City Outpatient Therapy Practice and a champion of independent outcomes-based research. He now runs Petree Consulting Inc and the Remote Research Director Service.  Please feel free to contact him at to find out more about the research that is underway, as well as implications research has already revealed.