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Interview with Mike Petree, Research Conversation Continues

It has not even been a year since you knocked people’s socks off with your talk about research at Therapeutic Consulting Association’s (TCA) first meeting. I wanted to circle back with you after my interview with Katie Massey about the different types of research. I wanted to chat with you about some of the specific independent research that is happening in treatment programs around the country.


Is there a standard of efficacy research required of the field’s Members? I know that the wilderness programs’ OBHC requires basic outcomes study.

At this point NATSAP is not requiring that members collect outcomes data though they have developed a Research Designated Program endorsement that will be launched at the 2016 annual conference.


How many programs are participating?

There are approximately 80 programs, all of whom are members of OBHC and/or NATSAP involved in the study now with new programs joining regularly.


Where does the research live, when all the data is put together from programs?

The data are owned by each individual program and stored in their OutcomeTools account. Up to this point the consented data are scrubbed of identifying information and exported to Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Center researchers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) on an annual basis. OBHRC has control over the de-identified data set, though any interested researcher can submit a request to study the data set. All research proposals, other than those commissioned by NATSAP, are reviewed by the NATSAP Institutional Review Board (IRB).


What is the process of OBHRC getting the information out?

Once the de-identified data set is received by the UNH researchers it is sorted by matched sets. A matched set, at a minimum, is comprised of both admit and discharge surveys completed by the same client or parent.

OBHRC analyzes this data set and provides membership-wide and program-specific outcomes back to the researching programs, and publishes the combined data.


What constitutes a matched set for a program?

A full matched set includes a participant’s data collected at admission, discharge and 6 and 12 months post discharge. Providers with at least 30 matched sets qualify to receive an individualized report about their individual outcomes. This report includes statements of strength and weakness evidenced by the data. Programs are able to see where their performance lands in comparison to the aggregate mean. No program can compare themselves directly to another program but only to the average performance.

Regarding dissemination of the results to the broader world, UNH and a growing team of researchers from several other institutions publish and present on the results with increasing frequency. Last year there were 11 APA presentations using the NATSAP data set. There have been dozens of peer reviewed publications in scholarly journals.


How many programs have complete sets of data?

There are approximately 50 programs with the minimum number of matched sets of data. We expect this number to double in 2016.


What are the next steps to getting research to the next level? 

The research will reach the next level when the sample size of the aggregate database and diversity of participating programs increases. If we keep in mind that in this phase of research we are essentially facilitating a thorough scan of the environment in search of unusual treatment success then it makes sense that we need to obtain data on as many different types of programs and clients as possible. Once the data set and number of programs, let say triples, then the results will strongly point to other areas for exploration. For example, with the existing data set there is already sufficient power to investigate certain questions such as “What is the relationship between being transported and outcomes?”


petreeMike Petree, MA, has been a therapist at a wilderness therapy program and a non profit IOP in New York City. He is now a champion of independent outcomes-based research. He has a masters in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. 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.
Mike previously contributed the blog “Independent Outcome Research”.