The year is 1995. Kansas State University doctoral student Lee Johnson sits at his carrell desk, contemplating the possibilities for improving marriages and families as a developing clinician and a researcher. He wonders what it would look like to have access to data from not only his own practice but also from a greater network of therapists. If he could do this, he could better understand clinical change in relational therapy. Flash forward to 2020, when Dr. Johnson’s own doctoral and master’s students are using the Practice Research Network to collect data from each of their clients, contribute to a global dataset, and inform their treatment.
Unsurprisingly, a lot happened in the 25 years between then and now. During his time at Kansas State, Dr. Johnson had the idea to measure his clients’ progress on a variety of levels and combine what he learned with information from other therapists. Technology did him few favors, however, and the tedium of pencil and paper assessments prohibited the idea from really taking root. Over the years, Dr. Johnson and several colleagues, including Rick Miller and Shayne Anderson, tried and tested different iterations of the idea with the available technology. At one point, a system called MFT-CORE was in use by at least four different universities. It included a standardized set of assessments which were administered to every client who presented for therapy. Unlike its predecessors, MFT-CORE was administered digitally by some clinics, with therapists running syntax to score their measures. Other clinics still relied on pencil and paper. While a step in the right direction, this was not the arrangement the developers had in mind.
Finally, during his time at Brigham Young University, technology caught up with Dr. Johnson’s idea. It was now possible to administer standardized measures digitally and have them automatically scored. This was a huge breakthrough! After some challenges with the pilot software, it became clear that the only way to ensure a sustainable, shareable system was to develop a new program on its own. Thus, in January of 2019, the Practice Research Network in its current form was released. Thanks to generous donor funding at BYU, the MFT-PRN is now available for use by any clinic or university worldwide. Clinics share their secure data to create a mutually beneficial system for all involved.
The Practice Research Network caters to therapists and researchers alike, as both endeavors are equally important in the improvement of marriages and families. Dr. Johnson is pleased with the progress he has seen so far, and he hopes to see the MFT-PRN expand into even more countries and clinics all over the world. Join us!