New Tool to Measure Cognitive Therapy Skills

One of the goals of cognitive therapy is to teach clients how to identify and transform their emotions and behaviors. Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety, and other psychological problems can often benefit from various forms of cognitive therapy (CT) if the skills taught are acquired successfully and retained. One of the biggest challenges for clinicians and clients is the lack of effective tools to measure the development of CT skills. Robin B. Jarrett of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, recently led a team that developed a new tool to measure CT skills. “At present, there are few measures available that attempt to assess all of the components of patients’ CT skill level (e.g., comprehension and usage),” said the team. They noted that although there some tools available, including the Performance of Cognitive Therapy skills Scale (PCTS), they are not always viable options. “Because the PCTS ratings rely on videotape review and content-analytic methods by raters, the PCTS is impractical for most practitioners to use and likewise may be difficult for researchers to use in large samples,” they said.

The team believes their new tool will fill this void. The Skills of Cognitive Therapy-Patient Version (SoCT-P) and the Observer Version (SoCT-O) were introduced in a trial involving 15 therapists and over 300 clients. The clients had been referred for treatment of acute depression prior to the beginning of the study. The researchers hoped that over a 14 week period, the skills learned in CT could be retained at adequate levels by self-reports from the clients (SoCT-P) and therapists reports (SoCT-O). The study revealed that the clients and therapists rated the level of CT skills significantly higher at the completion of the study than at onset. “This result supports the hypothesis that greater patient CT skill (measured at the midpoint) predicts improvements in depressive symptoms (measured at the end of CT),” said the researchers. “The SoCT could be used in clinical practice to identify patients with suboptimal skill and to intervene with adjunctive therapeutic tools designed to boost patient learning.”

Jarrett, Robin B., Jeffrey R. Vittengl, Lee Anna Clark, and Michae E. Thase. “Skills of Cognitive Therapy (SoCT): A New Measure of Patients’ Comprehension and Use.”Psychological Assessment 23.3 (2011): 578-86. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • martha


    September 16th, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    Don’t know about this. I am a little skeptical that “success” in this realm can be measured in any kind of real and meaningful way. Why is it not enough that you can look at and talk to your patients and see that they are making progress? What is wrong with that? I mean if you think about it, it is all subjective. There is no one thing that is going to determine success. What means full success for one is small steps to another! I think we should be happy with the progress that can be viewed and heard on a daily basis as one makes his journey toward whole and healthy again.

  • Owen Bild

    Owen Bild

    September 16th, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    Directed at Martha: I agree with you to an extent. While success is in the eye of the beholder, substantial improvements are not and can be measured effectively. This progress is leading to success. Arguably, in the real world success doesn’t exist for CT as improvements can always be made.

    I am assuming that their definition of success is just progress to a reasonable extent. However, if they do not consider this success than I completely agree with you. Too bad this wasn’t made clearer by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

  • Jamie


    September 16th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    When I read the words Measure and Therapy together, I was like What?! Therapy and it’s effects are not measurable quantities and of the measurement tests(details of which are not known to me) try and ‘calculate’ by asking the patients a few questions then really, it is not worth it!

  • Joan


    September 17th, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    I can’t be such a downer about this. I have to at least think that if there is any progress being made then it is a step in the right direction. Some good news is better than nothing!

  • Robert Yourell

    Robert Yourell

    September 19th, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    This may not be so useful as a clinical tool. But if subsequent research shows a correlation between the tool and actual improvement in symptoms or behavior, then then more understanding will begin to emerge as to the active ingredients of psychotherapy, which is one of the most important subjects in the field, in my opinion. Also, a variant of the tool, or lessons learned from it, might contribute to the tools available to teach clients cognitive skills.

  • Bob K

    Bob K

    September 23rd, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    I have read the comments on measuring CBT. I have been directed by my superior to come up with a before and after device to measure CBT. The measurable results would be used for grants etc. Any suggestions?

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