You’re a busy practice owner—you manage a team of mental health professionals at different stages of professional development and experience, and with different goals.

How do you keep them motivated and engaged? How do you keep them happy within your practice, so that it can grow and flourish? So that you can cultivate a caring, tight-knit team of colleagues and friends who support each other?

I believe that PROMs and transparent treatment outcomes are a crucial part of the solution.

Measurement is a precondition for motivation.

Google Fit-bits and Apple watches are now a staple of the fitness industry—allowing people to monitor their sleep, stress, activity and calorie intake 24 hours a day.

An advertisement for the Fit-bit reads:

The new Fitbit app: it’s all about you.
Designed to keep you close to your goals, boost your motivation and show your progress on your health and fitness journey.

And we know this makes complete sense. If your health matters to you, then obviously you’re going to want a visual representation of the gains you are achieving in this area.

So why would it be any different for mental health professionals—who spend thousands of dollars of postgraduate tertiary education and training programs to nurture and grow their therapeutic skillset?

Of course they want to see a return on their investment.

Of course they want to feel confident and capable—and to see evidence that their hard work has paid off.

So here are 5 signs that indicate that your team may have morale problems.

1. Sick days are increasing

When a team member starts taking more days off—you could have a morale issue. Unless the person is genuinely unwell or experiencing some kind of personal crisis, the most likely reason they are skipping work is because they don’t want to be there.

2. Negative comments about clients

When therapists start making disparaging comments about clients, it can often be symptomatic of broader struggles they are experiencing with their sense of professional competence. They may also be building resentment towards their patience. It doesn’t take much for this to occur. Perhaps a client has been harsh or unreasonable, or has devalued the therapist in some way. Our minds naturally gravitate towards the negative and fixate on it. Without a robust pipeline for capturing positive outcomes with other clients—and reminding the therapist often—this issue is difficult to solve.

3. Self-isolation

Shame makes as retreat into ourselves. When team members start avoiding their colleagues (e.g. skipping group supervision, avoiding communal areas or opting out of group chats), they may be experiencing internal difficulties related to their sense of professional competency. Like mushrooms, shame grows in the dark. Many therapists—particularly those in the early stages of their career—experience self-doubt and imposter syndrome on a daily basis. They may not be getting an accurate picture of their outcomes and abilities—and without a concrete way of tracking this (and highlighting their progress)—you as a practice owner or manager have no way to help them through this struggle.

4. Taking on fewer clients

While this can also signify a healthy level of self-care, it can also suggest that your team member is feeling ineffective or overwhelmed as a therapist—and is reducing their workload accordingly. They may be operating under an assumption that they aren’t helping, when in fact the opposite is true. How can we show them otherwise without evidence? Not only does a therapist’s shrinking caseload hurt your business, it also deprives clients of the help they need.

5. Conflict with management

When employee therapists recurrently pick fights with management, this can often mean there is a deeper issue at play. For example, a therapist may fixate on the financial aspects of their role because they are dissatisfied or disheartened by the clinical side of their work. They they feel happier, more fulfilled and less anxious as therapists, they may find that the monetary or practical issues related to their—while still important—are more manageable. They may also be in a place to discuss these issues with you more calmly.

What you can do to nurture team morale

In order to build your team’s morale, you need an inventory of positive, validating outcomes to highlight with them. You need to understand their clinical struggles and be a guiding light for them in this area. This task is non-trivial, but you won’t regret it.