From school maths phobic to service evaluation consultant

On the face of it, I am least likely candidate you could find to be involved in creating a space like Therapy Meets Numbers. Yes, I’ve been a therapist for many years, but as far as the numbers go, maths was my worst subject at school by some distance … so how did I get here? … why am I doing this?

I don’t know about you, but in my experience as a therapist, some of the most magical moments in therapy come from sense making with clients. Those moments in the exploration of a client’s experience in which meaning emerges from barely understood patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving to form a coherent whole that heralds the possibility for change.


Some of the most magical moments in therapy come from sense making with clients

In the process of building TMN I’ve been trying to make my own sense of how I come to be doing this. I’ve been reflecting on how, given my poor start with numbers, I come to be in a space where therapy meets numbers. And at last, I think I can make sense of it. It’s not about therapy per se, and it’s not about numbers either, really. It’s about a pattern that I have of needing to make sense of the things around me. Like many deeply engrained patterns, this one started early.

As a child I was curious, as most children are, about how things worked. Being a rather solitary kid this manifested itself, not in asking questions, but in taking things apart. Much to my father’s annoyance, reassembly wasn’t always a roaring success, but it didn’t stop me.

It’s that same curiosity which I bring to the field of therapy now. Though I’ve been a therapist for more than thirty years, I have the same curiosity now that I had way back when I was young. I’m still trying to figure out the ‘what’ of what makes therapy work.

My interest isn’t academic. I’m not really interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake. What really engages my interest is in knowing the answers to two simple questions:


How can we provide the best experience of therapy for clients that we are capable of?



How can we demonstrate the impact of what we do?


In my journey through therapy over the years, two major roles that I’ve occupied have fed my interest, and in the paragraphs that follow I’ll briefly describe each.



In 1994 I was appointed as Head of Service for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Counselling service. In addition to providing counselling to Royal College members, the service had a specific remit to encourage the provision of counselling for staff by health service employers. It didn’t take me long to understand that realising this aspiration would be greatly helped by an evidence base for workplace based counselling.

To cut a long story short, I looked around for such an evidence base, only to find that it didn’t exist. So, together with my team, we set about trying to create one, starting with our own service. How we did this, what we learned, and how we grew into one of the top performing services in the country as a result, will be the subject of another blog post.




The second key role that has helped bring me to the present day, and to TMN, is acting as a trainer and consultant to therapy practitioners and services seeking to implement and use routine evaluation. I left the RCN in 2005 to join CORE IMS, the organisation that supports CORE System users. For the next five years I travelled the length and breadth of the UK, supporting services and practitioners in learning how to use the CORE System in their client work and service development.

In 2010 I left CORE IMS and became fully independent, with a portfolio of therapy, coaching and service consultancy. In the twelve years since I left the RCN I have had the privilege of working with dozens of services, training hundreds of therapists, and supporting both in developing their expertise with evaluation. I’ve worked with some remarkable services, service managers and therapists, and I’ve seen the data which supports their remarkable status.

I don’t pretend for a moment to have all the answers. If there is an end point to this process of learning, it’s not yet on my horizon. TMN is an attempt to share some of what I’ve learned, as well as the learning of others, on the journey so far. A further attempt, if you like, to answer the question….

It’s a work in progress. I hope you’ll stick with us for the journey.

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Posted by:Barry McInnes

One thought on “The unlikely story of my journey in numbers

  1. Barry a nice taster which makes me intrigued to know more! I await the next instalment with much interest

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