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The STIC: A means of measuring change

When it comes to physical health, we have a myriad of ways to measure our changes.

We track our weight changes with a scale. We measure our heights and the width of our waists with measuring tape. There are devices that monitor our heart rates, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and show us specific areas to improve.

But when it comes to emotional growth and personal change, there are few concrete ways to measure our progress.

At The Family Institute, we’re developing a system to do so.

The Institute provides affordable counseling and therapy for families, individuals and couples from all walks of life. One of the main objectives of therapy is promoting positive changes within our clients’ lives — positive changes that lead to stronger family bonds and overall healthier experiences.

However, the field of Psychology lacks research-based understanding of how people change in therapy.

To provide that understanding, the Institute developed the STIC (Systemic Therapy Inventory of Change) as part of its Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation Center for Psychotherapy Change.

The STIC is the first instrument in the field of family therapy designed to study how people change in therapy. Here’s a brief explanation of how it works:

  • STIC clients fill out online questionnaires about their personal histories and emotional states at the beginning of therapy. For example, clients answer questions about how satisfied they are in their marriages, how safe they felt growing up, how depressed and/or anxious they may feel, and how much they trust their partners. This initial assessment provides their therapists with a base line for future comparison.
  • Clients then fill out new questionnaires before each therapy session about their emotional states and their attitudes toward their relationships. This provides the data that tracks any changes throughout the course of therapy.
  • The STIC website analyzes that data and provides detailed assessment to therapists, including charts and graphs. Therapists can pull up this information during therapy to show their clients where they’ve changed, and where they may need more support with concrete data.
  • The data allows therapists to identify areas in a client’s attitudes, history, and/or emotional state that change throughout therapy.

The STIC allows clinicians and their clients to monitor progress and make informed treatment choices. One therapist stated the STIC allows her to “recognize both progress and areas where I, as the therapist, can improve, and when to talk to clients about our relationship.” Clients also report that the STIC provides a more effective therapy: “Sometimes I get discouraged when I feel like I’m not changing, but then I see the line graphs and I realize how far I’ve come already. It gives me motivation to work on continuing to change.”

The STIC is an on-going research project. Currently, 169 therapists at The Family Institute use the STIC with 1,647 clients. Additionally, 73 therapists use the STIC within our Chicago Consortium, with a total of 585 clients. Our goal is to increase the use of the STIC and make it a pre-eminent research tool in the field of Psychology.


The Family Institute provides affordable therapy in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and LaGrange Park. We counsel couples, individuals and families. Our sliding-fee scale Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic provides affordable counselling and therapy where clients pay what they can afford.

To learn more about The Family Institute and the STIC, visit our website:

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