How questionnaires shape experienced symptoms. A qualitative case comparison study of questionnaire administration in psychotherapy research
Qualitative Research in Psychology
Quantified symptom measurement by self-report questionnaires is part of the ‘gold standard’ of assessing psychotherapeutic efficacy. In this paper, we report a qualitative case comparison to explore how June and Amy, two patient-participants in a gold standard psychotherapy study, experienced the process of quantitative data collection. The study resembles cognitive interviewing studies conducted in the development of measures, yet advances them by investigating patients’ experiences of questionnaire administration in actual psychotherapy. Both cases reported known issues in interpretation of pre-structured item- and response formats, communicative administrator-respondent dynamics, and response shifts. Beyond known scoring problems, the act of questionnaire administration changed their interpretation of experienced symptoms, which facilitated clinical change beyond therapeutic effects. For Amy, this change was associated with improvement, but for June, questionnaire administration facilitated deterioration in experienced symptoms. These findings emphasize that it is both epistemically and ethically vital to consider measurement effects in clinical practice. This study demonstrates the importance of taking a qualitative stance in psychotherapy research, as qualitative research can elaborate the contextual and idiosyncratic nature of questionnaire scores, and highlights that both researchers and clinicians have to be attentive to the meaning of scores as words in participants’ clinical stories.
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Truijens, F.L, Van Nieuwenhove, K. (Kimberly), De Smet, M.M. (Melissa M.), Desmet, M. (Mattias), & Meganck, R. (Reitske). (2021). How questionnaires shape experienced symptoms. A qualitative case comparison study of questionnaire administration in psychotherapy research. Qualitative Research in Psychology. doi:10.1080/14780887.2021.1886383