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Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research

Femke Truijens (UGent)
(2017) SYNTHESE. 194(12). p.4721-4740
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Abstract
Psychotherapy research is known for its pursuit of Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT). Psychotherapeutic efficacy is assessed by calculation of aggregated differences between pre treatment- and post treatment symptom levels. As this 'gold standard methodology' is regarded as 'procedurally objective', the efficacy number that results from the procedure is taken as a valid indicator of treatment efficacy. However, I argue that the assumption of procedural objectivity is not justified, as the methodology is build upon a problematic numerical basis. I use an empirical case study to show (1) how measurement problems practically occur in the first step of data collection, i.e. in individual symptom measurement. These problems have been discussed and acknowledged for decades, but still measurement is regarded as the best epistemic means to gain evidence on psychotherapeutic efficacy. Therefore, I show (2) how initial measurement problems are overlooked in the remainder of the methodological procedure, which harms the 'evidence-base' of psychotherapeutic EBT. Via this applied analysis, I exhibit concerns that are increasingly raised in the literature in an empirical way, to emphasize the need for a non-idealized consideration of the 'gold standard methodology' as a means towards its clinical end.
Keywords
quantitative research, evidence-based treatment, symptom measurement, efficacy research, Procedural objectivity, psychotherapy research, methodological validity

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MLA
Truijens, Femke. “Do the Numbers Speak for Themselves? A Critical Analysis of Procedural Objectivity in Psychotherapeutic Efficacy Research.” Ed. Matteo Colombo, Raoul Gervais, & Jan Sprenger. SYNTHESE 194.12 (2017): 4721–4740. Print.
APA
Truijens, F. (2017). Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research. (M. Colombo, R. Gervais, & J. Sprenger, Eds.)SYNTHESE, 194(12), 4721–4740.
Chicago author-date
Truijens, Femke. 2017. “Do the Numbers Speak for Themselves? A Critical Analysis of Procedural Objectivity in Psychotherapeutic Efficacy Research.” Ed. Matteo Colombo, Raoul Gervais, and Jan Sprenger. Synthese 194 (12): 4721–4740.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Truijens, Femke. 2017. “Do the Numbers Speak for Themselves? A Critical Analysis of Procedural Objectivity in Psychotherapeutic Efficacy Research.” Ed. Matteo Colombo, Raoul Gervais, and Jan Sprenger. Synthese 194 (12): 4721–4740.
Vancouver
1.
Truijens F. Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research. Colombo M, Gervais R, Sprenger J, editors. SYNTHESE. Springer; 2017;194(12):4721–40.
IEEE
[1]
F. Truijens, “Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research,” SYNTHESE, vol. 194, no. 12, pp. 4721–4740, 2017.
@article{8053848,
  abstract     = {Psychotherapy research is known for its pursuit of Evidence-Based Treatment (EBT). Psychotherapeutic efficacy is assessed by calculation of aggregated differences between pre treatment- and post treatment symptom levels. As this 'gold standard methodology' is regarded as 'procedurally objective', the efficacy number that results from the procedure is taken as a valid indicator of treatment efficacy. However, I argue that the assumption of procedural objectivity is not justified, as the methodology is build upon a problematic numerical basis. I use an empirical case study to show (1) how measurement problems practically occur in the first step of data collection, i.e. in individual symptom measurement. These problems have been discussed and acknowledged for decades, but still measurement is regarded as the best epistemic means to gain evidence on psychotherapeutic efficacy. Therefore, I show (2) how initial measurement problems are overlooked in the remainder of the methodological procedure, which harms the 'evidence-base' of psychotherapeutic EBT. Via this applied analysis, I exhibit concerns that are increasingly raised in the literature in an empirical way, to emphasize the need for a non-idealized consideration of the 'gold standard methodology' as a means towards its clinical end.},
  author       = {Truijens, Femke},
  editor       = {Colombo, Matteo and Gervais, Raoul and Sprenger, Jan},
  issn         = {0039-7857},
  journal      = {SYNTHESE},
  keywords     = {quantitative research,evidence-based treatment,symptom measurement,efficacy research,Procedural objectivity,psychotherapy research,methodological validity},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {12},
  pages        = {4721--4740},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  title        = {Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11229-016-1188-8},
  volume       = {194},
  year         = {2017},
}

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