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

Femke L. Truijens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4721-4740
Number of pages20
JournalSynthese
Volume194
Issue number12
Early online date22 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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