Validity of data as precondition for evidence: a methodological analysis of what is taken to count as evidence in psychotherapy research

Femke Truijens, Melissa Miléna De Smet, Mattias Desmet, Reitske Meganck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The evidence-based paradigm in mental health care emphasizes the use of the best available methods to provide a sound evidence-base for clinical practice. However, there is strikingly little consensus on what evidence is. Nonetheless, psychotherapy re-searchers conduct a vast amount of research in which the outcome is taken as evidence. To derive outcome, quantitative data are collected from samples of patient– participants by means of validated self-report measures. Clinical case vignettes from the Ghent Psychotherapy Study (Meganck et al., 2017) are used to exhibit that quantitative self-report data are hermeneutic in their basis. Although quantitative data are generally taken as straightforwardly comparable and trustworthy input for analysis of treatment effect, we show that these data can yield validity issues despite being collected by validated measures. As the gold standard methodological procedure does not prevent that these validity issues become inherent to the dataset, validity issues on the level of individual data collection form a threat to evidence on treatment effect. Therefore, we argue that validity of data is a precondition for evidence. For a sound psychotherapeutic evidence-base we need a proper definition of validity that is sensitive to actual data collection processes, and a theory of evidence that is clear on what should be evidenced to be useful and valid for psychological practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-128
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology
Volume28
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

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