Metamethod Study of Qualitative Psychotherapy Research on Clients’ Experiences: Review and Recommendations

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Abstract

A metamethod study is a qualitative meta-analysis focused upon the methods and procedures used in a given research domain. These studies are rare in psychological research. They permit both the documentation of the informal standards within a field of research and recommendations for future work in that area. This paper presents a metamethod analysis of a substantial body of qualitative research that focused on clients’ experiences in psychotherapy (109 studies). This review examined the ways that methodological integrity has been established across qualitative research methods. It identified the numbers of participants recruited and the form of data collection used (e.g., semistructured interviews, diaries). As well, it examined the types of checks employed to increase methodological integrity, such as participant counts, saturation, reflexivity techniques, participant feedback, or consensus and auditing processes. Central findings indicated that the researchers quite flexibly integrated procedures associated with one method into studies using other methods in order to strengthen their rigor. It appeared normative to adjust procedures to advance methodological integrity. These findings encourage manuscript reviewers to assess the function of procedures within a study rather than to require researchers to adhere to the set of procedures associated with a method. In addition, when epistemological approaches were mentioned they were overwhelmingly constructivist in nature, despite the increasing use of procedures traditionally associated with objectivist perspectives. It is recommended that future researchers do more to explicitly describe the functions of their procedures so that they are coherently situated within the epistemological approaches in use.

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