Do the numbers speak for themselves?

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

Abstract
Psychotherapyresearchisknownforitspursuitofevidence-basedtreatment (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 acknowl- edged for decades, but still measurement is regarded as the best epistemic means to gain evidence on psychotherapeutic efficacy. Therefore, I show (2) how initial mea- surement problems are overlooked in the remainder of the methodological procedure, which harms the ‘evidence-base’ of psychotherapeutic EBT. Via this applied analy- sis, 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
Procedural objectivity · Psychotherapy research · Efficacy research ·Symptom measurement · Quantitative research · Evidence-based treatment ·Methodological validity

To cite this article

Truijens, F. L. (2017). Do the numbers speak for themselves? A critical analysis of procedural objectivity in psychotherapeutic efficacy research. Synthese, 194(12), 4721–4740.

Truijens (2016). Do the number speak for themselves?

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