Thursday, September 21, 2006

Using Focusing in to Improve Qualitative Interviewing

Entry for 21 September 2006:

For some time now I’ve been thinking about combining Gendlin’s Focusing technique with qualitative interviewing, in order to obtain deeper, more emotionally rich information. I have used bits of Focusing for years in parts of the Brief Structured Recall method, where the client asked to indicate the parts of a complex item that fit their experience best, and in the qualitative version of the client context section of the BSR that I developed in the early ‘90’s, at the end of the Depression project.

But yesterday, while reviewing Jutta Schnellbacher’s recall protocol for studying client’s experiences of relationship development in early sessions, I found a really good application for this approach. Jutta is particularly interested in how clients develop an inner image of the therapist in early sessions. Therefore, I proposed that she start the interview off by asking the client to use Focusing to access their full experience of the therapist as it is beginnning to form. Here is what such a process might look like:

I’d like you to tell me about the impressions of your therapist that you have developed to this point. OK?

If you could, close your eyes or look away for a minute. Sit quietly, look inside, and ask yourself, “What is my overall experience of the therapist to this point?” See what comes to you; let me know when you have gathered your main impressions and are ready to go on.

[Wait for 30-60 sec, then check with the client if they haven’t let you know they are ready.]

If you are ready, please begin to tell about your impressions of the therapist. Take your time.

Here are some examples of follow-up questions which could be used at this point, to help clients elaborate their experiences:

What mental image do you see of the therapist, in your mind’s eye?
What sticks out for you?
How do you feel about them?
Are there any body feelings that go with these feelings?
How would you describe them in words?
How would you describe them in a picture?
What are they like for you?
Is there something you might like to say to them if they were here now, or next time you see them?

These probes will have to be experimented with; and you would never want to use all of them with one person, but I think they will produce information useful for elaborating on emotion scheme components. I would very much like to develop this sort of approach to qualitative interviewing, in part to help produce research that is both more interest and more valid.

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