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A dynamic network approach to psychotherapy interventions

I recently read this article by Hofman and Hayes (2010) about the limitations of studying psychotherapy interventions using classic linear mediation approaches.

One of the issues raised by the article that I thought was fairly interesting was the difficulty, in our field, of understanding the relationship between intervention and "temporal network structures", which I believe refers to the multitude of underlying variables in the treatment process and their inter-relationships. The main problem here, as with much research in psychology, is a paucity of data. Collecting high-density ecological momentary assessment data would be a nice way to solve this problem – yet, as Gerson pointed out, with many self-report measures, the participant burden can be high. Not many participants would be willing or able to complete 10 self-report measures daily for almost a year, such as in the case study presented by Wichers and Groot (2016). 

I often wonder about potential alternatives to clinical self-report questionnaires that we could be using. For example, our phones collect massive amounts of data on our whereabouts, activities, and sleep cycles, just to name a few examples, which might act as proxies for some clinical measures we are interested in looking at. Some people elect to report their mood/emotions almost daily on therapy apps, not to mention on social media. Gaining access to this treasure trove of information without grossly invading participants' privacy would be enormously useful in intervention studies. The ability to mine this data might, however, be challenging, and the clinical significance of this data might also be called into question. Just some food for thought.


The other related issue I thought was interesting is the constant tug-of-war between idiographic and nomothetic approaches in psychological research. It is amazing to me how unique we each are in our biopsychosocial makeup, and what a challenge it is to design therapeutic approaches that can work for a vast number of people. Standardized Internet-delivered therapies, which I believe to be the next fad in therapy, will maybe be a true test of how similar or different we are.

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