Participating in a Research Study: a Qualitative Study of the Clients' and Therapists' Experience


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Virginia Tech


This was an exploratory study of the experiences of 26 clients and 5 therapists participating in a research project testing a manualized multi-couple treatment program for domestic violence. The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of clients and therapists in participating in a research study with the hope of informing researchers who are seeking to make manualized treatment programs more effective.

Despite a low level of conscious awareness of the research project, clients and their therapists provided a rich set of data. From the clients, the themes revealed views on how little the research project seemed to affect their therapy, and how the research project reinforced their learning and changes and allowed them to feel they were making a contribution to others.

The therapists felt challenged to balance their roles with the research project's requirements. Theoretical fit was not an issue, but their comments inform the body of research on research participation. The therapists reported the model worked well, but early on they had to struggle with components.

The study found that clients appreciate being asked their views through the treatment. Both therapists and clients recommend using a thorough check-in/check-out process with domestic violence. Therapists recommended that any fielded programs should include an ongoing evaluation process. Also, when clients and therapists believe that participating in a research project may help others and that they are participating together in something special, the therapeutic process may be enhanced. These elements appear to be easily incorporated into conventional therapy and may generate the same beneficial effect observed in this project.



Couples Therapy, Clients' Experience, Qualitative Study, Domestic Violence