Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Heidi M. Levitt

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Joseph P. Gone


I conducted a meta-method study to explore the methodological and reporting characteristics of qualitative studies on therapists’ experiences conducting psychotherapy. Articles were identified through a PsycINFO search, and through a review of article text their methodological and reporting features were coded and quantitatively analyzed. Consideration was given to standards of qualitative research in psychology, especially methodological integrity. Results showed increases in the number of these qualitative studies from the 2000s onwards. This rise seems to be above that in psychology, but comparable to other psychotherapy literature. Publication characteristics of this body of literature, namely journal discipline and impact score, showed psychology and counseling journals as most common; with impact scores similar to other domains of clinical psychology. Researchers’ epistemological stance was only stated in a quarter of studies, and mostly constructivist or interpretivist. Article age, number of procedural checks, and sample size were not found to be significantly predictive of reporting epistemological stance. Over time, qualitative researchers increased their reporting of reflexivity checks, and decreased reporting of consensus.

Larger sample sizes in relation to qualitative research designs predicted grounded theory, with smaller samples predictive of phenomenological designs. For study procedures and research designs, higher numbers of both reflexivity and credibility checks predicted consensual qualitative research (CQR) designs. Findings by geographic region showed North American researchers (mainly US-based) used more procedural checks, were more likely to use CQR and publish in higher-impact journals. European researchers (mainly UK-based) used fewer checks, were more likely to use phenomenological designs and publish in lower-impact journals. Considering journal impact with methodological characteristics, articles published in higher-impact journals were associated with higher numbers of procedural checks, and predictive of using CQR. Analysis of journal impact and discipline showed articles in higher-impact journals predicted publishing in psychology journals; articles with lower-impact scores predicted publishing in counseling journals.

From these findings, I aim to improve our understanding of how qualitative methods are practiced, reported, and have evolved in psychotherapy research. I provide empirically-based recommendations for researchers to more effectively communicate their research in a manner that both respects methodological diversity and promotes methodological integrity within the field.