Qualitative Content Analysis in Clinical Psychology to Explain the Pathomechanism of Personality Disorders

Emilia Soroko, Michał Dolczewski


Qualitative content analysis (QCA) is a method for systematically describing qualitative data with the use of rule-bound procedures and human-generated interpretation. With this article we aim to reflect on the methodical aspect of QCA in the field of clinical psychology. After introducing the implementation of QCA procedures in clinical psychology and the diversity of content analytic-informed studies encountered in this field with special attention to coding frames, we present the problems and challenges that arise when using QCA in a more specific clinical context, namely, explanatory assessment of personality disorders. Beginning with the challenges (detecting clinically relevant information, explaining the pathomechanism, access to unconscious internal processes, role of relational information in assessment), we give possible solutions for the stage of data preparation and analysis. These include the balanced use of psychological theory and identifying patterns in data and in categories for explanation purposes; momentary process analysis aimed at assessing the dynamics of psychological life (intrapsychic and interpersonal); and relational context obtained from reflection on coding as a human process.


qualitative content analysis; clinical psychology; personality disorders; clinical explanatory assessment

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-21.1.3432

Copyright (c) 2020 Emilia Soroko, Michał Dolczewski

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