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Psychotherapy (Chic). 2015 Mar;52(1):19-30. doi: 10.1037/a0036841. Epub 2014 May 26.

Computational psychotherapy research: scaling up the evaluation of patient-provider interactions.

Author information

1
Department of Educational Psychology, University of Utah.
2
Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine.
3
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington.

Abstract

In psychotherapy, the patient-provider interaction contains the treatment's active ingredients. However, the technology for analyzing the content of this interaction has not fundamentally changed in decades, limiting both the scale and specificity of psychotherapy research. New methods are required to "scale up" to larger evaluation tasks and "drill down" into the raw linguistic data of patient-therapist interactions. In the current article, we demonstrate the utility of statistical text analysis models called topic models for discovering the underlying linguistic structure in psychotherapy. Topic models identify semantic themes (or topics) in a collection of documents (here, transcripts). We used topic models to summarize and visualize 1,553 psychotherapy and drug therapy (i.e., medication management) transcripts. Results showed that topic models identified clinically relevant content, including affective, relational, and intervention related topics. In addition, topic models learned to identify specific types of therapist statements associated with treatment-related codes (e.g., different treatment approaches, patient-therapist discussions about the therapeutic relationship). Visualizations of semantic similarity across sessions indicate that topic models identify content that discriminates between broad classes of therapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy vs. psychodynamic therapy). Finally, predictive modeling demonstrated that topic model-derived features can classify therapy type with a high degree of accuracy. Computational psychotherapy research has the potential to scale up the study of psychotherapy to thousands of sessions at a time. We conclude by discussing the implications of computational methods such as topic models for the future of psychotherapy research and practice.

PMID:
24866972
PMCID:
PMC4245387
DOI:
10.1037/a0036841
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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