Challenging beliefs in qualitative health psychology: how can interpretation be integrated in the research process?


  • M. del Rio Carral
  • M. Santiago-Delefosse


In the past two decades, qualitative research has received increased attention from health psychologists. This growing interest is related to its potential to study the complexity of human behaviour in situations of health and illness. Qualitative methods can be used to analyse embodiment, subjectivity, as well as social, political and cultural issues that shape and organize lived experiences of well-being, health, chronic illness, etc. However, qualitative research lacks of scientific recognition within health psychology. One of the major criticisms that is often made is the interpretative basis underpinning its analyses and results. In this communication, we suggest that the interpretative basis is part of any research process in psychology, regardless its qualitative or quantitative perspective. Focussing namely on qualitative research, we argue that interpretation must not be avoided nor overlooked. On the contrary, we discuss that scientific rigour and reliability can actually be enhanced by making the interpretation procedures at stake explicit throughout different stages of the research process. A powerful tool to enable the “scientificity†of qualitative research in health psychology is reflexivity. This will be illustrated through a series of principles that underline its importance and usefulness, in particular to problematize how the researcher positions him/herself with regard to the research process and to the phenomenon under investigation.