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May 1976

A Comparison of Process Notes and Tape Recordings: Implications for Therapy Research

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Mt. Zion Hospital and Medical Center, San Francisco.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33(5):558-563. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770050026003

• The basic contention of many researchers is that process notes are not suitable for objective study of psychotherapy. We focus here on our contrasting assumption that process notes may be effectively used for certain kinds of psychotherapy research, particularly that which deals with thematic shifts occurring over a period of time.

To test this, three classes of taped memories were examined for thematic shifts: memories of the patient's father, mother, and repetitive memories. The taped memories were then compared with the memories recorded in the analyst's notes. Compared to the tapes, process note memories were fewer in number, significantly condensed, and introduced a variety of distortions into the data. In spite of these differences, judgments by independent raters indicated that in all three classes of memories, the analyst's notes reliably picked up pertinent thematic shifts.

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