Email correspondence, interpretation and the psychoanalytically informed research interview
Evidence and practice    

Email correspondence, interpretation and the psychoanalytically informed research interview

Philip John Archard Mental health practitioner, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Leicester, England
Michelle O’Reilly Associate professor of communication in mental health, University of Leicester, England and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Leicester, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To learn more about how principles drawn from clinical psychoanalysis and psychotherapy can inform the theory and practice of qualitative research interviewing

  • To reflect on the parallels between dialogue in psychoanalytic therapy and research interviewing and the quasi-therapeutic qualities of research interview participation

  • To consider email correspondence between a researcher and participant as a form of interpretive intervention in interview-based psychoanalytically informed research

Background Approaching qualitative interviews using principles drawn from psychoanalytic therapy can assist nurse researchers in developing nuanced accounts of participants’ and their own subjectivity. Yet, doing so means confronting questions about the use of psychoanalytic concepts and techniques outside the traditional clinical context of the consulting room.

Aim To consider the researcher’s interpretive involvement when a psychoanalytically informed interview approach is used with specific reference to email correspondence as a form of interpretive intervention.

Discussion The authors describe the experience of completing a study involving a psychoanalytically informed interview approach. The interpretive quality of email correspondence is illustrated via reference to the case of one study participant for whom this correspondence appeared to help in the level of insight afforded overall.

Conclusion When using a psychoanalytically informed interview approach, researchers should consider emails delineating topics for discussion in follow-up interviews as a form of interpretive intervention. Implications for practice Nurse researchers interested in this type of method should reflect on the interpretive function of email correspondence. Pre-participation and pre-interview dialogue with participants may be used to explore participants’ views on the potentially therapeutic aspects of participation and what might be related to them of the researcher’s understanding.

Nurse Researcher. 30, 1, 8-16. doi: 10.7748/nr.2022.e1809


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared


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