Psychoanalytically informed research interviewing: notes on the free association narrative interview method
evidence and practice    

Psychoanalytically informed research interviewing: notes on the free association narrative interview method

Philip John Archard Mental health practitioner, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Leicester, England

Background Following the development of the transdisciplinary field of British psychosocial studies, interest in the application of insights from psychoanalysis in qualitative research has grown in recent years among researchers in nursing and allied disciplines.

Aim To address a paucity of attention to – and lack of clarity concerning – the implications of methodological developments and debate around the application of psychoanalytic perspectives and techniques in research, specifically the theory and practice of research interviewing as a psychoanalytically informed endeavour.

Discussion This paper draws from the author’s doctoral research to provide a critical account of Hollway and Jefferson’s (2000, 2013) free association narrative interview method (FANIM). It describes FANIM’s core elements and then moves on to consider its use by nursing and applied health and social care researchers, and then to criticism that has been levelled against Hollway and Jefferson’s work regarding it.

Conclusion FANIM provides valuable ideas about how to approach nursing research in a way inspired by psychoanalytic principles, but requires further evaluation by nursing researchers.

Implications for practice Nurse researchers may take inspiration from particular aspects of FANIM. They should also reflect on whether they are mislabelling their approach as ‘psychoanalytic’ or ‘psychoanalytically informed’, if they only partly apply it.

Nurse Researcher. 28, 2, 42-49. doi: 10.7748/nr.2020.e1718


Peer review

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

Conflict of interest

None declared


To reuse this article or for information about reprints and permissions, please contact

Write for us

For information about writing for RCNi journals, contact

For author guidelines, go to

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now