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Cognitive Debriefing

Posted on July 7, 2008

Margarita Alegría (bio) describes a process of discovering how participants think about their mental health.


To me, cognitive debriefing is more like you really go trying to think how cognitively the person's interpreting the information and what is sort of coming up for them in terms of answering that question. I think sometimes people use questions and they don't really explore. How is it really, what's the image it's bringing for that person? How are they really thinking about the terminology? Words are very important, very, very important.

When you ask people about how do you perceive your mental health: excellent, good, so so, moderate? I think when people say good, they might mean something very different in one culture than in another, or when they say poor, someone might really respond like when we were doing this cognitive debriefing, we had very, very few people that would say poor. And they felt like poor was such a negative, strong concept. They felt like saying poor like that would mean like they were really not a good person, so we actually had to change that in a sense to look for something that would not have that negative image or perception of the person.

So you do a part of the interview, and you start finding inconsistencies in how people for example would say, well, they're not doing poor, but then they're telling you they're disabled. They have all this problems. They haven't been sleeping. And the psychiatric batteries, they're telling you they're fairly doing poorly, but then they wouldn't say that.

So then you start asking, "Well, how come you told me this, and could you explain a little bit more? Could you expand on why you put this, not that?" And that's where you start finding how people think about it.

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Excerpted from an interview with researcher at the 2008 Developing Interventions for Latino Children, Youth, and Families Conference in St. Louis, MO.


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