Examining the utility of ecological momentary assessment with individuals diagnosed with depressive disorder

Brett A Biller, Pace University


The intent of this research was to identify the response pattern of individuals diagnosed with depression undergoing psychotherapy while also examining the efficacy of the daily monitoring methodology in capturing this therapeutic experience. Further, we sought to assess participant experience while responding to Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), which is a sophisticated daily diary methodology. Characteristically, depression treatment research focuses on nomothetically examining reduction of symptoms across populations of individuals receiving therapy and has yet to focus on how patterns of response to therapy may differ among individuals. Additionally, research examining the treatment of depression has primarily utilized a pre-test, post-test design that examines symptoms prior to and after treatment. Such designs, in addition to their inherent limitations (e.g., poor subject recall, etc.), may fail to capture the change in mood and symptom patterns over the course of treatment. Examination of such progression utilizing Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), which requires that subjects record their thoughts and experiences at different instances as they experience them (Tennen, Affleck, Armeli, & Carney, 2000), could produce information about the course of the condition or reactions to treatment. Unfortunately the findings derived from using traditional paper and pencil formats of EMA have often been found to be distorted by participants faking compliance by completing the diary after-the-fact (Shiffman, 2000). Therefore, it was our hope that through the utilization of an electronic diary format of EMA we might efficiently identify the underlying mood, thought, and socialization patterns associated with the reduction of depressive symptoms during psychotherapy. In order to accomplish this, the present study examined, with a pragmatic time-series case study format, the responses from a group of participants who reported their moods, thoughts and socializations utilizing a daily electronic diary format of EMA. Additionally, to gain an enhanced understanding of the experience of this methodology, participants provided weekly feedback regarding their experience responding to daily prompts. Specifically, we hoped to map the response patterns of individuals to therapy. Further, we intended to examine the utility of the EMA methodology in assessing the individual response to psychotherapy of those diagnosed with depression. The findings within the current study applaud EMA's ability to highlight specific individual functioning, while also reducing negative influences of recall which may influence retrospective reporting. Participant's overall experience with the palm-top computers was positive. As such, one recognizes the profound utility of the daily EMA for individual case study and clinical purposes.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Biller, Brett A, "Examining the utility of ecological momentary assessment with individuals diagnosed with depressive disorder" (2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3141922.



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