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A Self-Determined Life

A concept mapping and measurement development project


Investigators: Larry Davidson, Ph.D. and Maria O’Connell, Ph.D.


This participatory research project uses a concept mapping strategy and a co-research team made up of persons in recovery to gain a greater understanding of various aspects of self-determination and choice for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. To gain an understanding of how elements of self-determination and choice may be common or unique for individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, concept mapping focus groups and sorting sessions will be held with four groups of people who have experienced a different type of life interruption (persons receiving public mental health services, veterans returning home from war, recently incarcerated individuals, and persons recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition) and one group of people who have not experienced one of the four life interruptions. In the initial concept mapping focus groups, participants will be asked about the types of choices they make (or don’t make) on a day to day basis, the opportunities they have to make choices about various aspects of their lives, and areas in their lives they wish they had more choice. A list of statements regarding opportunities for choice will be generated from these focus groups. The final list of statements will be presented to participants in a follow-up concept mapping session. In this second session, participants will be asked to sort the statements (each provided to them on a 2x3 inch piece of paper) into groups based on similarity. Participants will also be asked to rate each statement on two five-point Likert scales for importance and possibility. The sorting information will then be analyzed using multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analyses which will yield several two-dimensional maps that depict the various domains of choice for each of the groups. Data from the possibility and importance ratings will be superimposed onto the maps so one can easily see which areas were considered most/least important and most/least possible. These data will be used to inform the development of a measure of choice in everyday life. The measure will then be pilot tested with a sample of individuals diagnosed with a mental illness along with other measures to assess the construct validity of the measure. Data from the pilot test will be used to develop an intervention to enhance choice and self-determination within the mental health system which will be tested through funding from an R01 or similar grant.