Story Lab

Main Research Projects

What works when for whom? Advancing therapy change process research by mining for therapy-related textual features in effective e-mental health interventions

This is an exemplary project of the <Technology for Narrative Methodology> research line.

Mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, are among the leading causes of the global burden of disease. E-mental health (EMH) interventions, i.e., web-based psychotherapy treatments, are increasingly used to improve access to psychotherapy for a wider audience. Whereas different EMH interventions tend to be equally effective, the responsiveness to a specific treatment shows large individual differences. Therefore, the personalization of treatments is seen as the major road for improvement. Because most EMH interventions use language for communication between counselors and clients, assessing language use provides an important avenue for opening the black box of what happens within therapy. Moreover, EMH makes data of the linguistic interactions between client and counselor available on an unprecedented large scale. The objective of the study is to use e-science methods and tools, in particular natural language processing, visualization and multivariate analysis methods, to analyze patterns in therapy-related textual features in e-mail correspondence between counselor and client. By connecting these patterns to therapy outcome, the question What Works When for Whom? can be answered, which will greatly improve the effectiveness of EMH. The core of the project concerns the development of open source software for the Dutch language, using data from six EMH-interventions with a total of 10.000 e-mails. These data are sufficiently large and varied to allow for computer-based modelling, and testing of use cases with varying complexity. At the end of the project, the step toward English language software will be made to increase the impact of the project.

This project is carried out in cooperation with the Department of Research Methodology, Measurement and Data Analysis

IGS Datalab

Anneke Sools

Funding Agency: Netherlands escience center in collaboration with NWO

Years: 2016 - 2020

Online Life Story Book

This is an exemplary project in the <Narrative intervention> research line.

At present, about 260.000 people with dementia live in the Netherlands. This number will double over the coming twenty years. Dementia has a high burden for patients, informal caregivers and society. About two thirds of persons with dementia is estimated to live at home, but this number will increase given changes in long-term care. However, living at home with a good quality of life is not easy to achieve. Dementia is often accompanied by neuropsychiatric symptoms like apathy, agitation, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety. This is also related to the quality of life of the patient. Whereas the cognitive deterioration can hardly be influenced, it is possible to reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms. A good fit with the personal world of the person with dementia is an important condition for interventions. Reminiscence interventions can contribute as the recollection of valuable personal memories can give feelings of pleasure and trust. Memories are part of the autobiographical memory system that remains intact for a relatively long time in dementia. The Online Life Story Book (OLSB) is an intervention that nicely ties in with these changes in care for persons with dementia. The current study therefore wants to assess the effectiveness of this intervention for people with early dementia and their informal caregivers.

Narrative Futuring to enhance flourishing in precarious and complex worlds

This is an exemplary project of the <Narrative technology> research line.

This project develops theory, research and methodology for studying and enhancing human flourishing in precarious and complex worlds, based on future stories. It takes as point of departure that optimal human functioning in a sustainable way that simultaneously warrants and enhances flourishing of the environment is of the utmost importance. A narrative futuring approach, based on a future-forming epistemology and a social-constructivist methodology, is proposed as answer to this challenge. The urgency of the issue of flourishing comes from the recognition that flourishing is under pressure all over the world. In Europe, for example, the impact of the socio-economic crisis in the lives of many citizens is very real. Two research projects in Greece address this impact:

  1. Letters from the Future as decision aid prior to the Greek Referendum in 2015;
  2. Focus groups with unemployed youth visualize and reflect on their desired futures.

Closer to home, the Western-European context of an apparent higher material welfare, does not guarantee optimal human functioning either. Of the manifold constraints to reaching full potential, our capacity to imagine believable and desirable future selves stands out as a historically and psychologically challenging concern. This capacity and its constraints, considered to be an interaction between cognitive capacity and environmental affordances (cultural, social, physical, educational etc.), is subject of investigation in several pilot studies, e.g.:

  1. Using paradoxical tasks such as imagining a desired future without paid work;
  2. Co-creating future stories by professionals and experiential experts envisioning a more humane care/justice system;
  3. Psychiatric patients imagining their desired futures

Dr.Sofia Trivilia and colleagues (University of Crete, Greece), Prof. Dr. Maria Borcsa and Egle Narasciute Msc (applied university of Nordhausen, Germany), Prof. dr Ephrat Huss (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel), dr. Miltos Hadjiosif (University of the West of England, UK), Olivia Glebbeek (documentary maker), Mariette van Tuyll (Mediant, mental health organization).

Dr. Anneke Sools


Years: on-going