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State-Space Grid Analysis: Applications for Clinical Whole Systems Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research

Howerter A, Hollenstein T, Boon H, Brule D. State-space grid analysis: Applications for clinical WS-CAM research. Forsch Komplementarmed 2012;19(Supplement 1):DOI: 10.1159/000335187.


This paper presents state space grids (SSGs) as a mathematically less intensive methodology for processoriented research beyond traditional qualitative and quantitative approaches in whole systems of complementary and alternative medicine (WS-CAM). SSGs, originally applied in developmental psychology research, offer a logical, flexible, and accessible tool for capturing emergent changes in the temporal dynamics of patient behaviors, manifestations of resilience, and outcomes. The SSG method generates a two-dimensional visualization and quantification of the inter-relationships between variables on a moment-to-moment basis. SSGs can describe dyadic interactive behavior in real time and, followed longitudinally, allow evaluation of how change occurs over extended time periods. Practice theories of WS-CAM encompass the holistic health concept of whole-person outcomes, including nonlinear pathways to complex, multidimensional changes. Understanding how the patient as a living system arrives at these outcomes requires studying the process of healing, e.g., sudden abrupt worsening and/or improvements, ‘healing crises’, and ‘unstuckness’, from which the multiple inter-personal and intra-personal outcomes emerge. SSGs can document the indirect, emergent dynamic effects of interventions, transitional phases, and the mutual interaction of patient and environment that underlie the healing process. Two WS-CAM research exemplars are provided to demonstrate the feasibility of using SSGs in both dyadic and within-patient contexts, and to illustrate the possibilities for clinically relevant, process-focused hypotheses. This type of research has the potential to help clinicians select, modify and optimize treatment plans earlier in the course of care and produce more successful outcomes for more patients.