Berends, L. (2011). Embracing the visual: Using timelines with in-depth interviews on substance use and treatment. Qualitative Report: an online journal dedicated to qualitative research since 1990,16(1), 1-9.
People typically seek treatment for addiction only when faced with a major crisis. Understanding the trajectory of substance use and treatment seeking may assist in identifying points for intervention. In this study I explored the use of visual methods with in-depth interviews to represent people's substance use, critical events, and treatment pathways. Ethics approval was granted with the condition that only aggregate findings would be presented, although occasional quotes could be used for illustration. Typical timelines were developed, along with text vignettes describing hypothetical participants whose experience matched that shown in these timelines. Benefits of the timelines include the combination of aural and visual data, along with the concise and holistic form of presentation. However, the use of typical timelines and hypothetical vignettes meant a loss of the richness found in individual portrayals of experience. Alternative approaches, such as the use of individual and summary timelines with text illustrations would preserve the conciseness of representation while enabling the voice of the participant to be heard.
Centre for Health and Social Research
Open Access Journal Article