Nine lessons and recommendations from the conduct of focus group research in chronic pain samples

Joanna L. McParland, Paul Flowers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose. The view of the patient is central to their care. Focus group methodology has been used in health psychology to capture patient views on health and illness. However, the process of conducting focus group research with patient groups has received scarce attention. The purpose of this paper was to highlight lessons learned from the conduct of focus groups in psychological research with chronic pain samples. Methods. Lessons were taken from three structured focus groups containing participants recruited from General Practice. Each group contained five, four, and six chronic pain sufferers from upper, middle and lower socioeconomic areas, respectively. Results. Nine lessons were learned about the conduct of focus group research in general, and also with chronic pain sufferers in particular. The lessons relate to (1) translating study interest into group attendance, (2) ensuring the environment maximizes the opportunity to learn from participants, (3) understanding participant motivations for attendance as well as (4) what participants take from the group, (5) ensuring adequate question specificity, accommodating the needs of particular groups in (6) moderation style and (7) discussion time scales, (8) considering the function of conflict in the group and (9) paying due attention to simultaneous dialogue. Recommendations for addressing the lessons are made. Conclusion. Patient groups have specific requirements and the conduct of focus groups should be driven by these needs to maximize inclusion and quality contributions in the group. Time, resources, and flexibility are needed to ensure the successful transition of these groups into focus group research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-504
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2011


  • chronic pain
  • health psychology
  • focus group methodology


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