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The Importance of Research for Therapists Part 7

The Importance of Research for Therapists Part 7

Case studies

Sigmund Freud, a Viennese medical practitioner and the founder of psychoanalysis at the turn of the century, offers a model of human psychoemotional dysfunction.  His model endeavours to account for links between psychoemotional development and behaviour.  Notably, Freud’s influence was built upon in a handful of single case studies, himself amongst them.  Undeniably, Freud’s contribution to the debate about the causes and remediation for anxiety and neurosis, whilst considerable, is entirely dependent upon his reported cases and his interpretations.

Consider the issue of reporting case studies for a moment.  What dangers or pitfalls do you anticipate with this method of research?  Write your views in Work Box Nine.

One of the major issues in case study research is the extent to which findings in single cases may be generalised to a wider population.  Each case is unique, bringing qualities and behaviours that may be broadly similar to the species yet entirely idiosyncratic.  Such studies may enable the researcher to establish an in-depth understanding of the specific case.  Much of the skill of the case study researcher is in understanding the limitations of the material.  Of course, sufficient numbers of cases studied over  a lengthy period may help in building greater understanding and multiple simultaneous cases are useful to this end.  The issue of researcher bias in case study research is important and cases should, as far as possible, not be selected in order to support some theory or notion of the researcher.

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