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How to Write a Psychology Case Study

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How to Write a Psychology Case Study

Examples, Tips, and Guidelines

By Kendra Cherry | Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD
Updated November 13, 2018

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What Is a Case Study?
Sources of Information Used
Section 1: A Case History
Section 2: The Intervention

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    At some point in your study of psychology, you may be required to write a case study. These are often used in clinical cases or in situations when lab research is not possible or practical. In undergraduate courses, these are often based on a real individual, an imagined individual, or a character from a television show, film, or book.

    The specific format for a case study can vary greatly. In some instances, your case study will focus solely on the individual of interest. Other possible requirements include citing relevant research and background information on a particular topic. Always consult with your instructor for a detailed outline of your assignment.

    What Is a Case Study?

    A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. Much of  Freud’s  work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include  Anna O ,  Phineas Gage , and  Genie .

    In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject’s life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior.

    The hope is that learning gained from studying one case can be generalized to many others. Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.

    One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab. The case study of Genie, for example, allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed.

    In Genie’s case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development. This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study otherwise impossible to reproduce phenomena.


    There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might utilize:

    • Explanatory case studies are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have actually caused certain things to occur.
    • Exploratory case studies are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses .
    • Descriptive case studies involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory .
    • Intrinsic case studies are a type of case study in which the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget’s observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.
    • Collective case studies involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community of people.
    • Instrumental case studies occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.


      There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study:

      • Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.
      • Retrospective case study methods are those that involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individuals life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.

      Sources of Information Used

      There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. The six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:

      • Direct observation: This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting . While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
      • Interviews: One of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey-type questions or more open-ended questions.
      • Documents: Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc.
      • Archival records: Census records, survey records, name lists, etc.
      • Physical artifacts: Tools, objects, instruments and other artifacts often observed during a direct observation of the subject.
      • Participant observation: Involves the researcher actually serving as a participant in events and observing the actions and outcomes.

      Section 1: A Case History

      This section will have the following structure and content:

      1. Background Information
        The first section of your paper will present your client’s background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.
      2. Description of the Presenting Problem
        In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with. Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.
      3. Your Diagnosis
        Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the clients symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

      Section 2: The Intervention

      The second section of your paper will focus on the intervention used to help the client. Your instructor might require you to choose from a particular theoretical approach or ask you to summarize two or more possible treatment approaches.

      Some of the possible treatment approaches you might choose to explore include:

      • Psychoanalytic Approach
        Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client’s problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
      • Cognitive-Behavioral Approach
        Explain how a cognitive-behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive-behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
      • Humanistic Approach
        Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy . Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client’s reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.


      • Do not refer to the subject of your case study as “the client.” Instead, use his or her name or a pseudonym.
      • Remember to use APA format when citing references .
      • Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style and format.

      A Word From Verywell

      Case studies can be a useful research tool but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They can be helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.

      If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow.

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      Article Sources

      • Gagnon, YC. The Case Study as a Research Method: A Practical Handbook. Quebec: PUQ; 2010.
      • Yin, RK. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage Publications; 2013.

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      Psychological Case Study Format

      The child (I. This case study is designed to give students some practice in considering issues associated with reporting or communicating about eating disorders and mental illness so they will be better prepared to deal with such a situation, should it arise, when they are. This resource, revised according to the 6 th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. Case Study: Child Diagnosed with Autism (ASD) Essay – Background on Case Study The subject for this case study is a male child who is approximant four years, six months of age. (2012). A. He is also an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University. Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument. A variety of techniques may be employed including personal interviews, direct-observation , psychometric tests , and archival records. Merz, Joanne E. In a clinical setting, a case study is often referred to as a case history or a clinical observation. It briefty details almost every aspect and event in the patient’s life, in an effort to determine a possible diagnosis given the information presented. Preparing the Case Writing the Case Parts of a Case Study Good Characteristics Good Case Studies 5 The important thing is that there be clear ethical issues arising from a realistic situation with which those analyzing the case can identify. Case Example of a Patient Diagnosed with Depression This is a write up of a person’s bio/psychosocial history. ) lives with his parents, two older siblings, one younger, and an uncle, in an urban area of Los Angeles. Case study in psychology refers to the use of a descriptive research approach to obtain an in-depth analysis of a person, group, or phenomenon. Zachary C. A case study is an intensive, in-depth investigation of some behaviour or event of interest in an individual, small group or situation. Case Studies in Sport and Exercise Psychology. Perry and Michael J. An official journal of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) Current Issue; Sample Case Study; The Role of the Clinical Sport Neuropsychologist: An Introductory Case Example. As a consequence, scientists have assessed a. Watch video  This is the first video in a series of 3 case studies. The product can either be a student study of a new case or a student analysis of pre-existing case studies towards a particular goal. APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. What Psychologists Better Know About Recovered Memories: Research, Lawsuits, and the Pivotal Experiment [Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice] The Facade of Scientific Documentation: A Case Study of Richard Ofshe’s Analysis of the Paul Ingram Case [Psychology, Public Policy & Law]. The case study might be an actual case in which you write about a person or the individual might even be imagined. A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format. Wales. The benefit of the case study research design is that it is possible to concentrate on specific and intriguing circumstances. Owen Hughes is a Consultant, Counseling Psychologist at the Pain and Fatigue Management Centre, Bronllys, Brecon. In case-based instruction, the learning can involve recording and synthesizing information on a case, indexing it to other cases, and/or adapting a solution to the given case. Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website: Purring, A.

      Study, while the hypothesis predicts the relationship between variables. These sections are: social history of the patient, conceptualization and treatment, and a discussion section that includes the etiology of the disorder, biological and psychological factors and treatment. In subsequent paragraphs, you should be building a case for your study. g. A clinical formulation, also known as case formulation and problem formulation, is a theoretically-based explanation or conceptualisation of the information obtained from a clinical assessment. the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a. Be sure to define any terms you are using that are specific to the field of study. INTRODUCTION You are invited to join a research study to look at _____. Having a variety of case studies based on various categories such as industry, location, company size, or type of business can help your sales team convert leads into customers and upsell existing customers. Due to a small sample, the case study can conduct an in-depth analysis of the individual/group. Mrs Jones enjoyed school and left at the age of sixteen after her GCSE examinations. It offers a hypothesis about the cause and nature of the presenting problems and is considered an adjunct or alternative approach to the more. Format this section as seen below. Download our free case study study template here. Indicate what your operational definitions are. The authors present the case study along with additional sections that complement the case. Case studies are very detailed investigations of an individual or small group of people, usually regarding an unusual phenomenon or biographical event of interest to a research field. How you use case studies will depend on the goals, as well as on the format, of your course. , discussing all of psychology), but do not begin too specifically either (e. g. Informed Consent Document Template. , by stating the hypothesis). It could be used in either an introductory psychology course or at a more advanced level such as in an upper-level abnormal psychology course. This article presents a case study of anorexia nervosa and obsessive personality disorder as a means of describing the main therapeutic interventions in the framework of "third-generation" therapies. The case also covers depression, the diagnosis of psychological disorders, cross cultural issues in counseling, and treatment planning. She went on to study business and administration at college and has worked with the same company since then in administration. Do not begin too generally (e. Using case studies. Case studies are also crucial to your sales process. If it is a large lecture course, for example, you might use a case study to illustrate and enrich the lecture material. The advantages of the case study in psychology are the potential for the development of novel hypotheses for later testing; the case study can provide detailed descriptions of specific and rare cases. List all the research questions in the study, and then include the researcher’s hypothesis for the study. She is happy in her job and did not describe any other concurrent stressors. For the purpose of this study, the following question were. Psychological Case Study Report Homework Academic Service Authors And M Review Each Facet Of Clinical Psychology History Format July 12, 2018 psychological case study report homework academic service authors and m review each facet of clinical psychology history format. Please take whatever time you need to discuss the study with your family and friends, or anyone else you wish to. PROJECT TITLE.

      This process will be different depending on what type of case study you are planning to do. It can help therapists and clients to understand the origin, current status, and maintenance of problem. The most important thing is to maintain a clear goal on what you want to accomplish in the case study, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a result, just a certain process that you hope to achieve that will make the entire process simpler and more accessible. Three are stories of professors who incorporate these practices into the classes they teach; three illuminate efforts to bring transformation and spirituality in at the programmatic or departmental level. Limitations of Case Studies: Case studies. We’ve marked up the paper with sample comments from various psychology teachers that comment on the paper’s format, content, and use of APA style. ”[Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association, Section A. All statements, names, numbers, dates, etc. 4, 1998] Guidelines from the Oral History Association may be of particular relevance to the development of case studies, because data collection for developing case studies is often similar to collecting an oral history. Format, that is relevant. Once you have your topic, it is time to start planning and developing the study. For thissection, we will assume a psychological case study, as most case studies are based on the psychological model. Case Study Definition: A case study is a study involving descriptive information about one person. Strengths of Case Studies: Case studies can be beneficial because they can provide detailed information and insight into the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of a person who may be unique in some ways. Sample APA Papers: Literature Review. Case conceptualization refers to how professional counselors understand the nature of clients’ concerns, how and why the problems developed, and the types of counseling interventions that might be helpful. 97) Definition: It is an in-depth investigation of a. The Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS; Schmidt, 2005) is a relatively new psychotherapy. Diagnosis is the identification of a problem which becomes the target of the counseling intervention. Journal of Business Cases and Applications Bella’s: a case study, Page tudy in organizational behavior Bobby Medlin the job satisfaction and employee. Note: This is a fictitious case developed for educational use. Tips on Writing Case Study Psychology. Studies are listed in alphabeti This is considered jargon and needs to be explained. CBT Case Conceptualization / Case Formulation. used herein were created for the purposes of this case and shoul factual. Developing the Case Study. A case study is a description of a real life problem or situation which requires you to analyse the main issues involved. Case formulation is the core component of CBT. These issues need to be discussed and related to the academic literature and/or research findings on the topic and conclusions then drawn about. CASE STUDIES These six case studies illustrate how transformative and spiritual elements are manifesting in higher education. Case Study of Counseling Interventions with a Child with Asperger‟s Syndrome Asperger‟s syndrome has gained increasing recognition since the American Psychiatric Association added it to its list of pervasive developmental disorders identified in the Diagnostic. Its development has been informed by a number of well-known therapies and disciplines, including ego state therapy, inner-child work, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), neuroscience, attachment theory, and developmental psychology. Case study research involves the study of a case within a real-life contemporary context or setting (Creswell, 2013, p.

      Sudah Patel and Dr. and management studies, community psychology and sociology. The case studies come from most regions of the world, though there are more from high income countries. ” Much of the process below is taken verbatim from Chapter 3 of the A Practical Guide to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (2004), Edited by S. The last 6 years of her nursing career have been in education. Publications to date include the book “Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Case Studies and Care Plans”, research reviews (see CV) and completed a literature review for Dr. The advantages and limitations of case studies are detailed. Hayes and K. The case-study approach For example, individual health workers may respond differently to the same set of incentives; and patients vary in. 10 Fascinating Case Studies From Sigmund Freud’s Career. Strosahl. 8 years of age, drawn from the initial 103 subjects. Case-study work is also very flexible. My Assignment Help : Samples & Case Study Review Sample Assignment Samples & Case Study Review Sample: The biggest assignment sample database – Chat with MyAssignmentHelp. Stumble 21. This paper is the first of a series of three articles relating to a case study conducted at Fairfield University to assess aspects of the rapid introduction of Information Technology at the institution. Michael ABSTRACT Once considered a rare clinical condition, trichotillomania is now recognized as a psychological disorder that is more prevalent than previously thought. Aug 26, 2015  Sigmund Freud’s ideas and theories might look outdated today, but there’s no denying the influence that he’s had on the advancement of psychology and psych. Abstract. Four children representing each stage of structural development were tracked as case studies in the second year. The sample comprised 16 first grade children, 7 girls and 9 boys, ranging from 6. Debra Kelly August 26, 2015. Outline of ACT Assessment/Case Formulation Process This outline provides additional information on completing the “ACT Initial Case Conceptualization Form. Selection of a representative sub-sample of children of low or high mathematical. Behavioral treatment of trichotillomania: A case study Kurt D. Case studies, and by association the case presentation, are defined. Share 260. The behavioral treatment of a 21-year old college woman with a longstanding history of chronic hair pulling is. Ardith Sudduth on the healthy behaviors of freshman nursing students. Case studies are a common part of clinical science and practice, although a careful consideration of their advantages and limitations is essential. The project collected and compiled a sample of mental health promotion programmes, initiatives and strategies into a document that mental health associa-tions and other organizations can use in their own communities and countries. 5 to 7. Please reference. In terms of overarching. com Experts to get your own custom made paper! Tweet.

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