And this is precisely my point These clinicians have made empirical

And this is precisely my point these clinicians have

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And this is precisely my point! These clinicians have made empirical observations on relevant case material that have led to modifications or elaborations of theory. Their observations could be incorporated into the explicit theory to improve others’ understanding. If your best practice requires you to amend a theory or combine theories, you may have something to con- tribute. Unique features of cases can inform theory The theories we build in counselling and psychother- apy are meant to encompass more than is ever encountered in a single case. Each case includes details not shared with other cases, and a good clinical theory helps practitioners understand them. Turning this around, unique features of cases can show where theories need to grow. Unlike statistical Correspondence: Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Counselling and Psychotherapy Research , June 2007; 7(2): 122 Á 127 1473-3145 (print)/1746-1405 (online) 2007 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy DOI: 10.1080/14733140701356742
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hypothesis testing, where unique features are often regarded as error, case studies can use them to inform theory (Rosenwald, 1988; Stiles, 2005). I think this point is the one made by the parable of the blind men and the elephant. The man who felt its side said the elephant was like a wall; the man who felt its tusk, like a spear; the man who felt its trunk, like a snake; and so forth. Each inference was different, but all were at least partly justified and all described the same animal. Although the blind men in the parable failed to listen to each other, the point is that the elephant (i.e., counselling and psychother- apy) has many aspects. An adequate theory has to incorporate the distinct features of each case as well as the common features. If you restrict yourself to the themes that are common across cases, you will overlook the most interesting parts. Each case tells us something new, and new observations are always valuable, whether they con- firm previous theory or add something unexpected. Research provides quality control on theory The researcher’s task is to make systematic observa- tions and describe them in ways that are accurate and relevant to the theory. The goal is for theory to correspond to observation and practice Á to describe the world accurately. If the theoretical description and the clinical observation don’t match, then something needs adjusting. Either the observations were some- how misleading or inaccurately described, or the theory needs to be modified. So, the researcher’s task is to make and check observations (and re-check observations) and, when necessary, adjust the theory so that it corresponds better with the observations. In this process, failures are as important as successes. Observations that show where the theory doesn’t work can be as scientifically important as observations that show where the theory does work.
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