In the social sciences, the case study starts to regain the respectful methodological status it deserves (Gomm, Hammersley, & Foster, 2000; Kazdin, 1982; Yin, 1994). During the heydays of the so-called nomothetic paradigm, roughly stretching from 1940 until 2000, a major part of the academic world looked upon case studies with a certain contempt. The level of the person-specific or idiographic information was considered a dark wood, where science easily gets lost in subjective mirages. The idiographic was considered an area to be bypassed, preferably by assessing large groups of ‘participants’ in a standardized way, aiming straightforwardly for the revelation of the general, ‘nomothetic’ laws that determine human subjectivity.
After about six decades of such a pursuit for ‘objectivity’, more and more scholars share the opinion that it didn’t bring them closer to the object they have been looking for (e.g. Haynes, Mumma & Pinson, 2009; Schwarz, 1999; Molenaar & Valsiner, 2005). It became blatantly clear that the human psyche is far too lively and (re-)active to be captured by standardized tests. Psyche proved, summoning Hamlet in support of our project, ‘to be more difficult to be played on than a pipe’, and it refused to render its truth to those that choked it in premature generalizations. Psychology is in the first place a science of the particular and if it doesn’t proceed by studying subjects one by one, it doesn’t seem to proceed at all. Such is the lesson academic psychology finally starts to learn from it’s one and only master: human subjectivity.
In the field of psychotherapy, the importance of case studies for practice, training, and theory building is beyond doubt. The birth of psychotherapy as an academic discipline is commonly equated with the publication of Breuer and Freud’s (1896) Studies on Hysteria, an iconic set of five case studies on women suffering from hysterical symptoms. Ever since then, authors from a wide variety of therapeutic orientations produced a wealth of case studies. The exploitation of the full potential of this fascinating reservoir of knowledge, however, depends on its accessibility and surveyability. Otherwise, case studies mainly remain scattered pieces of research that do not lead to the accumulation or integration of knowledge they might enable. After more than hundred years of case study research, the Single Case Archive (SCA) project finally meets the demand for a systematic classification of cases on the basis of descriptive information (see also Fishman, 2005; Iwakabe & Gazzola, 2009).
The basic idea behind the SCA is simple: providing a tool that allows the quick identification of specific sets of cases according to specific interests of researchers, clinicians, and students. The SCA realizes this by presenting an online archive, with an easy-to-use search engine operating on the basis of descriptive criteria, such as diagnosis of patient, type of therapy, theoretical orientation of therapist, etc. In this way, the researcher who wants to aggregate findings accross a homogeneous set of cases, the clinician who wants to know about a treatment x with a patient with diagnosis y, or the student who wants to write a paper on a certain clinical subject, all benefit greatly from the SCA.
The SCA project is unfinished, a work in progress, and will always remain like that. ‘The truth is always new.’ As the logic of human subjectivity never closes up, never get’s exhausted in yielding new truths, the last case study will never be written. As long as man exist, he will long to be listened upon, and he will be worth to write a case study about. The SCA project started in 2013 with the release of a preliminary online archive containing about 500 psychoanalytic cases (see Desmet, Meganck, Seybert, et al., 2013). This archive was constructed at the Department of Psychoanalysis of Ghent University, Belgium. In 2015, a new online archive was launched, with a professionalized search engine, financed by the University of Essex, Great Britain.
At this moment, an international research team, concentrated at the universities of Ghent and Essex, is working to progressively extend the archive beyond the initial set of 500 cases, beyond the psychoanalytic field, and ultimately beyond theoretical confinements in general. The human subject doesn’t belong to any theory. It exists for anyone who wants listen to it and hear it. Clinicians, researchers, or any other person willing to do so can easily submit cases to the archive. After a review procedure, they will be added to the archive if they meet criteria pertaining to ethical issues (e.g. concerning anonymity of patients), quality of writing, minimal length, and focus (e.g. it must clearly concern a case on psychotherapeutic treatment). The user guide specifies these criteria and provides other relevant information on how to submit a case study and also in general on how to use the online archive.
You can be part of this project in several ways. To start with, you can register on the Register page and we will keep you updated on any news related to the SCA. Be aware that eligible users of the Archive are screened by the SCA team before their user ID and password is activated. Also check out our social media pages. Second, you can let us know about case studies that are not included in the archive through our Send us a case study page. We will consider the case study for inclusion in the archive. Furthermore, you can provide us with patient, treatment, therapist, and publication information related to a case study on the Case study submission page. We will check your codings and the case study will be included in the archive shortly after. Finally, if you want to be further involved in the SCA project as a volunteer, for a research placement, or for collaboration, you should contact us on the Contact page.
Jochem Willemsen, PhD, is lecturer at the University of Essex, UK. His research on psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and forensic topics is published in international scientific journals. He is currently director of research in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex. He has been working for years as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice.
Reitske Meganck, PhD, is assistant professor at Ghent University, Belgium. She wrote a PhD on the psychometric and clinical validity of self- and observer-report measures for alexithymia and affect regulation and is involved in psychotherapy process-outcome research at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting of Ghent University. Besides her academic work, she is also having a private practice as a Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalytic therapist.
Ruth Inslegers, PhD, is teaching assistant at Ghent University, Belgium. She made a PhD on affect-regulation and interpersonal problems and is currently involved in psychotherapy process-outcome research at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting of Ghent University. In addition to her academic work, she is also working in private practice as a Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalytic therapist.
Mattias Desmet, PhD, is assistant professor at Ghent University, Belgium. He wrote a PhD on psychometric characteristics of self-report measures and is currently involved in psychotherapy process-outcome research at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting of Ghent University. He also has been working for years as a Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalytic therapist in private practice.
Ann Buysse, PhD, is full professor in clinical psychology and head of the Research Group ‘family psychology’ at the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University. She has elaborate psychological expertise and knowledge, both expertise related to the topic of mental health care and related to specific methodologies required in the different studies (i.e., interdisciplinary collaboration, multilevel data analysis, analysis of interdependent data, and qualitative research).
Alexis Dewaele, PhD, is assistant professor in clinical psychology and currently coordinator of PSYNC, a consortium within the field of clinical psychology at Ghent university. The consortium gathers three departments (experimental-clinical and health psychology, psychoanalysis and counseling psychology, and developmental, personality, and social psychology), 25 professors, and more than 100 researchers within the field of clinical psychology.
Juri Krivzov is a clinical psychologist and scientific researcher in the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium. He was trained in the Netherlands and Germany and was working in an outpatient psychosomatic pain clinic. He is interested in Somatoform Disorders, Psychodynamic Interventions and Embodied Cognition Perspective, as well as in Qualitative and Single Case methodology. Within the Hercules/ FWO funded Single Case Archive project, he is responsible for the expansion of the Single Case Archive database.
Liza Notaerts is a clinical psychologist and scientific researcher in the Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium. Her research interests focus on the Science-Practitioner Gap, Evidence-Based Practice, as well as on the methodology behind Single Case Research. Within the Hercules/ FWO funded Single Case Archive project, she is responsible for the expansion of the Single Case Archive database. In addition to her academic work, she also has a private practice.
Ruth Inslegers, PhD, was coordinator of the Single Case Archive project during the first year of the project.
Joke Vandamme, PhD, replaced Ruth Inslegers as the coordinator of the project on the 2nd of October 2017. She is responsible for the communication and publicity around the Single Case Archive. She also coordinates the extension of the database and supervises the coding of the single cases.
Patrick Luyten, University of Leuven; Patrick Onghena, University of Leuven; Wim Van Den Noortgate; University of Leuven; Stijn Vanheule, Ghent University; Jochem Willemsen, Essex University
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