Is case study methodology suitable for a PhD project? Yes it is! Last month, Kimberly Van Nieuwenhove for Ghent University got the degree of Doctor of Psychology on a thesis entitled “The nature and change of interpersonal relationship patterns in psychodynamic therapy for patients with a complex trauma background” under the supervision of SCA board members Reitske Meganck and Mattias Desmet. The available literature on complex trauma mostly comprises nomothetic, quantitative, cross-sectional studies, and many questions remain unanswered concerning the specific nature of interpersonal patterns and the process of change. A mixed-methods single case study design is most appropriate to expand our knowledge. On that account, we systematically examined three cases from the Ghent Psychotherapy Study (GPS, Meganck et al., 2017) and the Single Case Studies. The case of Amy (Van Nieuwenhove et al., 2019) illustrates how our case studies fully lived up to their potential to provide enriching and theory-building results. As a final step, we synthesized our research findings by conducting a case comparison study. In summary, we found that the patients feared their abusive parent(s) and tried to avoid confrontation by taking up a passive position and showing an inability to express their anger. This pattern evolved into a more general inability to express desires and emotions and to avoid anticipated negative reactions from others. This also transpired in the therapeutic context, be it rather concealed and unconscious. Therefore, clinicians should consider the interpersonal dynamics underlying their connection with the patient and should adapt their interventions accordingly. Kudos to Kimberly!
Van Nieuwenhove, K., Truijens, F., Meganck, R., Cornelis, S., & Desmet, M. (2019). Working through childhood trauma-related interpersonal patterns in psychodynamic treatment: An evidence-based case study. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000438
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