5.2.3 – The use of case studies, to include an example study (Lavarenne et al (2013)

The Use of Case Studies

Case studies involve studying a single person, or a small group, of individuals in depth. They often involve using a variety of methods and triangulating the results to form a conclusion.  In clinical psychology, these are often people with unique characteristics or experiences, or rare illnesses. The data gathered is often qualitative and detailed, allowing a detailed understanding to be gained.

This means that a full understanding of the patient can be gained (their condition, symptoms, life events, genetics, and a variety of other contributing factors), which can be useful to further our knowledge.

Lavarenne et al (2013)



To investigate how people from the group form firm ego boundaries.

To investigate whether those with psychosis have weak ego boundaries.


‘Thursday Group’ with 6 patients present, with fragile ego boundaries (schizophrenia / schizoaffective disorders).
The study describes one of these 45 minute sessions.
After the session, group leaders noted down key points about behaviour, expression, participation, emotions and comments.

  • One member gave out cards to the other members.
    • Helped his ego boundary and the group’s.
    • One member couldn’t accept as he felt he was selling himself.
      • This member had delusions, thinkign he worked on a multinational
      • The member giving out took this rejection to heart. Weak ego boundary –> Can’t distinguish himself from the card.
    • One of them had an out of body experience and could not get the spirits back in his body – his boundary was extremely fragile.

Each member showed that they suffered from weak ego boundaries.
The group seemed to help strengthen their ego boundaries.



(-) 6 patients, all suffer differently from weak ego boundaries, not generalisable.


(-) Gathered qualititative data after the session. This is not very replicable because each time it was done, very different data would be collected.




(+) Qualitative data –> Detailed data gathered about the participants.

(-) Internal validity –> Notes taken after the group and therefore are subject to the memories of the group leaders.

(-) Population validity –> Very unique individuals, all with different experiences and severity of schiziphrenia. Therefore, the results can’t be applied to another population.