A Key Role for Case Studies: Theory Building


  • Daniel B. Fishman Rutgers University
  • Michael A. Westerman New York University




clinical case studies, case studies, theory building, two-person relational theory, interpersonal defense theory, assimilation theory


This article provides an integrative introduction to a PCSP journal issue on using case studies to develop theory. The case studies explore a variety of conceptual models, including two-person relational theory in psychoanalysis (Messer, 2011); interpersonal defense theory (Westerman, 2011); and assimilation theory (Schlieke, Stiles, et al. [2011]; and Gray & Stiles [2011]). In addition, the case studies include a variety of types of clinical psychopathology and therapy orientations.  We note that the articles represent two different ways in which therapy transcript material can be employed in theory building: by focusing in on a small amount of clinical material to study detailed process in a single session (Messer; Westerman); or by analyzing an extensive amount of transcript material across many sessions to study positive change over the course of therapy (Schielke, Stiles, et al.; Gray & Stiles). Overall, we believe that this journal issue illustrates the impressive potential of case studies in advancing theory building. 

Author Biographies

Daniel B. Fishman, Rutgers University

Dan Fishman, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief, Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy Professor of Clinical and Organizational Psychology Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology Rutgers University Mailing address: 57 Jaffray Court Irvington, NY 10533 914-693-8549 fax: 603-917-2567 email: dfish96198@aol.com

Michael A. Westerman, New York University

Michael A. Westerman, Ph.D.




How to Cite

Fishman, D. B., & Westerman, M. A. (2011). A Key Role for Case Studies: Theory Building. Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, 7(4), 434–439. https://doi.org/10.14713/pcsp.v7i4.1111



Co-Editors' Introduction to PCSP Issue on Examples of Using Case Studies to Develop Theory