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A new course web page has been added under Assignment Resources - Examples of Case Study Papers. An excellent case study paper is available for viewing, entitled "The Application of Cognitive Therapy to a Case of Bereavement."

NOTE: This particular combination of client scenario and theory cannot be selected for future case studies.

Case Study

Chapter 1 of Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy introduces the hypothetical client Stan, who is struggling to overcome emotions, self–perceptions, and behaviour patterns that are hindering his ability to be the person he wants to be. At the end of each theoretical chapter, the text revisits the case of Stan to illustrate the conceptualization of client problems, the types of therapeutic goals established, the nature of the therapeutic relationship, and the application of each theoretical model. In addition, Case Approach to Counseling and Psychotherapy follows the case of Ruth from each theoretical perspective.

The Case Study assignment will encourage you to integrate your conceptual knowledge of the various theoretical models with insight into a case–study application of those approaches. The Case Study is the major course assignment and should be 15 to 20 double–spaced, typed pages. You will be graded both on your knowledge of the theoretical model(s) you select and your ability to apply that knowledge to a particular client scenario. Review the “Specific Criteria and Grading Matrix” below to ensure that you understand the expectations of the assignment.

For this assignment, select a hypothetical client scenario from Chapter 16 of the Student Manual that accompanies the text. Choose one of the six “Additional Cases for Practice” that describe a range of clients with a variety of different problems. These descriptions are brief. You may flesh out the scenario in any way you choose, as long as it is consistent with the synopsis provided. You may want to elaborate on family background, health, current interpersonal relationships, past experiences, coping resources, and so on to support your understanding of the problem and your approach to facilitating client change. Be creative, drawing on what you have learned from the cases of Stan, Ruth, and others throughout the course.

You must also select a particular theoretical model to work with. While you are not required to select the model that fits best with your own perspectives and worldview, you may find it easier to develop and present your case study if the model makes some intuitive and experiential sense to you. Select one primary theory to work with, although you may draw on techniques of other approaches if you like. (Developing your own integrative model is beyond the scope of this course.)

Once you have selected a client scenario and a primary theoretical model, begin to develop your case study based on the criteria outlined below. Make use of the course texts and at least three other resources. (The supplementary readings at the end of each unit are a good source for other resources.) You are expected to draw on ideas, express them in your own words, and organize them in a way that fits your particular case study. Do not simply paraphrase text materials. You must also properly reference your sources. (See “Citations and References” further on.)

Begin thinking about your client scenario by week 10 of the course, just after completing the Midterm Exam on Sections II and III (see the “Suggested Study Schedule” in this Manual). At that point, skip ahead to Chapter 15 in Theory and Practice for a summary of the various approaches to see which model might fit with your worldview and the scenario you have selected. You may reverse the order in which you complete Sections IV and V of the course to make sure you cover the theoretical model you have selected by week 13 of the course. By week 14, you should have developed an outline and begun to flesh out your case study. At that point, review Table 16–1 in Theory and Practice and Table 14–1 in Case Approach to see how the various approaches address the cases of Stan and Ruth, respectively. These tables may provide insights into the development of your own case study. You are advised to submit your Case Study assignment by week 16 of the course so that you avoid a pile–up of evaluation components at the end of the course.

Criteria for Developing the Case Study

Use the following questions as guidelines for developing the various components of your Case Study, focusing on what you see as most relevant for the client scenario you have selected. Feel free to address any additional questions appropriate for your case study. Include illustrations from your client scenario to support your choice of theoretical model(s), the way you conceptualize the client problem, and the way you approach the counselling process with that particular client. You are not expected to produce a dialogue between counsellor and client, although you may include small examples of dialogue to illustrate your points. Your case study must be presented as an essay, not in question and answer format. You may organize your essay around the major headings provided, or develop your own organizational structure. Please note the specific grading criteria and weighting of each section.

Key Concepts

  1. Which theoretical model have you selected to work with this client, and what is the rationale for your selection?

  2. What is the theory’s view of human nature, and what are the underlying assumptions of that approach?

  3. How does this particular view of human nature fit the client scenario you have selected?

  4. What themes represent the core struggles in this client’s life?

  5. How does the theory’s view of human nature and problem development help you understand how the client’s problems have developed?

  6. What are the primary characteristics of this approach? What are its major areas of focus and emphasis? What are its fundamental ideas?

  7. What implications do the key concepts have for your work with this client? What will you focus on?

  8. How much emphasis will you place on past experiences, the here and now, and the future? Where will the emphasis of therapy lie—thoughts, feelings, behaviours, or interpersonal relationships?

The Therapeutic Process

  1. What therapeutic goals will you set with this client? How do those goals support or reflect the basic constructs of the theoretical model?

  2. In the context of your theoretical model, what role will you assume as a therapist? What will your main tasks or functions be? How active or directive will you be? When will self–disclosure be appropriate? How much?

  3. What will you expect from the client? What is the client’s role in the therapeutic process? How do you expect this client to react to that role?

  4. What type of relationship will exist between you (the counsellor) and the client? How much responsibility for client change will each of you assume?

  5. What challenges do you anticipate in establishing your relationship with this client? How will you address those issues?

  6. How are your values, attitudes, worldview, and beliefs similar or dissimilar to those of the client? How might differences in perspective affect the counselling process?

  7. What is the role of interpersonal, systemic, or cultural factors in the client’s problems? What other individuals or systems in this client’s life might become important to the therapeutic process?

Techniques and Procedures

  1. What are the major techniques and methods associated with this theoretical approach?

  2. Which therapy activities are most appropriate for your client’s problems? What is your rationale for this selection?

  3. How do these strategies fit with the client’s gender, family, cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds? What potential barriers exist? How might you overcome those barriers?

  4. What client resources, coping strategies, personal strengths, and other characteristics may facilitate the counselling process?

  5. What specific steps will you use to implement the selected therapeutic techniques with this client?

  6. What changes do you anticipate in the client’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour, relationships with others, and environment?


  1. Why did you select this particular approach for this client? Did your decision making reflect objective criteria or your personal preferences or worldview?

  2. How well do you anticipate this approach will work with this client, under these circumstances, addressing this particular presenting concern?

  3. What are the potential limitations of this model in addressing the needs of this client?

  4. What other approaches might you use to supplement the conceptual framework or counselling process you used here?

  5. Which models or techniques would work less well with this client, and why?

  6. What are your model’s strengths and weaknesses?

Specific Grading Criteria for the Case Study

  1. Select a hypothetical client scenario from Chapter 16 of the Student Manual that accompanies the text.

  2. Select one primary theoretical model to work with. Conduct a focused literature search of primary research, and review articles on this theory.

  3. Develop your case study based on the criteria outlined for key concepts, therapeutic process, techniques and procedures, and evaluation (as noted in the previous pages).

  4. Your report should be a 15 to 20 double–spaced, word–processed or typed pages, using a standard 12–point font size.

  5. This assignment requires demonstration of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

  6. A well–prepared report will comprise three major parts: introduction, body of the report, and conclusion. It will start with a title page and end with a reference list. This assignment is intended to develop your skill in analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating psychological counselling theories and to further the development of your skill in writing a scholarly psychology report. The report is to be written in APA style, which you may research by referring to The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.), the AUPR Writing Skills resources, your text, and the articles you selected. At the 400–level, you are expected to use APA format for the overall format, including title page, abstract, in–text citations, and reference list. The following Marking Matrix delineates the expectations for this assignment.

Grading Matrix

Abstract Concise summary of research paper. 5 5
Wordy summary of research paper. 4  
Unclear or confusing summary. 3  
Incomplete or inaccurate summary. 1-2  
No summary. 0  
Introduction Concise statement of the rationale, purpose, and structure. 5 5
A well–written, interesting rationale or background statement, which includes either the purpose or the structure. 4  
A well–written, interesting rationale or background statement in which neither purpose nor structure is described. 3  
A wordy statement of the rationale, purpose, and structure; includes information either unnecessary or better placed later in the paper. 2  
Poorly written, with neither purpose nor structure described. 1  
No introduction. 0  
Key Concepts
Theoretical framework and core constructs clearly identified (knowledge and comprehension). Demonstrated fit between model selected and particular client scenario (application and analysis). Identification of client problems (core themes) in a manner consistent with the model selected (application and analysis). 10-15 15
Two of these three key areas covered. 5-10  
One of these three key areas covered. 1-5  
No key areas covered. 0  
Therapeutic Process
Selection of appropriate goals and description of the therapeutic relationship that is consistent with both the theoretical model and the client scenario (knowledge and comprehension). Appropriate identification of worldview, value, or cultural issues (application and analysis). 10-15 15
Both of these areas covered, but not fully. 5-10  
One of these key areas covered. 1-5  
No key areas covered. 0  
Techniques and Procedures
Identification of strategies or techniques associated with the model selected (knowledge and comprehension). Clear rationale for the appropriateness of particular interventions selected (application and analysis). Sensitivity to particular client characteristics (application and analysis). 10-15 15
Two of these three key areas covered. 5-10  
One of these three key areas covered. 1-5  
No key areas covered. 0  
Critical assessment of the model and processes selected (synthesis and evaluation). 15-20 20
Discusses some limitations and strengths of the model and processes. 9-15  
Limited discussion of limitations and strengths of the model and processes. 0-8  
Discussion and Conclusions Clear, logical conclusions drawn from the literature review with well–founded recommendations for further research. May include some creative thought. 5 5
Clear, logical conclusions drawn from the literature review with limited recommendation for further research. 4  
Clear, logical conclusions drawn with no recommendation. 3  
Unclear or illogical conclusions, or no conclusion. 0-2  
Style Consistent use of the current APA3 style in title page, body of the report, citations, and reference list. Excellent organization, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. (A well–organized report may use headings and/or clear, logical transitions to shift from one section to the next.) 9-10 10
Consistent use of APA style in all four elements. Generally well written (logical, clear) with a few minor errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. 7-8  
Consistent use of APA style in three elements or inconsistent use in four elements. Logical and clear, but has many errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 4-6  
Use of APA style in two elements. Some confusion or lack of clarity in organization and writing. 1-3  
Use of APA style in fewer than two elements. 0  
Sources Accurately discusses and integrates the main findings of 10 or more primary research or review articles. 9-10 10
Accurately discusses and integrates the main findings of 5-9 primary research or review articles. Other articles summarized may be primary or secondary sources. 5-9  
Accurately discusses and integrates the main findings of 1-4 primary research or review articles. Other articles summarized may be primary or secondary sources. 3-4  
Accurately integrates only secondary sources. 2  
Incomplete, inaccurate discussion of secondary sources. 1  
No articles summarized. 0  
Total     100

Note: The descriptors that appear in parenthesis and in italics within the Body: Key Concepts, Body: Therapeutic Process, Body: Techniques and Procedures, and Body: Evaluation are referenced from Bloom’s Taxonomy.4

Citations and References

The citation system outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed., 2001) is the most easily used, economical, and widely accepted system in psychological circles. You may borrow a copy of this manual from the Athabasca University Library or from another library at which you have borrowing privileges. You may also find useful links to writing resources through the Centre for Psychology home page at Click on Psychology Resources (AUPR), located in the left column under Online Resources. Then click on Writing Resources link, located in the second paragraph or the bottom of the left column, under Other Useful Sites.

3 The most current is APA style, 6th Ed. (2009), but you may also use the 5th Ed. (2001).

4 For more information re Bloom’s Taxonomy, see or

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