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Lief, E.R. (1992). Preliminary Guidelines for Single-Case Research. Mod. Psychoanal., 17(2):231-250.

(1992). Modern Psychoanalysis, 17(2):231-250

Preliminary Guidelines for Single-Case Research

Evelyn R. Lief, Ph.D.

Research inherently is an exciting process. Small children, allowed freedom of expression, will always ask “why?” Freud believed that this curiosity was related to the natural arousal, then sublimation, of sexual interests from the oedipal age onwards. Earlier, in the anal stage, young children begin to express their creativity. Even from the moment of birth a child begins to explore and learn about the world that surrounds her.

But what happens when interferences arise that block this outflow of curiosity and creativity? If only people could be confident they could write well, come up with original ideas, organize their thoughts about the psychoanalytic process, and create a comprehensive review of literature, thus assuring themselves a brilliant paper!

It sometimes seems an impossible task—to study indepth and write about the many levels and layers involved in the psychoanalytic treatment of a patient. How can one write about a subject which is inevitably so personal to the analyst, so amorphous, so unquantifiable, so intimate and yet so vast?

Working with Robert Marshall, who was asked to train candidates at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies in research methodology, we confronted the problems presented by the interactive process in research. In single-case studies, use is made of the already-existing laboratory of the psychoanalytic session where the life history of the patient can unfold during the psychoanalytic process and be replicated in the relationship with the analyst. This kind of research involves not only an exploration of the patient's personality, but also a growing need to look at the analyst's psyche as well.

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