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What Are Case Studies Good For? A Response to Commentaries by McMullen and Karlin

Sam R. Hamburg

Abstract


I am grateful to Linda McMullen (2018) and Robert Karlin (2018), for their commentaries on my case studies of Margie and Amie (Hamburg, 2018). Although case studies do not permit strong claims regarding treatment efficacy, they allow strong claims for the plausibility that treatments are efficacious. From a pragmatic standpoint, that is sufficient to justify proposing the treatments to other practitioners to be tried and tested by them, thereby ultimately contributing to the sum total of psychotherapy craft knowledge. On the topic of the placebo effect, the perspectives of researchers and clinicians, based as they are on different kinds of knowledge, can differ to the point of irreconcilability. What have hitherto been characterized as non-specific contributors to treatment outcome might better be classified as specific factors yet to be identified.

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