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Case Study Research group

Case Study Research group

Chair: Dr Biljana van Rijn

Dr Sofie Bager-Charlson

Dr Evi Chryssafidou

Prof Charlotte Sills

Peter Pearce

External Advisor: Prof William B.Stiles, Senior Research Fellow at Metanoia Institute


The aim of this group is to use the methodology of theory buidling case studies (Stiles, 2007) to research humanistic and integrative psychotherapeutic approaches, theories and practice. We  use assimilation theory (Honos-Webb & Stiles, 1998; Stiles, 2001; Stiles et al., 1990) as a generic explanation theory of the process of change in psychotherapy, and are interested in investigating different therapeutic theories, and their applications in clinical practice and supervision.

We are open to projects by staff and students interested in exploring the depth of process in psychotherapy theory and practice, using qualitative and mixed research methods.

Current projects:

  • Searching for safety. Case study research of avatar assisted school counselling with a female adolescent ‘Sophie’. Research team: van Rijn,B., Chryssafidou, E., Stiles, W.B.

This is the second case study into digitally assisted scool counselling. The outcome of the project will be presented at the international SPR conference in Buenos Aires in July 2019.

  • The impact of therapist’s script and its emergence in supervision. Research team: van Rijn,B.,Sills,C., Pearce,P., Stiles,W.B.

The project explores the Transactional Analysis theory of the Comparative Script System (Sills & Salters 1991; Lapworth & Sills 2011) and its application in clinical supervision. The project involves supervision case studies conducted by experienced supervisors, from TA and non-TA perspectives (Gestalt psychotherapy perspectives). The project is currently ongoing.


  • A Theory Building Case Study about Research Supervision across four different doctorates, Bager-Charleson, Goss, Stiles, Stevens, Priest, Du Plock, Van Rijn et al. 

The study is a Theory Building Case Study (Stiles 2007, 2015) based on experiences gained from four doctorates across Faculty 2, as represented by Programme Directors and their respective supervisory teams. This study is a two staged process, starting with our aim to define a ‘home theory’ for research supervision based on our collective previous practice. We will build on own previous research in the field (Stevens 2015, Bager-Charleson, McBeath & du Plock 2018a, 2018b), together with others research in the field. The link between practice and research is identified as a core aspect of research supervision in our earlier research (Stevens 2015) into how supervisors conceptualised their work on the Professional Doctorate in Psychotherapy.

  • Long term psychotherapy.  Research team: van Rijn,B., Stiles,W.B.

The aim of this project is to open a research programme into long term psychotherapy and address a gap in research on long term humanistic, experiential and integrative psychotherapies and building a theory  of long term psychotherapy focused on the following questions:

o   What defines long-term psychotherapy? By long- term, we would like to suggest a duration of between 2 and 5 years, of primarily weekly appointments  . 

o   How does long term psychotherapy contributes to client’s wellbeing?  

o   What are the disadvantages and pitfalls? 

o   What are the processes of change during long term psychotherapy? 

The protocol of the project is in development.


  • Exploring Integrating Chinese Calligraphy Handwriting as a Potential Complementary Psychological Therapy for the Chinese Community in the UK

Juan Du is currently studying a final year doctorate in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy at Metanoia Institute.   Her doctorate research topic is Exploring Integrating Chinese Calligraphy Handwriting as a Potential Complementary Psychological Therapy for the Chinese Community in the UK.  A dual case study design of brief intervention of Chinese Calligraphy Enhanced Therapy (CCET).

The 4 sessions of CCET is an innovative integrative approach which draws on cultural historicity theory, cognitive theory, mindfulness theory and psychoanalytic theory. The design is inspired by Juan’s clinical work with Chinese clients in the UK and is also based on her personal experience of psychotherapy practice and her role as a mindfulness teacher for community services.

This research project has successfully secured the UKCP research fund 2020.

Juan is passionate about improving the awareness of a cultural-sensitive psychological approach in the psychotherapy community and promoting race equality in mental healthcare services in the UK.  

Her publication on the ethnic minority mental health research including:

Du, J.& Field, A.P. (2020) Adolescents’ Peer Friendship and Anxiety and Depression among First-Generation Immigrant BAME Families in the UK. Genealogy4, 62. https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy4020062


Recent research output:


van Rijn, B, Chryssafidou, E, Falconer, CJ, Stiles, WB. Digital images as meaning bridges: Case study of assimilation using avatar software in counselling with a 14‐year‐old boy. Couns. Psychother. Res.. 2019; 00: 1– 12. https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12230

Cooper, M., van Rijn, B., & Chryssafidou, E. (2018). Avatar-based counselling for psychological distress in secondary school pupils: pilot evaluation. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 1-14. doi:10.1080/03069885.2018.1506567

Van Rijn,B.,Falconer,C.J,Chryssafidou,E.,Stiles,W.B. (2017) Avatar Based Counselling Within A School Setting. Case Study ‘Richard’. Research report. UK:Metanoia Institute, Nottingham University and University of Roehampton and US:Miami University


Conference papers:


2019 SPR UK and European Chapters, Krakow,September

Contrasting use of avatar-base software by two adolescents in school counselling:Theory-building cases studies on the assimilation model

Van Rijn,Chryssafidou,Stiles

Panel paper

2019 Can digital imagery contribute to therapeutic communication and assimilation in school counseling? The case of Sophie

Stiles,W.B.,Van Rijn,B., Chryssafidou,E.,Falconer,C.J.,

2018Metanoia Institute Research Academy

Developing use of creative media in psychotherapy. Case study research into avatar-based therapy ‘Richard’, keynote

2017 SPR UK and European Chapters, 4th Joint Conference,Oxford, UK

Van Rijn,B.,Falconer,C.J.,Chryssafidou,E.,Stiles, W.B

Digital images as meaning bridges. Case study research into the use of avatar based software by adolescents in school counselling

Panel on assimilation directions in counselling. Paper

2017               SPR 48th Annual International Meeting, Toronto,Canada

                        Stiles,W.B.,van Rijn, B., Falconer,C.J.

Digital images as therapeutic meaning bridges: Use of avatars by a 14 year-old boy in school counseling

2017               BACP Research Conference, Chester,UK

Van Rijn,B.,Fa;Falconer,C.J.,Chryssafidou,E.,Stiles,B.

Avatar Based Counselling for Young People. Case Study ‘Richard’

Prof. William,B.Stiles, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/William_Stiles

Dr Caroline Falconer https://uk.linkedin.com/in/caroline-falconer-phd-b135b390



Honos-Webb, L., & Stiles, W. B. (1998). Reformulation of assimilation analysis in terms of voices. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 35(1), 23-33. doi:10.1037/h0087682

Salters, D. (1991) The comparative script system. ITA News, 31, 1-15.

Sills, C. & Mazzetti, M. (2009) The Comparative Script System: a tool for developing supervisors. Vol. 39, No. 4.

Stiles, W. B. (2001). Assimilation of problematic experiences. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(4), 462-465. doi:10.1037/0033-3204.38.4.462

Stiles, W. B. (2007). Theory-building case studies of counselling and psychotherapy. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 7(2), 122-127. doi:10.1080/14733140701356742

Stiles, W. B., Elliott, R., Llewelyn, S. P., Firth-Cozens, J. A., Margison, F. R., Shapiro, D. A., & Hardy, G. (1990). Assimilation of problematic experiences by clients in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 27(3), 411-420. doi:10.1037/0033-3204.27.3.411

van Rijn, B., Cooper, M., & Chryssafidou, E. (2018). Avatar-based counselling for young people within school counselling. Qualitative analysis of client experience. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 18(1), 59-70. doi:10.1002/capr.12155