Introduction to Clinical Research Methods in

Somatics and Drama Therapy

Don Hanlon Johnson, Ph.D., 575-6237; MCP 6401, Fall 2010. Th 11:45-2:45

current update: 5/12/10

[If you are reading this on the CIIS website for all syllabi, you will not be able to get the images, links, and updates. For those, you should go directly to my website.]

Prerequisite: At least one year of course work in the Somatics or Drama Therapy programs, and preferably enrolled in practicum.

Description: This course is designed to assist Somatics and Drama Therapy students working towards the masters degree in counseling psychology to become clearer about the significance of critical inquiry and formal research in their clinical work, the life of CIIS, their personal lives, and in the health of the culture. Emphasis is on the unique challenges that arise from the fact that both programs are pioneering creators of new fields of clinical work. Along with the riches of the creative imagination that are present in such new and fresh approaches, there is understandably a dearth of the kinds of formal inquiry that makes the contributions of these fields intelligible to the wider public: to other clinical professionals, funding sources, clinical administators, and people in need.

The very nature of clinical work makes implicit claims that it helps people. What is the evidence for those claims that is publically accessible to non-believers? What is necessary at such an early stage in the development of a field that makes public claims of efficacy? What are the obligations, moral and professional, of masters level clinicians, who are not trained in research methods, in working towards the accumulation of an accessible body of material about the workings of the various strategies and theories which make Somatics a unique field.

Another emphasis in this course is to familiarize students with the broader community of clinical research within which their MFT practices will be situated. In particular, there will be an introduction to the visionary agenda of NIMH concerning "translational research models" whose goal is to bring together practicing clinicians and academic researchers on questions of extreme importance to major mental health problems: how clinicians might help researchers, and how researchers might help clinicians with questions impacting the well-being of clients in need. Students will be introduced to the public world of scientific research, its various models, questions, mentalities, so that as clinicians they will be able both to learn from advances in clinical research, and to contribute their considerable body of practical knowledge to researchers when such opportunities arise. The course addresses the nature of scientific inquiry and traditional themes of research methodology: the craft of inquiry, norms for reliability, the significance of research paradigms, the nature of data, the relation between experienced meanings and statistical inference, etc. These themes are treated both from a historical perspective and from the present reality of the actual unfolding of inquiry in the projects which students are pursuing in their coursework and in life.

Emphasis is on raising students' consciousness of scientific inquiry as the refinement of a natural movement of the human mind essential to solving the difficulties of life, and particularly necessary for anyone engaging in the role of a therapist. Attention is given to how that natural movement of inquiry is intimately related to the field of counseling psychology, with its emphasis on sensitive intricacy and intellectual suppleness; and how nurturing that movement is related to the spiritual mission of CIIS.

Objectives: after completing this course I hope that you will be able to:

1. appreciate and better articulate the rich intellectual knowledge you already bring to your field of study;
2. appreciate the crucial role of critical intelligence in the practice of psychotherapy;
3. identify with precision the particular questions that motivate your own inquiries, and the particular kinds of clinical materials that are necessary to resolve those inquiries;
4. articulate the materials in writing that is sufficiently specific and free of jargon so that others might be capable of judging the reliability of any conclusions;
5. gain an introductory familiarity with the history of scientific inquiry, and how your own natural inquiry relates to that history, particularly to publicly recognized scientific methods, both so-called "qualitative" and "quantitative" approaches.
6. develop a feel for how research might go forward in these specialized fields, how to locate the journals, an introduction to literature searches, how to begin to make sense of research conclusions, and a beginning understanding of the importance of statistical reasoning.
7. get a sense of how the awareness practices that are at the center of CIIS's soul, have a direct impact on understanding scientific inquiry.

Recommended Readings:

Eugene T. Gendlin: A Process Model. Spring Valley, NY:  The Focusing   Institute, 2003.
Catherine Kohler Riessman, Narrative Analysis. (Qualitative Research Methods Series 30).
Wm. Braud and Rosemarie Anderson, eds., Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences.
Peter Reason, ed. Human Inquiry in Action.
Ruth Behar. The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart. Beacon Press.
Don Hanlon Johnson,ed. Groundworks.
Paul Stoller, Sensuous Scholarship.
Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice.
Ruthellen Josselson, PhD; Amia Lieblich, PhD; and Dan P. McAdams, PhD, editors. Up Close and Personal : The Teaching and Learning of Narrative Research 
Alan Fogel, The Psychophysiology of Self-Awareness:  Rediscovering the Lost Art of Body Sense. W. W. Norton, 2009.
Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Multicultural Counseling


Center for the Study of Experiential Psychotherapies

CIIS Library PDT Research Site
CIIS Library SOM Research Site
Boston Trauma Center
Qualitative Research Site
CIIS Psych Research Site
CIIS Health and Medicine Site
Maione and Chesnail: Qualitative Inquiry in Psychotherapy
Dissertation abstracts
Elsevier Search Engine
Helmut Milz's Somatics Site

Alan Fogel's Somatics Research Site

Criteria for Evaluation:

l. Quality of survey questionnaire: 20%
2. Quality of participation in program study team and presentation: 30%
3. Quality of narrative study 20%

4. Quality of final research: 30%

Grading System: O, grades optional.

For those choosing the letter grade option, B+ or higher will require outstanding work, carefully documented, accompanied by a written explanation of why you think your work is outstanding. [Please note that this is an important piece, learning to evaluate with care and honesty the quality of your work.]

The major task for the semester

You will be gathered into research teams of no more than 4, nor less than 3. The major task for each team will be to identify some area of important inquiry in Somatics or Drama Therapy and use the semester to narrow down your inquiry into this area, and to explore it in a methodical way. Possible areas include:

  1. some core notion or groups of strategies, or therapeutic concept widely shared and used by practitioners of Somatics or Drama Therapy.
  2. particular classes of human problems that are uniquely suited for Somatics or Drama Therapy interventions (e.g., depression, addictive behaviors, etc.).
  3. the actual practices used in your field; i.e.,what do clinicians who identify themselves as Somatics or Drama Therapy practitioners actually do? (How widely is touched used? movement? breathing practices? etc.
  4. the efficacy of the Somatics clinic.
  5. the efficacy of Drama Therapy in specific practicum sites.

During the semester, work together to find out something about this aspect of your special field of study from each of the following sources that you did not know when you began the course:

1. Research literature (not popular or theoretical but research-based studies);
2. Experiments in your clinical work or experiential exercises;
3. A scaled instrument designed by your team to further your specific area of inquiry;

4. Narrative study of classmates from another program to give you a sense of differences.

Your final project: a public presentation by your group of what your team has found, any documents you have written detailing those findings, and a detailed description of what each of you contributed to the team's work.


Somatics and Drama Therapy contain an integrative core body of knowledge expressed in the formulations of its founders and major theoreticians that unify a disparate amount of information contained in our complex curricula. Yet another higher order integration and diverse and sometimes confusing material comes from the core concepts of the field of MCP and the larger field of clinical psychology oriented towards families, children, and relationships. In trying to make sense of one's own place in the practice of psychotherapy, it helps to situate one's own unique learning process within these larger circles of shared learning. In that sense, your project bears upon the ongoing development of the body of knowledge both in Somatics, Drama Therapy, and in the larger area of MCP.

Our fields progress as people share their knowledge and build on what others know, refining, giving feedback, extending it. Both the development of expertise in our fields of specialization and science depend for their very existence on an effective community dialogue. These are not private matters as they are for our clients. You are advancing the science of your fields by articulating the nature of your work in a way that non-specialists can understand, and hopefully, if they choose, by detailing steps by which they might evaluate the effectiveness of your concentration in relation to other specialities.

In addition to levels of integration coming from conceptual articulation and communal dialogue, another crucial source of integration comes from the side of people in need. Our program is designed for service. It has been created out of various experiences of finding new ways to meet human needs that are not being fully met. Articulating those needs and how we can meet them is another way to integrate the various strands of curricula and practice.

 Note: please make an appointment for a library consultation as soon as possible so that you can gain facility at using the vast resources available.


Aug 26: Introduction: "Scientific inquiry" as a refinement and articulation of natural dimensions of everyday life: The relation of practices in SOM and PDT to the scientific endeavor. The cultural importance of developing a First- and Second-Person Science.

 In-class essay: a detailed description of an experience that led you to know something significant about Somatics or Drama Therapy: its efficacy for you or others, its promise for the world, etc..

 Formation of research teams.

The rest of the schedule will be posted in August. 

Please read pages 8 and 9 in the handbook "Academic Policies and Procedures" about incompletes. I want to emphasize this passage: "It is the student's responsibility to request an Incomplete from the instructor and, if the instructor approves an Incomplete, to provide the instructor with the Incomplete Grade Request Form. An "I" grade will be recorded only if the instructor signs and submits the Incomplete Grade Form in conjunction with the course's final grade report."



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