How to approach a case study plan to get the best possible result

The Burren College of Complimentary Therapy will be posting a series of blogs on suggestions on how to become an accredited qualified complementary health therapist.  The blog will cover topics such as:

Getting an Accredited Qualification in Complementary Therapies.
How to approach a case study plan to get the best possible result.
How to approach exams.
Professional Indemnity/Membership
How to set up a home practice.
How to build a clientele.
Ways to self care.


Case Studies are a part of all ITEC Diploma qualifications and will have to be completed as part of your qualification.

What is the purpose of doing case studies?

  • Applies the learning from theory and supervised practice to real client care and unsupervised application.
  • Records the practice and learning.    
  • Displays progression from being a novice to being a proficient therapist.  The case study will record the areas of how you performed as a therapist and the areas that need improving.    
  • Details the progression of a client’s treatment – is the treatment plan working or do you need to change your approach?  

I have found that even after twelve years working as a therapist that if I meet a client who has a particularly unusual condition, I want to record the progression of the treatment and to see if the action I have taken is improving the client’s condition.

One of my most interesting case studies involved someone who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As part of his recovery from this condition his counsellor suggested that it was important for him to try Massage Therapy. Having never dealt with this condition before I recorded the treatment approach and client feedback from each visit in order to discern what parts worked best for the client. Tracking and tailoring the treatment helped the client to return to work and completion of the written case study from both perspectives helped me to draw overall conclusions that I can use moving forward.

As a teacher I have always felt that case studies are where the real learning takes place.  Students need good support from their tutors to get started and monitoring to make sure they are recording case studies correctly.

How many case studies do I need?  

Each case study requires one client with four treatments. For both ITEC Diploma Massage Therapy and ITEC Diet and Nutrition courses you will need 5 case studies and for ITEC Aromatherapy/Reflexology you will need 10 case studies.

All of these case studies require planning – don’t leave it to the last minute to start!

My suggestion is that you choose clients of different ages, gender and a variety of treatable conditions such as stress, anxiety, muscular conditions, insomnia, lowered immunity, fatigue  etc.  Choosing a good selection of people for case study will help you to learn about varied conditions and will insure the case studies do not become tedious and repetitive. If you have a client in mind they may have have a contra-indication (a reason to restrict or prevent a treatment), so make sure that they check with their GP if it is safe to go ahead with being your case study

Getting Started

Before you start treating a client you have gather information by doing a consultation.  The first part of the process is to reassure the client that all information is confidential.  The questions that follow are designed to gain information so that you can devise a treatment plan best suited to their needs. Medical information is particularly important as the client may have a condition that could be contra-indicative to certain treatments.

The consultation form has a lifestyle section that will help you uncover the client’s nutritional health, fitness routines, stress levels etc.  This section will show you the overall view of your client’s general outlook on life and where you can offer advice in different areas that you may be knowledgeable or have expertise.

On completing the consultation, you can now decide on what path your treatment plan will take for the initial first treatment of the case study.

One question I always ask a client is “how do you expect to feel after the treatment?” – this sets the bar for the therapist, and you now know what their expectations are and how to avoid disappointment.

The Client Profile is a short history of your client that gives a little background on their health and lifestyle, and the Reason for Treatment is where you state why a client wants a treatment, e.g. “Client has low back pain and is also very stressed at work.  Client wants to start a de-stressing programme so the condition does not get any worse”. Next up you state the intended course of care in the Treatment plan, e.g. “A full body massage for the next four treatments with special attention to low back and shoulder area.  Emphasis on relaxing and de-stressing the area’s most vulnerable in times of high stress”.

Feedback (whether positive or negative) is brilliant for learning. Once you have completed the treatment, ask your client for feedback on the treatment.  Use open questions, which are questions that require more than “Yes” or “No” answers.  Don’t take offence at negative feedback – take on board all that is said and see ways that you could improve the treatment next time for your case study.

Writing up your first treatment

On the ITEC consultation form, the first question is about how you conducted the treatment? Where did you start and what were your findings. If you used massage therapy, what kind of massage did you do?  Was it for energising or relaxing the client? What strokes did you use?  Did you find any areas that needed special attention? If so, what did you do to improve their condition?

The next question is how did the client feel during and after the treatment? As you started the treatment you will have asked your client if they were comfortable, were they warm enough, was massage pressure adequate etc.   Also, you will have observed their body language and ascertained if they were relaxed and if they relaxed easily.  Report what you observed and what the client said.

What home care advice did you provide? You, the therapist, will advise your client on after-care. It is important to be specific in giving advice i.e. an increase in the client’s water intake from two glasses per day to five glasses per day will help flush out toxins stimulated by the treatment.

You should only advise client’s in what you are qualified to recommend – in other words don’t advise to use aromatherapy oils unless you are an Aromatherapist, don’t advise on nutrition unless you have a diploma in Diet & Nutrition.  Good aftercare advice extends the benefit of the treatment. Also, let your client know of any other side effects of the treatment such as tiredness or muscle tenderness after treatment.

Reflective Practice

Students often get confused when they write up this section.  Reflective practice is a critique of how you performed as a therapist, not how your client was in the treatment.  It is where you appraise yourself by commenting on what went well in the treatment and what areas of the treatment need improving.  It is perfectly alright to say that you went wrong somewhere or that you need to improve certain aspects of your treatments.  This is where the learning takes place – did you learn anything by doing this treatment?  I often ask students to bullet point areas that need improving so that the next time they work on this case study they have a reference point that they can comment on in the reflective practice of the next treatment.  Most important of all is being honest with yourself and let the examiner see that you are learning from each treatment and that you are aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Overall conclusion

The final section – you are now finished all four treatments of this case study.  Did you achieve the result your client wanted from the treatments? What did you learn from doing this case study?  Overall conclusions are really a combination of the client’s progress over the four completed treatments and you the therapist’s progress in conducting the treatment.

If you have any queries regarding case study work please feel free to email for advice at


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