abductive theory

Case formulation: Abductive reasoning applied

Before moving on any further with the ATOM (abductive theory of method) as used in case formulation, I need to define what is data and what is phenomenon. Haig defines data as individual pieces of information, often unique to the person or situation, whereas phenomenon are patterns amongst those pieces of data that form distinctive features.

For example, difficulty getting off to sleep, lack of energy and poor appetite are data; when they’re tied together with tearfulness and feelings of guilt and poor concentration, and occur over the period of at least two weeks and are causing problems in work, home and social life, we can call it part of a pattern that we recognise as depression. Data are the evidence for the underlying phenomenon, they’re visible or reportable, but in themselves are not patterns.

But giving it a name doesn’t mean it’s now a case formulation – we need to sift through other pieces of data and phenomenon to identify relationships between factors to start to create an explanation for how and why it is occurring. This is abductive reasoning and this is also case formulation. It ‘takes us from descriptions of data patterns to one or more plausible explanations of those phenomena. This explanatory move is from presumed effect(s) to underlying causal mechanisms.’ (more…)