Therapeutic assessment case study: Treatment of a woman diagnosed with metastatic cancer and attachment trauma

Justin D. Smith*, Carol George

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This article presents a Therapeutic Assessment (TA) case study of a woman recovering from 4 years of intense medical treatment for stage IV cancer. The inclusion and utility of using the Adult Attachment Projective Picture System (AAP) in the TA is highlighted. The client's attachment classification as unresolved helped identify that her current experiences with dissociation and problems restructuring her life following cancer remission were related to severe childhood sexual abuse, which she had suppressed for decades. The AAP also provided information regarding the unconscious defensive processes the client employed to cope with attachment distress and her inability to find comfort and support from others. These findings were instrumental in guiding the subsequent psychotherapy. The TA process, particularly the assessor-client relationship, facilitated an experience of containing her previously unintegrated and dysregulated affect. A single-case experiment using daily measurements suggested that participation in TA coincided with symptomatic improvements in multiple domains. These improvements were maintained during 4 months of biweekly psychotherapy after the completion of the TA. This case illustrates the applicability of the TA model in health care settings, demonstrates the usefulness of the AAP in the context of TA, and provides empirical support for the effectiveness of the TA model in initiating symptom improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-344
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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