The cognitive behavioural approach to counselling therapy.
How do we really find out about the way of life of a group of people? One way is to join them – to participate in their daily activities & observe what they say and do. This research method is known as participant observation. It was used by John Howard Griffin (1960) a white journalist who dyed his skin black in order to discover what it was like to live as black man in the southern states of America in the late 1950’s. It was used by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski who spent many years studying the Trobriand Islanders of New Guinea. He observed the most intimate details of their lives as he peered into grass huts gathering data for Sex and Repression in Savage Society (1927). And it was used by the sociologist Erving Goffman (1968) when he adopted the role of assistant to the athletics director in order to study the experience of patients in a mental hospital in Washington DC. Ethnography
Participant observation is one of the main research methods used in ethnography. Ethnography is the study of the way of life a group of people – their culture and the structure of their society. Often researchers attempt to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’- to see the worlds from their perspective, discover their meanings & appreciate their experiences. Many argue that participant observation is the most effective method of doing this. Participant observation gives the researchers the opportunity to observe people in their natural setting as opposed to the more artificial contexts of the laboratory or the interview. It allows researchers to see what people do as opposed to what they say they do. Participant observation has produced a number of classic ethnographies- Elliot Liebow’s (1967) study of Black ‘street corners’ men in Washington DC; William f. Whyte’s (1955) account of an Italian-American gang in...