Psychobiography Training in Psychology in North America: Mapping the Field and Charting a Course

Joseph G. Ponterotto, Jason D. Reynolds, Samantha Morel, Linda Cheung


Psychobiography holds an important position in the history of psychology, yet little is known about the status of psychobiographical training and dissertation research in psychology departments. This brief report identified psychobiography courses throughout North America and content analyzed a sample of 65 psychobiography dissertations to discern the theories and methods that have most commonly anchored this research. Results identified few psychology courses specifically in psychobiography, with a larger number of courses incorporating psychobiographical and/or narrative elements. With regard to psychobiography dissertations, the majority focused on artists, pioneering psychologists, and political leaders. Theories undergirding psychobiographical studies were most frequently psychoanalytic and psychodynamic. Methodologically, a majority of the dissertations were anchored in constructivist (discovery-oriented) qualitative procedures, with a minority incorporating mixed methods designs. The authors highlight the value of psychobiographical training to psychology students and present avenues and models for incorporating psychobiography into psychology curriculums.


Psychobiography; psychology training; history of psychology; psychobiography dissertations; narrative

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