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Therapists as Research-informed Practitioners (TRP)

Therapists as Research-informed Practitioners (TRP)

Chair:

Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson

 

Members:

Dr Alistair McBeath

Dr Biljana Van Rijn

Professor Simon du Plock

Dr Marie Adams

Alan McPherson (PhD student)

 

Collaborators:

The UKCP

The BACP

European Association for Integrative Psychotherapy

York St John University

Birkbeck University

Malta University

Auckland University, New Zealand

 

Description

The TRP group focuses on how psychotherapists and counselling psychologists can progress as confident research practitioners. What are the opportunities and obstacles, personally, professionally, and academically for therapists in their transition into research? How can clinical practice and research be linked, and what support may be required for that to happen? Research supervision and teaching, academic writing and support at work have been some of our research themes so far.

The TRP group aims to enhance research training for counsellors, psychotherapists, and counselling psychologists by providing learning and professional development events, supporting research and best-practice developments, and making policy recommendations to promote effective and sustainable research training for therapists. These goals are valued as means to enhance the capability of therapists to engage with research-led knowledge with benefits both for themselves and, ultimately, for their clients.

We welcome students and staff to join us, recruiting within and outside of Metanoia when presenting our studies and research group.

Completed projects 

2022

A mixed-method study into Research Supervision (Bager-Charleson, McBeath & Van Rijn). See more on this link: https://www.metanoia.ac.uk/research/relational-research-supervision-for-doctoral-psychotherapy-research/

2021

Becoming a Research Practitioner. A meta-synthesis into therapists’ transitions in postgraduate research (Bager-Charleson, du Plock, McBeath & Adams)

2021

A mixed-methods inquiry into counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ engagement in academic writing. (McBeath, Bager-Charleson & Abarbanel)

2020

A mixed methods exploration of practitioners’ views on the relationship between psychotherapy practice and research (Bager-Charleson, McBeath & du Plock)

2019

A narrative thematic inquiry into counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ engagement with research (Bager-Charleson, du Plock & McBeath)

Ongoing projects:

Diversity in Research Supervision. A Mixed Methods Study into Socio-Cultural Obstacles and Opportunities in Research Supervision of Psychotherapists Principal Investigator Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson. Research team Professor Divine Charura, Professor Keith Tudor and Dr Biljana van Rijn

Making the transition from therapist to research practitioner: The role of reflective writing in postgraduate research. Principal Investigator Dr Marie Adams. Research team Bager-Charleson and du Plock.

The Silent Practice: a mixed-methods exploration of the absence of practicing humanistic and integrative counsellors and psychotherapists’ contributions to research, Principal Investigator Alan McPherson, PhD project.

 

Completed projects

Relational Research Supervision: An International Mixed Methods Study into Research Supervision for Psychotherapists. Principal Investigator Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson, Research team Dr Alistair McBeath & Dr Biljana Van Rijn, Metanoia Institute, London

This study was funded by the UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) with end-result in the form of an e-learning module. It was a mixed methods enquiry into the experience of research supervision among supervisors and supervisees on PhD and professional programmes for psychotherapists and counselling psychologists. What makes constructive versus non-constructive, unhelpful research supervision on doctoral programmes for therapists? What might supervisors learn from supervisees’ experiences of supervision, and vice versa? These questions permeated our online survey (N=226) which generated 558 comments and 10 subsequent follow-up interviews analysed guided by reflexive thematic analysis influenced by narrative research. The findings showed, firstly, an unequivocal appreciation of research supervision. In the free text comments, supervisees stressed the value of research experience, empathy and containment. The interviewed supervisees valued trust and broad research knowledge with an exposure to optional approaches. In slight contrast, supervisors emphasised the importance of supervisee agency and self-direction. One particularly illustrative example was when one supervisee described her supervisor as her ‘telescope’ – helping her to navigate and see far – whilst a supervisor chose a ‘stethoscope’ to describe how he regarded it his role to support each student to connect ‘inwardly’ and build their own relationship with research. Common features were however also noted, in terms of describing constructive research supervision as 'relational' and based ‘three c’s’, namely containment, compassion, and clarity.

Bager-Charleson, S. & McBeath, A.G. (2021a) What support do therapists need to do research? A review of studies into how therapists experience research, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 21(3), 555-569.https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12432

Bager-Charleson, S. and McBeath, A.G., (2022 in press) Supporting Research in Counselling & Psychotherapy: Diversity and Innovative Methodologies. London: Palgrave-MacMillan

Bager-Charleson, S., McBeath, A.G., & Van Rijn, B. (2021) Relational Research Supervision for Doctoral Psychotherapy Research. A Guide for Supervisors and Supervisees. Metanoia Institute & UKCP https://www.metanoia.ac.uk/research/relational-research-supervision-for-doctoral-psychotherapy-research/

Bager-Charleson & McBeath, A.G.  (2021b). Containment, Compassion and Clarity. Mixed Methods research into Supervision during Doctoral research for Psychotherapists and Counselling psychologist. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research.  https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12498

 

The Relationship Between Psychotherapy Practice and Research: A Mixed-Method Exploration of Practitioners Views’. PI Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson. Research team Dr Alistair McBeath & Professor Simon du Plock (2019).

This is a mixed-methods study with findings from a survey (n = 92) and interviews (n =9) gained via training institutes and therapist member organisations across Europe covering both professional doctorates and PhD programmes. The study included survey with closed and open questions, with follow up interviews. Some key questions were How do therapists describe their relationship to research; What amount of formal research training do therapists have; what extent do therapists feel that their own research is valued; How do therapists perceive research—what sort of activity is it; To what extent does research inform therapists’ clinical practice? In summary, not feeling valued as a researcher was, regretfully, a recurring theme; our survey suggested that among the research active, only 2% answered that their research as valued “to a large extent” by colleagues. This resonated with the literature review which positioned therapists at the margins of the research community. With parallels to earlier study (Bager- Charleson et al., 2018) research active therapists chose to ‘keep their research interests to themselves’, one said “all my colleagues are scared of research” another described being discouraged at work from making herself “overqualified” for her role as a counsellor. A stereotype of counsellors as self-less listeners was particularly referred to by female counsellors, four representing ethnic minorities. The findings supported, further, our previous study in terms of research knowledge being neglected in clinical training.

Full, W., Symons, C. & Bager-Charleson, S. (2022 in process) Handbook for the Research Curious Therapist. Lutterworth: BACP

Full, W., Mahmood. F., & Bager-Charleson, S. (2021) Critically appraising research. Video resource. This resource looks at the importance of evaluating research critically, covering what to look for and how to know if findings can be generalised and to whom. It includes a panel discussion with Dr Jo Pybis, Dr Wayne Full, Dr Faisal Mahmood and Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson. https://www.bacp.co.uk/events-and-resources/research/good-research-practice/

Bager-Charleson, S. and McBeath, A. G. (2020) Enjoying doing Research about Therapy Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed method Research. London: Palgrave-MacMillan  

Bager-Charleson, S. and McBeath, A. G., Vostanis, P. (2020) Guest editors, Special Issue on ‘Therapists and Mixed Methods Research’.  Counselling and Psychotherapy Research (CPR) Volume21, Issue1. March 2021. 

Bager-Charleson, S., du Plock, S., McBeath, A.G & Adams, M. (2020) Therapists as Research Practitioners. Transitions through the lenses of Access, Identity and Opportunity. European Journal Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy. EJQRP Vol. 10, 93-109 

Bager Charleson S. (2019) “She was on my side and grounded me when I needed it:” Research supervision in the field of therapy, based on counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ views on their engagement with research. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. 2019;19:358–365

 

Conference presentations:

February 2022 Relational Research supervision. Metanoia Research Academy https://metanoia.ac.uk/researchacademy22/speaker-and-seminar-content/ 

July 2020 Seminar speakers: Therapists as Research Practitioners. Transitions through the lenses of Access, Identity and Opportunity. UKCGE, Glasgow

July 2020 Workshop speakers: Making the Transition from Therapist to Research Practitioner: The role of Reflexivity in Constructing Professional Identities.  University of Glasgow. UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE)

March 2019 Seminar speakers, Professional Knowledge Seminar: Academic Writing

March 2019 Seminar speakers, Metanoia Research Academy; Research Methodology

March 2018. Keynote speakers, Metanoia research Academy. Therapists and Research – and Ambivalent Relationship?

 

“Therapists in the Public Domain. A mixed-methods inquiry into counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ engagement in academic writing”.  PI Dr Alistair McBeath, Research team Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson & Abigail Abarbanel.

This was a mixed methods study consisting of a survey (n=222) with closed and open questions distributed in UK and Europe into therapists’ with and without doctoral research experience around their experience of academic writing. This has been a collaborative project with the European Association for Integrative Therapists exploring obstacles and/or benefits for therapists' knowledge to be communicated in academic publications. How does therapists access and keep up with recent research? What's it like for the therapist to research active; and what's the outcome - what happens to the research? How can it be communicated – and received, today and in the future? These were some of the questions explored in the study.  Findings showed a significant number of participants lacking confidence about participating in academic writing. Fear of rejection, not being good enough and not knowing what is required were prominent underlying factors. Current academic writing was viewed as overly academic, removed from clinical practice. Difficulty in accessing academic material being behind pay walls was another factor limiting participation in academic writing as well as a lack of formal support. Clinical relevance and clarity of expression were viewed as the key factors of good academic writing. There was overwhelming support for academic writing to be a core skill taught in formal psychotherapy trainings.

McBeath, A.G., Bager-Charleson, S. & Abarbanel. A. (2019) Therapists and Academic Writing: "Once upon a time psychotherapy practitioners and researchers were the same people". European Journal for Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy, 19, 103-116.

 “Therapists have a lot to add to the field of research, but many don’t make it there”. A narrative thematic inquiry into counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ engagement with research. PI Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson. Research team Professor Simon du Plock & Dr Alistair McBeath (2018).

The qualitative study was based on doctoral dissertations (n = 50), interviews (n = 7) and research journals (n = 20) across 19 cohorts and years from one professional doctoral programme. The study identified three stages of therapists’ embodied engagement with research including “feeling overwhelmed,” “developing coping strategies” and “feeling illuminated, personally and professionally” through research. Focusing on the stages generally referred to as “data analysis” showed a high level of stress, often coupled with shame and confusion; “I underestimated the data- analysis,” said one therapist, ‘you’re desperately trying to find themes and codes and things but, actually, this is somebody’s life.” Most therapists aimed to keep a relational focus and to draw from their embodied and emotional responses as sources of knowledge, as in clinical practice. Many, however, expressed surprise over how little value this epistemic positioning appeared to have in the general discourse about “research,” for instance in regular research textbooks and journals.

Bager-Charleson, Du Plock, McBeath (2019) Guest editing two Special issues for the Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Journal (CPR) about “Therapists and Knowledge” Volume 3 and Volume 4.

Bager-Charleson, S., du Plock, S., McBeath, A (2018) “Therapists have a lot to add to the field of research, but many don’t make it there”. A narrative thematic inquiry into counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ embodied engagement with research. Journal for Language and Psychoanalysis, (7) 2018, http://www.language-and-psychoanalysis.com/article/view/2603

 

New and ongoing projects

Title: Diversity in Research Supervision. A Mixed Methods Study into Socio-Cultural Obstacles and Opportunities in Research Supervision of Psychotherapists. Principal Investigator Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson. Research team: Professor Divine Charura, Professor Keith Tudor and Dr Biljana van Rijn

Background. This study aims to explore research access and support with a particular focus on diversity (including for example gender- and socio-cultural obstacles) as well as opportunities in the field of research supervision for psychotherapists. The study is a follow-up inquiry to earlier studies (Bager-Charleson and McBeath 2021, Bager-Charleson, McBeath & du Plock 2019) into therapists’ engagement in research.

Diversity is an increasingly urgent area to address in postgraduate research. Maistry (2017), McKenna (2017) and Malan, Erwee, van Rensburg and Danaher (2012) are examples of researchers addressing how differences in culture, age, gender, race and sexual orientation are shown to ‘have a secondary effect on doctoral candidates’ progress and successful completion’. Such studies stress ‘the potential significance of cultural misunderstandings in the supervisory relationship’ (Malan et al., 2012, pp. 11-12). Based on their findings, they suggest that supervisory practices are ‘instituted’ to avoid cultural misunderstandings between doctoral candidates and their supervisors. Charura and Lago (2021) highlight the importance of critical engagement with ontological and epistemological positionings in counselling, psychotherapy and psychology research design. This involves providing space for research supervisees to question the experience of ‘being in the world’ (Pring, 2004) and of ‘the nature of reality’ to explore critically how the theory of knowledge and the methods used to gain or garner such experience and understanding are generated (Grix, 2001).  Method. This is a mixed methods study consisting of a survey with closed and open questions, and optional interviews. distributed internationally to research supervisees and supervisors on doctoral training programmes in therapy-related research. The methodology informing our analysis of the findings will be based on critical theory.

 

The Silent Practice: a mixed-methods exploration of the absence of practicing humanistic and integrative counsellors and psychotherapists’ contributions to research, by Alan McPherson

Aim and question. I am exploring the experiences and identities of counsellors and psychotherapists who undertake research as part of and/or into their practice. What is the practitioner-researcher’s experience of being a researcher in a community of practitioners? I am curious about what their experiences could offer other practitioners wishing to engage in research of therapeutic practice, and how might their experiences be used to start to re-define research within the world of humanistic/integrative counselling and psychotherapy, so that more practitioners consider engaging in research. Methodology. I am to draw on the Story completion method to illicit narrative experiences which are analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Participants to the story completion element will be invited to contribute additional data using unstructured interviews. Narrative analysis of the data to explore themes associated with identity and experiences. Auto-ethnography used to explore my experiences as a practitioner undertaking research throughout this PhD.