Seminars Research Papers
PROGRAMME DETAILS, RESEARCH PAPERS (1-3)
Research Paper 1: To the netherworld and back: a mindfulness-informed therapy journey of recovery from stroke.
This is a case study exploration into the psychotherapeutic work with an ongoing therapy client returning to therapy after suffering a severe stroke. The therapist (author) sought to “re-invent” therapy to adjust to the client’s level of functioning and needs; in particular, bringing in the body dimension into the sessions and relying less on verbal discourse and interpretation. Mindfulness was thought as a suitable approach and specifically group-based protocols such as MBSR (Kabat-Zinn, 1990) and the MBRfS (Gray 2020) adapted protocol of mindfulness for stroke. The overarching goal was to explore if and how mindfulness practice can be integrated in therapy so as to support the client in meeting challenges and regaining a sense of “wholeness”. Questions emerged such as “how can standard mindfulness practices be adapted for a stroke victim in individual therapy and in which ways can it be helpful ?” “how do I, as a therapist, use mindfulness to cope with my own experience of uncertainty and loss?”. Themes that emerged included holding uncertainty, befriending the “treacherous” body, the two-sided coin of anger and gratitude, grieving, the threshold of the “self that was” and “the self that is yet to be” and embracing change. At the same time, mindfulness practice was used to observe how the therapist was affected by and tacitly responded to the client’s experience, by being a witness to their journey “to the netherworld and back”. The results discussed here include a sense of groundedness and cohesion in the midst of stroke-induced “chaos”; space for grief and for “being lost”; an illumination of positive aspects of the experience which were not noticed previously. At the same time cautions and limitations in the adaptation of the approach in individual therapy will be discussed.
Dr Maria Ersi Koliris is a counselling psychologist, clinical supervisor and mindfulness teacher. She has worked as a counselling psychologist in the UK and in Greece with a range of different populations. Since 2004 she runs her own private practice and also teaches Psychology and Counselling in higher education in Greece. In 2007 she developed an active interest in mindfulness and in the way that it can enrich a therapist’s personal and professional life. She carried out her doctoral research on mindfulness for therapists (Post-qualification doctorate in Psychotherapy by Professional studies at Metanoia Institute, London); and has completed teacher trainings in mindfulness-based approaches with the Mindfulness Network/Bangor University. She lives in Athens with her husband, son, cat and dog.
Research Paper 2: Men's meaning making after the death of someone they love.
In previous studies on meaning making after loss the majority of participants were women, with men’s voices not robustly included. Any gender difference was therefore not demonstrated. Assuming that men and women make meaning in the same way potentially dismisses the gendered experience of men. This research aimed to include male voices in the body of research about meaning making after loss. Ethical approval was granted by the Metanoia Research Ethics Committee in January 2021. Eight male participants were interviewed about their meaning making after the death of a loved one, using semi-structured interviews. A reflexive thematic analysis was conducted and three overarching themes were identified: 1. Inexorable death; 2. Identity shift; 3. Meaning in human connection. Each participant became aware of death as a fact of life, often leading to a meaningful re-evaluation in their sense of themselves, their relationships and their actions. Sharing their experiences of loss with others was helpful and influenced by language. Cultural understandings of masculinity affected the participants’ meaning making. Recommendations based on research findings include active listening and demonstrating curiosity in the gendered experience of loss, without imposing gender stereotypes. A ‘grieving action’, like writing, may be a way of making meaning after loss that is unique to men, potentially incorporated into clinical practice through narrative writing exercises. Anger was felt by participants after loss, shielding vulnerability and grief, which also has implications for clinical practice in terms of integrating the anger felt with the pain of the loss.
Lillian Atkinson is an integrative psychotherapist and counselling psychologist in the final stages of training at Metanoia. She has over eight years of cross-cultural experience as a therapist and is currently working in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust. She also has a small private practice based at the Homa Psychotherapy Centre in Clerkenwell. This research on meaning making after loss was conducted in order to fulfil the requirements of the Doctorate of Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy by Professional Studies at Metanoia.
Research Paper 3: The lived experience of Relate supervisors of providing supervision.
Aim/purpose: This qualitative research sheds a phenomenological perspective on the topic of supervision. There is little material in the literature which considers the lived experience of supervisors (Theriault and Gazzola 2018). This research helps to fill this gap. I am undertaking the research as an insider researcher being a Relate supervisor myself.
The research questions that underpin the research concern the lived experience of supervisors with respect to: a definition of supervision; the functions of supervision; role tension and power relations with supervisees.
Method: The fieldwork consisted of:
- An online quantitative/qualitative survey which was sent to all Relate supervisors, analysed through Reflective Thematic Analysis.
- Semi-structured online interviews with 10 Relate supervisors, analysed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
Ethical approval: This was given by my academic institution, the Open University.
Results/findings: Key findings are:
- Out of the functions of education, support and administration participants consider that supporting counsellors is their primary function.
- Participants reflect that they experience tension through having to be the ‘policeman’; synthesise the functions of the role; and be pulled into supervisee line management.
- Participants recognised a power dynamic between them and their supervisees and considered this is partly casued by supervisees’ expectations.
- Participants reflected a preference for working collegially and holding power lightly.
Conclusions/implications for practice: In shedding a phenomenological light on the experience of being a Relate supervisor, this project brings a different perspective to the literature. There is potential for the research to improve professional practice across the interdisciplinary fields of counselling, social work and nursing through awareness raising and changes to training programmes.
Belinda Ford works as a supervisor and a relationship, family, psycho-sexual counsellor and Couple Therapy for Depression therapist at Relate North West London, Mid Thames and Buckinghamshire. She also completes a professional doctorate with the Open University on the lived experience of Relate supervisors and am due to submit in September 2024. She is a registered member of the BACP and a member of the SPR UK Local Committee.
In progress research work 1: On Being-in-the-Digital World: Mixed methods research into the Phenomenology of Gestalt Psychotherapy online.
Aims: The aim of this proposed discussion is to explore current doctoral research into how Gestalt psychotherapists internationally are working in the online environment, to identify any emerging situational or contextual phenomena in the process of working within online therapeutic spaces.
The research question: How are Gestalt Psychotherapists renegotiating or extending their practice into a new digital online frame?
is to phenomenologically explore how Gestalt therapists are delivering psychotherapy online or via remote means.
The research is exploring whether there is a process of adaptation or reconfiguration of the therapeutic frame from the traditional in-person model to online and remote work.
Methodology: A mixed methods research design combines i) online focus groups, ii) an international online survey and iii) semi-structured online interviews to phenomenologically inquire into how Gestalt therapists are working and being-in-the-digital world, drawing on Barber’s research-practitioner concept (2006), and Johnson and Onwuegbuzie’s mixed methods research process model (2004).
Discussion: Initial findings will be presented and questions such as:
•Does working remotely fit with how we identify as Gestalt therapists?
•Is it possible to connect with clients existentially, via remote means?
•What are your thoughts about dedicated training to work online as a Gestalt therapists, and what might this include? And invite delegates to participate, for example:
• I am wondering whether this resonates for anyone?
• It would be fascinating to hear about your experiences
For whom?: This discussion is likely to interest Gestalt therapists, in identifying implications for Research-informed practice through a shared process of discovery.
Claire Spiller (UKCP reg) is a Gestalt psychotherapist, supervisor and PhD student at Metanoia. Her doctoral research: ‘On Being-in-the-Digital World: Mixed methods research into the Phenomenology of Gestalt Psychotherapy online’ explores how Gestalt psychotherapists internationally are working via remote means.
Claire is the current Secretary of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy, and trained at the Online Therapy Institute and Center for Somatic Studies. She presented her research at the UKCP International Research Conference in 2022.
She published an article “A Year of the Pandemic: Existential Themes for psychotherapists” in Existential Analysis, 2021, Vol. 32., No. 2.