The Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Handbook


Edited by: Andreas Vossler & Naomi Moller

  • Citations
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  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Introduction

    Part II: Beginning the research journey

    Part III: Methodologies and methods for doing research

    Part IV: Completing the research journey

  • Copyright

    About the editors and contributors

    Andreas Vossler is Director of the Foundation Degree in Counselling and Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University. He is also a Chartered Psychologist and systemic trained couple and family psychotherapist practising in relationship counselling. He is co-editor of Understanding Counselling and Psychotherapy (2010, Sage), and author of two German textbooks on educational and family counselling. He has published various sole- and co-authored journal articles and chapters in edited books within the areas of psychotherapy research, health psychology, psychiatry and education. He is a reviewer for several counselling and psychotherapy journals and member of the BACP Research Committee. Andreas is committed to the value of research as a means of enhancing practice.

    Naomi Moller is a Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University. Previously Associate Head of Department in the Department of Social Science at the University of the West of England, Bristol, Naomi is a counselling psychologist by training. Her primary research interests are in the areas of psychotherapy research and training, with a special interest in diversity and attachment. She has published various journal articles, is a reviewer for several psychotherapy journals and is a member of the Editorial board of BACP’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Research journal. Naomi has a deep belief in the value of research for counselling and psychotherapy practice.

    Meg Barker is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University and a practising sex and relationship therapist. Meg is the co-editor of the books Understanding Counselling and Psychotherapy, Understanding Non-monogamies, and Safe, Sane and Consensual. Meg also co-edits the journal Psychology & Sexuality with Taylor and Francis and co-organises the Critical Sexology seminar series and BiUK. Meg’s research on sexualities and relationships has been published in several journals and books, culminating recently in a general audience book Rewriting the Rules ( In 2013 Meg published a co-authored book on gender and sexuality for practitioners and a single-authored book on mindful therapy. Email:

    Tim Bond is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Bristol and Adjunct Professor to the University of Malta. His extensive research and publications about professional ethics include Standards and Ethics for Counsellors in Action (Sage). He is currently a consultant to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy on professional ethics and standards and a member of the Ethics Committee for the British Psychological Society.

    Virginia Braun is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Auckland. A feminist and critical psychologist whose research explores the intersecting areas of gender, bodies, sex/sexuality and health, her projects have included heterosex, sexual health, women’s genital meanings and experiences, and female genital cosmetic surgery. Currently, she is involved in a project related to the intersections of art, scholarship and social engagement/change around pornography (with Nicola Gavey & Linda Tyler, The University of Auckland). She has an ongoing interest in qualitative research; with Victoria Clarke, she developed a theoretically-flexible approach to thematic analysis, and has recently published Successful Qualitative Research: A practical guide for beginners (2013, Sage).

    Victoria Clarke is an Associate Professor in Sexuality Studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Her research has focused on lesbian and gay parenting, same-sex and heterosexual relationships, sexual practices, sexualities and appearance, sexualities and higher education, and qualitative research methods. She has conducted ESRC and British Academy funded research on same-sex relationships and civil partnership. Her books include Out in Psychology: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer perspectives (Wiley) with Elizabeth Peel, LGBTQ Psychology: An introduction (Cambridge University Press), with Sonja Ellis, Elizabeth Peel and Damien Riggs, and Successful Qualitative Research: A practical guide for beginners (2013, Sage), with Virginia Braun. She has developed a theoretically flexible approach to thematic analysis with Virginia Braun. Her current research interests include visible differences/disfigurements and the story completion method.

    Mick Cooper is a Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton, London, and a practising counselling psychologist and existential psychotherapist. Mick is author and editor of a wide range of texts on person-centred, existential, and relational approaches to therapy, including Existential Therapies (2003, Sage), Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2005, Sage, with Dave Mearns), Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy (2011, Sage, with John McLeod), and The Handbook of Person-centred Psychotherapy and Counselling (2003, Palgrave, with Maureen O’Hara, Art Bohart and Peter Schmid). Mick has also led a range of research studies exploring the process and outcomes of humanistic counselling with young people, and is author of Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy: The facts are friendly (2008, Sage). Mick lives in Brighton on the south coast of England, with his partner and four children.

    Mark Donati is Course Leader and Principal Lecturer on the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at London Metropolitan University and Lead Counsellor for the Brent Counselling Service. He has held a number of positions within the NHS and has extensive experience of providing research supervision to counselling psychology trainees at Masters and Doctoral level. In his clinical and training roles, he is a staunch supporter of the potential for research to enhance the therapeutic work, and the need to develop more holistic and sophisticated ways of conceptualising evidence-based practice. He has a long-standing interest in professional training and development in the psychotherapeutic professions, with a particular focus on the therapist’s use of the self and reflective practice.

    Linda Finlay is a practising existential integrative psychotherapist (UKCP registered) and she teaches both psychology and qualitative research methodology at The Open University. She also teaches, supervises and mentors psychotherapy students in training in institutions across Europe, including at the Scarborough Psychotherapy Institute and the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling in the UK. She has acted as a visiting Professor for a number of universities, including contributing to the Masters of Psychotherapy course in Novi Sad, Serbia. Her particular research interest is in applying hermeneutic phenomenological, relational and reflexive approaches to exploring the lived experience of disability and trauma. She has published widely, being best known for her textbooks on psychosocial occupational therapy and qualitative research. Her two most recent books are published by Wiley and are research oriented: Phenomenology for Therapists: Researching the lived world and Relational-centred Research for Psychotherapists (co-authored with Ken Evans).

    Sharon Finmark studied art and illustration at St Martins School of art in London. She worked as an illustrator for The Guardian and several magazines before going solo as a painter, fronting several exhibitions. She has taught at City Lit and privately, and is the author of several books on methods and techniques of drawing and painting. Sharon has been back-stage artist at the National Theatre and artist in residence for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Currently, Sharon has returned to illustration through an enthusiasm for contemporary graphic narrative and is now working on her own graphic stories.

    Charles Frost is in his second year of a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. Charles gained his BSc in Psychology in 1996 and has spent 18 years working with ChildLine, the telephone and online counselling service for children and young people. During this time he has also taught multidisciplinary teams how to use listening skills to assist with safeguarding children and families. Charles has published work on the conflict between humanism and the medical model and his Doctoral research explores the perception of the scientist-practitioner model within counselling psychology.

    Elena Gil-Rodriguez is a British Psychological Society (BPS) Chartered Psychologist and a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Counselling Psychologist. Elena is a Lecturer in Counselling at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and works in private practice. She is also a director of London IPA Training, an organisation that provides training in the qualitative methodology of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Elena has spent her time since qualifying primarily working on counselling psychology Doctoral training programmes in London and is committed to the value of research as a means of enhancing practice.

    Terry Hanley is the Programme Director for the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at the University of Manchester. He is Editor of the British Psychological Society’s Counselling Psychology Review, the lead author of Introducing Counselling and Psychotherapy Research (Sage) and the lead Editor of Adolescent Counselling Psychology (Routledge).

    Clodagh Jordan is a Doctoral Counselling Psychologist in training at Trinity College, Dublin. Her clinical work includes working within the Health Service Executive, Primary Care and Child Psychology service and at the Women’s Therapy Centre, Dublin, which specialises in domestic abuse. It also includes working in Adult Mental Health in a hospital setting, and within the Irish Prison Service. Her clinical and research interests include adoption, attachment, relationships, children in care and domestic abuse.

    Elaine Kasket is the Research Lead for the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counselling Psychology. She is a guest lecturer on the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at London Metropolitan University and a part-time visiting lecturer at Regent’s College School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology. Her primary research interests are topics at the interfaces between death/dying/bereavement, the digital age, and psychotherapeutic practice. She has published two articles and a book chapter on doing research in counselling psychology, and she supervises numerous students in their Masters- and Doctoral-level research projects.

    John McLeod holds professorial positions at the University of Abertay, Scotland, and the University of Oslo, Norway. He has published widely in the field of counselling and psychotherapy, and is the author of Case Study Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2010, Sage), An Introduction to Counselling (5th edn, 2013, Open University Press) and An Introduction to Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013, Sage).

    Julia McLeod is a Lecturer in Counselling at the University of Abertay. She is interested in the role of counselling in enabling people to come to terms with long-term health conditions, the process and outcome of training in integrative therapy, and the development of methods of systematic case study inquiry. She is co-author, with John McLeod, of Counselling Skills (2011, Open University Press), and Personal Development: A practical guide for counsellors, psychotherapists and mental health practitioners (2013, Open University Press).

    Nicola Rance is a postgraduate student in the final stages of completing a Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. She has publications in eating disorders, fibromyalgia and personal development groups, and her thesis explores female eating disorder clients’ beliefs about a female therapist’s weight/shape, relationship with food and with their own body. As a relational psychologist she works integratively with adults, couples, families and groups, seeking at all times to develop meaningful relationships which empower her clients.

    Paul Redford is a Chartered Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK. He has taught research methods and statistics for more than ten years at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, specialising in quantitative analysis and psychometrics. He is the Associate Editor for methods for The Psychologist magazine. He also specialises in teaching work psychology. His research has covered a wide range of areas, including teaching and learning, cross-cultural psychology and psychological measurement within organisations.

    Andrew Reeves is a BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist and a freelance trainer, consultant and writer. He is co-editor, with Windy Dryden, of Key Issues for Counselling in Action (2nd edition, 2008, Sage); author of Counselling Suicidal Clients (2010, Sage), An Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy: From theory to practice (2013, Sage), and Challenges in Counselling: Self-harm (2013, Hodder Education); and co-editor, with Windy Dryden, of the forthcoming 6th edition of Handbook of Individual Therapy. He has published widely on suicide and self-harm. He recently stepped down as Editor of BACP’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Research journal.

    Harriet Smith is in the final year of her Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. She combines study with work as a High Intensity Therapist and freelance writer. Harriet has a Masters in Science Communication from Imperial College London and has worked in the media for over ten years before re-training as a Counselling Psychologist. She is passionate about understanding and communicating the multifaceted nature of relationships, from social media to family stories. Her research focuses on the process of change in family therapy seen from the perspective of both clients and therapists.

    Brian Sreenan is in his final year of his Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. He has enjoyed a brief career as a secondary school teacher in Ireland before switching his attention to psychology. For the last two years Brian has been the Training Route representative on the Division of Counselling Psychology BPS committee. His final-year research project is a mixed method study looking at the importance of the therapeutic relationship in Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services.

    Peter Stratton is Emeritus Professor of Family Therapy at the University of Leeds and Chair of the Research Faculty of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). He is also Joint Editor of Human Systems, Chair of the European Family Therapy Association Research Committee, Academic and Research Development Officer for the Association for Family Therapy, and Managing Director of The Psychology Business. Peter enjoys engaging with statutory processes that affect the provision of psychotherapy and offers workshops on research to improve therapy practice; humour and creativity in therapy; measuring and improving outcomes; active reflective learning in training. His research activities include the Systemic Clinical Outcome and Routine Evaluation (SCORE) outcome measure for families in therapy; attributional analyses of family causal beliefs and blaming; attitudes to terrorism; and fostering practitioner research networks.

    Mhairi Thurston is a Lecturer in Counselling at University of Abertay Dundee. She is interested in the social and emotional effects of sight loss. She is a member of the Scottish Vision Strategy Advisory Group, the Scottish Cross Party Advisory Group on Vision Impairment and she is Chair of the Vision Impairment Network for Counselling and Emotional Support (VINCE). Mhairi is currently part of a team working on developing a practice model of counselling for people whose lives have been affected by sight loss, using systematic case study research.

    Ladislav Timulak is an Associate Professor in Counselling Psychology at Trinity College Dublin. He is Course Director of the TCD’s Doctorate in Counselling Psychology. Ladislav is involved in the training of counselling psychologists and various psychotherapy trainings as well. Laco is both an academic and practitioner. Apart from studying and working in his native Slovakia, he has also international research experience at academic clinical psychology departments in Belgium and the United States. His main research interest is psychotherapy research, particularly the development of emotion-focused therapy. He is currently developing this form of therapy for generalised anxiety disorder. He has written four books, over 60 peer-reviewed papers and chapters in both his native language, Slovak, and in English. His most recent books include Research in Psychotherapy and Counselling (2008, Sage) and Developing Your Counselling and Psychotherapy Skills and Practice (2011, Sage). He serves on various editorial boards and is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Counselling Psychology Quarterly. He maintains a part-time private practice.

    Elspeth Twigg started her research career at the Psychological Therapies Research Centre at the University of Leeds, initially working on the Leeds Depression Project before moving across to work on the newly-developed CORE System. Elspeth remained at PTRC for almost ten years, until it closed in 2008. Following the Centre’s closure she spent two years working as a freelance Research Consultant, specialising in data analysis and statistics and working on various research projects, before being employed as Research Lead at CORE Information Management Systems (CORE IMS), where she worked until early 2014. Currently, Elspeth is working once again as an Independent Research Consultant and Data Analyst. Elspeth’s particular area of interest is outcome measurement and she has worked with both CORE System data and other outcome measures. Elspeth was responsible for the development of the YP-CORE outcome measure as part of her MSc in Applied Statistics and continues to be involved in work relating to the measure, which is widely used both within the UK and internationally. Alongside her academic publications she has produced in-house ‘occasional papers’ on data analysis and interpretation, sector-specific benchmarks on KPIs for CORE data and case studies on best practice in outcome measurement. Elspeth has also worked on large-scale data analysis and reporting for services nationally and internationally.

    Kasia Wilk is a trainee Counselling Psychologist undergoing Professional Doctorate training at the University of Manchester. Her clinical work includes working in a private therapy centre with adults and within the NHS Primary Care Trust. She is currently creating a specialised counselling service for international students in partnership with the University of Manchester Counselling Service and the International Society. Her research interests include cultural and diversity issues within counselling psychology, implementation of cross-cultural understanding among diverse populations, integration of spirituality in therapy, and the pluralistic philosophy.


    Hello and welcome to The Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Handbook!

    We are Hope and Harry, both counselling and psychotherapy trainees, and this is our dog, Toto. As you can see, we are ready to start our big research journey – why don’t you come with us?

    We are both planning to do a research project – a prospect we are curious and excited as well as a bit scared about. We can’t wait to see everything that we will discover together, all the adventures we will have on the way, but we are also kind of hoping that our journey into ‘The Counselling and Psychotherapy Research World’ will not be too frightening or tiring. We are also rather hoping we don’t get lost along the way. Luckily we have this Handbook to bring along with us.

    The Handbook will be our travel guide on our research journey, just as we are hoping it will be yours. It has been edited by Andreas Vossler and Naomi Moller, both of whom have a deep belief in the value of research for counselling and psychotherapy practice. Andreas and Naomi have brought together a group of leading and experienced ‘research travellers’ to share their knowledge and expertise on the different stages and aspects of a research endeavour. Oh, and they have also asked Sharon Finmark to draw pictures of our adventures and discoveries in each episode of our voyage into the research world – so you can see and follow us on our research journey in every chapter of the book!

    The Handbook provides you with a comprehensive introduction to research process and methods within counselling and psychotherapy. It is designed as a one-stop-shop for trainees and practitioners with little or no prior training in the area, but should still be of value if you are already a bit more familiar with research and research methods. The book takes you step by step through the research process, providing you with enough applied knowledge on selected methodologies to help you to understand research, and to support you with your own research projects. It is organised in four parts:

    ‘Hello and welcome to our research journey!’

    Part I (‘Introduction’) sets the scene at the beginning of our research journey, highlighting the increasing emphasis on research in counselling and psychotherapy (Chapter 1) alongside the often ambivalent attitudes to and meanings associated with research within counselling and psychotherapy (Chapter 2). This part will also help you to understand why it is necessary and beneficial for counsellors and psychotherapists to engage with research about their practice.

    Part II (‘Beginning the research journey’) covers the different stages in the first part of a research journey in very practical terms. Starting with a chapter that guides you through the process of forming a researchable question (Chapter 3), this part includes chapters on how to read and understand research (Chapter 4) and how to do a review of the research literature (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 introduces different research paradigms and gives an overview of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Chapter 7 illustrates how knowledge about methodologies and methods helps to guide decisions about the best design, method and sampling strategy for a research project. Chapter 8 discusses ethical issues relevant in doing counselling and psychotherapy research, and the last chapter of this part (Chapter 9) gives guidance on how to write and put together a proposal for a research project.

    Part III (‘Methodologies and methods for doing research’) provides a more detailed overview of psychological research methodologies (quantitative and qualitative) together with an introduction to the quantitative and qualitative research methods most relevant for research in counselling and psychotherapy. The section begins with a chapter on quantitative methods (Chapter 10), the methods that most shape funding and hence access to counselling and psychotherapy. The chapter on qualitative methods (Chapter 12) introduces the main qualitative approaches and argues for increased methodological sophistication in the field. Chapter 14 covers case studies methodologies, the oldest method used to explore therapy, allowing trainees and practitioners to use an empirical lens to explore their own practice. Part 3 also includes three hands-on ‘how-to-do’ chapters with detailed instruction on how to do t-tests (Chapter 11), thematic analysis (Chapter 13) and adjudicated single case studies (Chapter 15) – all eminently practical guides designed to help trainees and practitioners to embark on analysis of their own data.

    Part IV (‘Completing the research journey’) covers the writing up and presentation of the results of research (Chapter 16), while the next chapter (Chapter 17) has ‘top tips’ from a group of trainees about what they found helped them to successfully navigate a research journey. The last chapter (Chapter 18) discusses the next steps – how to use and build upon research in a professional context.

    To help you to get the most out of it, this ‘research travel guide’ is written in an accessible and engaging style, with lots of activities for you to try things out yourself and ‘pauses for reflection’ to encourage you to ponder the material before moving on. Every chapter ends with signposts to further relevant readings and materials so that you can further extend your understanding. We encourage you to engage with the material in the book, because the more you do, the more you will learn about research and research methods and the more beneficial it will be for your own research journey.

    Oh, and before we forget, Andreas and Naomi have asked us to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all the people who have helped to put this book together. Kate Wharton and Laura Walmsley at Sage have been both supportive and very patient with them. All of the chapter authors are owed a huge debt of gratitude – it is because of you we find our way out of the mist, do not drown, and avoid becoming tiger chow. We also personally want to thank Thierry Chessum for encouraging Andreas and Naomi to think about having a graphic narrative in the book (this means us and Toto!) and for making the contact with Sharon. And of course, many thanks to the real Hope and Harry (Naomi’s niece and nephew) who lent us their names – very kind of them.

    So now, please put on your rucksacks, lace your walking boots, brace your shoulders... and let’s get cracking on our journey into the world of counselling and psychotherapy research!

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