Understanding Research in Counselling

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Edited by: Graham Bright, Gill Harrison & Norman Claringbull

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    Foreword

    Historically, many counsellors and psychotherapists have claimed to see little value in research. Their belief was that therapy is essentially an art - it could never be a science. Indeed, the traditional anti-science lobby in the helping professions has long maintained that the essential professional knowledge underpinning therapy's practices, and the necessary ways of professionalism being demanded from its practitioners, were somehow beyond investigation. Such allegedly numinous ways of knowing and such supposedly ineffable personal qualities did not need explaining; indeed, they could not be explained - they just ‘were’. For such self-proclaimed therapeutic purists, research could never have any relevance. Put simply, for them it was not the business of ‘proper’ therapists.

    Of course, what those research-deniers failed to notice was that therapists have always been, and still are, practitioner-researchers. They acquire new knowledge from books and journal articles; they test new therapeutic approaches; they attempt to find out what makes their clients tick; they try to discover the best ways of helping troubled people. In other words, they theorise, they investigate, they draw conclusions and they critically evaluate their ever-evolving ideas. All counselling and psychotherapy practitioners, whether they realise it or not, routinely carry out research every time they read a book, meet a new client or review an existing case.

    Fortunately, any lingering anti-research ethos in the talking therapies is fading fast. Few, if any, of today's opinion formers in counselling and psychotherapy would deny the vital part that research plays in their profession. The sum of the research-based evidence to date is that counselling and psychotherapy contributes positively and effectively to the human condition. Far from exposing the talking therapies to irrelevant scientific evaluation and far from crudely demystifying them, what research actually does is to produce new learning that helps practitioners to better themselves and promote their calling.

    This book's chief authors, Graham Bright and Gill Harrison, are very experienced counselling and psychotherapy teachers and practitioners. They have the depth of understanding and the breadth of knowledge to explain with authority just why gaining an understanding of the research process is a vital task - an essential responsibility - for all counsellors and psychotherapists because it teaches, underpins and promotes personal and professional development.

    Written by practitioners, for practitioners, this book provides step-by-step guidance that shows readers how to carry out their own research and how to critically evaluate the work of others. What Graham and Gill illustrate within these pages is that research, no matter how worthy or vital, is not just of relevance to academics. Research is just as important to practising therapists too.

    For counsellors and psychotherapists, research is a way of learning all that they can about their clients, their profession and themselves. Further, the wider research audience (and that is all of us) must learn how to critically evaluate both researchers and their findings. We need to be able to assess the researchers' objectivity, the quality of their work, and the significance of their conclusions. This means that when we are weighing up a piece of research, we need to find out who its advocates are and the circumstances under which they operated. What is the background to their work? What is being said? Who says so? Why do they say it? When did they say it? Where did they say it? In other words, in order to properly evaluate counselling research we must put the research, the researchers, the findings, and even the research users into context.

    As researcher-practitioners, counsellors and psychotherapists are continually either carrying out their own enquiries or evaluating other people's investigations. In this book, Graham and Gill equip us with the essential tools to carry out these vital professional tasks most effectively. Moreover, the thinking skills that they help us to develop as putative researchers are useful well beyond counselling and psychotherapy; the pages within teach us how to be reflectively critical, a skill that is helpful in so many areas of both professional and personal life.

    Dr Norman Claringbullwww.normanclaringbull.co.uk

    About the Authors and Contributors

    Graham Bright is Senior Lecturer in Education and Youth Work at York St John University. Previously he taught on a range of Teesside University-franchised programmes, including the FdA Counselling and the BA (Hons) in Therapeutic Counselling at Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland Colleges; he has practised as a counsellor with young people in a variety of settings. He is currently pursuing a PhD at Durham University, which explores comparisons and intersections between youth work and counselling, and the interplay between personal narratives, vocation and formation in these professions.

    Norman Claringbull is the former Head of Counselling and Psychotherapy Studies at Southampton University. He currently combines his commercial consultancy work and private practice with ongoing research and various academic appointments at a number of UK universities. His website is www.normanclaringbull.com.

    John AJ Dixon was a Lecturer in Counselling and Course Leader for Counselling at Redcar and Cleveland College. He taught on the Teesside University-franchised FdA Counselling and the BA (Hons) Therapeutic Counselling, and previously worked as a couples and family counsellor for Relate. He maintains some private training commitments and currently holds a full-time counselling position in the NHS.

    Christopher Hall is programme leader on the Teesside University franchised FdA Counselling and FdA Working with Children and Young People at Darlington College. Previously, he taught on the BA (Hons) Therapeutic Counselling and BA (Hons) Education Studies. Chris is participating in research with Durham University examining adults' experiences of returning to further education. He maintains practice through Herriot Hospice Homecare and North Yorkshire County Council's Staff Care Network and is an MBACP Counsellor.

    Gill Harrison currently teaches on a range of Teesside University-franchised programmes, including the FdA Counselling and the BA (Hons) in Therapeutic Counselling at Redcar and Cleveland College. She is also a visiting lecturer in Counselling at the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus. Gill's main research interest is in personal and professional development in counselling training for which she is currently refining her own PhD research proposal. She maintains a small private counselling and clinical supervision practice and is a Registered MBACP (Accred) Counsellor.

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