I don’t see how we can claim to be relational therapists if we ignore clients’ - and our own - social relationships. Therapy and training don’t take place in a vacuum isolated from sociopolitical forces. Not only are the wider relationships important in themselves for the client, invariably they get played out within the therapeutic space
Ending therapy - particularly long-term relational therapy - can be hard and emotionally challenging! The ending process involves much more than simply ending therapy, particularly when doing relational work. Without sufficient care, endings can prove a perfunctory, messy, or rushed process. Without sufficient preparation and mutual consent, they can result in wounds that linger painfully. A client can experience the ending as ‘abandonment’ and good work achieved up to this point may be compromised.
As a journal editor, I often have to disappoint budding phenomenological researchers when I suggest that their research isn't convincingly 'phenomenological'.
5 ‘mistakes’ commonly made by phenomenological researchers are:
I have been considering the role played by qualitative research in the context of 'evidence based practice' and 'practice based evidence'.
I've particularly been examining the literature regarding the use and value of relational work in psychotherapy and what processes are involved. There is a lot of research out there which supports relational practice. Much of this research base is quantitative in nature: the fruits of experiments, surveys, and systematic reviews. In contrast, there has been a tendency to ignore, or dismiss as unscientific and ungeneralizable, the extensive published qualitative literature relating to this area. The messages proclaimed are that only empirically validated treatments are effective while non-validated interventions are potentially damaging. I disagree. Qualitative research offers much, particularly concerned with any exploration of psychotherapeutic processes and about the therapeutic relationship. This research offers us deeper understandings - understandings which can be further researched using quantitative means.
I have been researching the lived experience of 'traumatic grief'.
My idea of traumatic grief rests on a definition that unites two related but distinct concepts: grief and trauma. My core argument is that this extreme form of grief manifests as a distressing preoccupation with the deceased or the death itself, a shattered lifeworld and dissociation, and shame/guilt/anger/depression together with impaired social functioning. I see the experience of traumatic grief as an existential challenge rather than a diagnostic category.
I believe that a phenomenological study of traumatic grief edge us towards deeper understandings of grief in general. As a psychotherapist, I have heard many stories of traumatic grief. Each time I witness these harrowing experiences, I am reminded of the more that lies behind apparently simple biographical facts such as being bereaved.
I was recently asked "why do you want to do research?" My reasons for doing research is that I believe that part of being a professional is being a reflective practitioner (in fact I’d say it is an ethical imperative to be reflective/reflexive and to critically evaluate our work). Here we need to reflexively monitor our work. The famous dictum, "The unexamined life is not worth living" supposedly said by Socrates, applies to our professionalism where I’d say (and I know others have as well), “The unexamined profession is not worth practicing”! (see a previous paper I wrote on reflective practice: https://oro.open.ac.uk/68945/1/Finlay-%282008%29-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf )
I appreciate UKCP’s stated wish to cultivate a culture of research and also to challenge NICE’s current approach which focuses on 'scientific' (largely quantitative) evidence. I strongly argue that our psychotherapy research needs to be about 'Processes' as well as 'Outcomes'. All too often, led by traditional views of science and its ‘hierarchy of evidence’, research gets equated to with outcomes and the need to demonstrate/prove the efficacy of what we do. However, we also need to do research on processes – both therapeutic processes and clients' life experiences. My continuing project (shown in much my teaching, numerous writing and published research) is to do qualitative research on clients’ trauma experiences and on therapeutic processes in general.
I love this quotation from Abram (phenomenological philosopher and ecologist):
“Our spontaneous experience of the world, charged with subjective, emotional, and intuitive content, remains the vital and dark ground of all our objectivity.”
The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, 1996, pp.33-4
I love this quote from Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files - See the full blog at: https://www.theredhandfiles.com/what-can-you-tell-me-about-love/
"to resist love and inoculate yourself against heartbreak is to reject life itself, for to love is your primary human function. It is your duty to love in whatever way you can, and to move boldly into that love — deeply, dangerously and recklessly — and restore the world with your awe and wonder. This world is in urgent need — desperate, crucial need — and is crying out for love, your love. It cannot survive without it."
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